Sunday, November 16, 2014

Coming Soon: CALTROP!

     Professor Guillaime Caltrop is a man with problems. He’s surrounded by people who continually bombard him them with issues of their own- seeming friends and colleagues willing to stick the knife in where they can, old warriors from the psychedelic era rampaging at heedless bureaucrats, students who can’t see straight concocting plots to blow up the classroom, rednecks with a grudge out to blow up him.  Will his worthiness as a thinker stand up to the scrutiny of the alphas who run his college and hand him his meal tickets? 


Thursday, November 13, 2014


The Pewter Eye was the first saloon in Judas Gulch. From the earliest point, when all he had was a wagon with six jugs of whiskey and a flap awning thet propped itself a little half-cocked along the sideboard, Ole Ollarud the barkeep was quite the popular man. Within a month of his opening shop, as they termed it, and sleeping on a mat inside where he’d rearranged things “just so”, Ole had been able to get some “critters” together to help him build a right an’ proper saloon hall. Didn’t matter that the front of it stuck up a good six feet over the real ceiling—he were the man of the hour, and his aqua vitae was the next nearest thing to mother’s milk for the weary, the teary, and the beery of Judas Gulch, fresh off the strike with coins to blow. Ollarud kept a scale behind the bar too in case he had some customers didn’t think to get their dough converted by the assyers first (this was ackshully a common condition—the nearest assyers was in Marysville or Hangtown or Sackaminnow, and many of them being as weary and teary and beery as they were, were in hardly the shape to get all the way to one of these places by the time they pulled up at Farplay, which warnt thet far as it were.
Outside, the Pewter Eye was a common storefront, except it had the swingin’ doors common to saloons and its sign hung dolorously over the slat boards making up the front walk. From the sign beamed down ominously the very mystic Eye of the Republic— the same indeed that graced the back of ever’ Uncle Sam dollar—and reminded ever citizen of Judas Gulch that someone, whether it was God or the Govamint, was always watching everything they did, and every move they made. It helped old Ollarud sometimes just by its being there to keep some common civil manners between one customer to another. Maybe it helped Sheriff Neatness, too, in its own way. But on the other hand, there was plenty of fellows who saw the Eye of the Pewter Eye as nothing but blind to earth and heaven, a paper tiger, a useless threat, a symbol of nothing so much as ignorant bliss yet a place where the welcome mat was always out, and where good company (or worse) could always be found.

Beginning in October of Forty-Nine, the rains of winter hinted first but a few days precognition of what might come later. Rain fell two weeks early in San Francisco, breaking the idyll of Indian Summer a bit too soon. Normally the squash harvest might have taken place first— now the squash lie in the muddy fields, their bottoms turned white and began a slow mildew to accompany the ripening. Half of them would need be thrown away— hard luck for miners who had barely seen vegetables nor fruits for much of summer- partly due to a lack of supply, but also, what supply there may have been was rendered dear by scarcity.
These few rains were accompanied in the gold country and Sierras by much larger systems, of course. It always seemed that’s how they came. The four days of rain San Francisco saw was doubled at Judas Gulch, and there was even the start of a snow pack on the Sierra. Then a false grace, while nature regathered her breath, and when she returned the first week of November it was with a vengeance rarely seen until the end of the century.
Thirty-three inches of rain for San Francisco, and near to a half-that and more at Judas Gulch. Those miners attempted to remain on the Columns found shambles where their Toms had been left at the banks. Splintered remnants of sluices and rockers and uprooted claim stakes. The river rose a good eight feet, sweeping all evidence of activity, as if the banks themselves were a fallow field, and the river a scouring plow.
Men took shelter as they could. Those who had not been able to gather and construct cabins made pitiful canvas tenets of duck and attempted a vain waterproofing with cans of paint or shellac. Where men had means or a ken to, they nestled together in bunches of four and five, huddled out of the rain, or wasted against the trunks of trees, they shivered in their damp work clothes. The first use of a blanket would not have been warmth but to keep out the wet. The relentless endless wet, that rotted the flesh on the feet and left them riddled, pickled, and brined. 
Beyond the need for shelter there was the problem of getting here or there. Streets that in summer ran with clodden dust now turned to streams of mud— ever-present, thick, deepening mud, made soup like by the tread of horses and carts and stages and wagons, and the man who could still claim his boots wore a shine was a liar. No foot escaped. Some boots were even sucked off by the mud. In San Francisco men took stocks of ruined tobacco and threw the tins into the knee-deep mud to construct attempted sidewalks, but even these were not enough, without ripping precious planking from the very shelters, or sideboard walls of the few real wooden houses, to make walkways.
As the rain, snow, hail and sleet fell across the northern mountains and foothills, it packed itself into tall and deep drifts which were bound to swell the now raging white waters even fuller. Not until April would come a relief on the riverbanks. Those who held claims worked out means of holding on, for to be absent one’s claim for a week was to invite parsimony, and new claimants on one’s hard-bitten land. If men were honest, it was an honesty born of  the dolorous pleasantry of six-shooters and threats of what might come about should one be anything but. And yet still the lure of the mines deepened, beckoned, brought more and more tenderfeet to be broken to the laws of luck and risk and prospect and chance.

One day I helped Nicletto git his stuff on down to Hangtown m’self. Twas about two pounds in all  o’ dust he’ saved up an’ kept it in a little tea caddy til he had what was a might fine and hefty sum. He says, I wanchoo t’ come with me, Sardo, an’ you take yer pinto and I’ll take Jezebel muh mule, and we’ll go down t’ the assyers and I’ll git this dust cashed in, and have a roll. A course I thinks I needja with me so I kin be  safe. Ain’t no tellin’ what’s out thar on the roads.
Was true, was no tellin what dainjer might face a man, specially a man all laid up and burden down with gold. I figgered in that there 2 pounds that Nicetto must have had some two hunnert fifty dollars— ain’t a lot but its sure enough fer some men to thank about makin improvements.
So I agreed I would help him git guarded on his way to Hangtown, ef he would buy me a shot of Wise Ass at the saloon when we gits thar. He nodded and we set out then on a Saturdy afternoon.
Was a real pleasant like Saturdy too, an’ thar wuz hawks a flyin up thar in the hot blue sky an’ the sun pour’n down like silver gold, and everthing was like it was just orter be. I dunno eff any of you peoples can imajin what them days was like, before thar wuz trains or horseliss cairjus nor no stuff like that, but thet road to Hangtown wuz dusty, hot, an’ culd be outright miserble, even eff it were a pleasant and beautiful drive t’ git thar.
Which we did, a course, and we decidet t’ stay at the Hotel Flea Bag when we got thar an’ come back on the followin mornin’, since who could resist a Saturdy night in Hangtown? I reckon not too many redblooded men.
When we got ‘ the assy office we found the Assyer about to close up, but he gladly took us in. The gold was set in the scale, and Nicletto kept a sharp eye was no dust fallin’ in the cracks or flyin’ away with a sneeze or nothin’. Yep, it was jest like I said, he would git his two hunnert fifty dollers. Ackshully Nicletto bein’ of the old school he took it in mostly Spanish Reals, and he gimme one jest for comin along.
Then we headed for the real biness, and that was the Firewall Saloon which were next to the Flea Bag. Inside it were like a real hoedown goin’ on. I guess it were one of Ninefinger Ned and Johhny Spondino’s little wingdings, but there they wuz, playin on their git-tars, and Hog Wald blowin his harmonicer and they even had Pearl Genull settin’ in with them, and of course, Pearl bein’ the great attraction she wuz, all them mens inside wuz hollerin’ and screamin’ an’ carryin on in as much a ruckus as Pearl.
Boy I tell ya there warn’t no other woman ever could sing like that girl Pearl. Some said “that ain’t singin that’s screamin!” But she could carry a tune good and she put her heart and tit into everthing and that were no exaggerations. She belted out a tune about a pore girl in love with a ball an’ chain shackled round her pore little heart, and dang if Ninefinger Ned didn’t play his git-tar behind her like to make you fit to cry! Hog Wald blew his harmonicer with the wind of a wizard, an behind them playin’ the drums wuz Crustyman, who I guess wuz rather new to the goldfields, since he wore his har rather shorter an’ dressed like a pinky dew sailor right off the Chilly boat. I dint mention it none but thar was English Edward, too, over in the corner but pumpin on the pianner and makin’ everone jes’ go crazy.
Cuz when Pearl sang, you jest had to smile, and feel your little Willy go all hard up inside and make you want to send yer brains war yer imagination only could travel. Especially with no other wimmins around! Yep, she had her har done up in a boo-font and wore sum painted fethers around her neck an’ Mardis Gras beads an’ highheel slippers.
When they would finsh a number, Jonny Spondino, Ned, and the drummer would sneak off into a corner and smoke the Messican cuerda, and then they’d all come back laughing, and set up for another tune. It was kinda funny but I don’t think I ever saw them two togeher they wasn’t hyped up on that Messican weed. I heared that even the Messicans was a feared of Ned, wth is fearsome reputation as a consumpter of that wicked stuff, but eff you knew Ned you knew it were but a big bluff (and a goo one) cause it kept the interlopers off his case.
We set thar and Nicletto got me the drink o’ Wise Ass he promised me and we heard about seven or eight more tunes, most of them with Pearl singin’, but a couple of ‘em was sung by Hog. Hog could be fierce to look at, but like Ninefinger Ned, it were his image only, and it kept the botherers from be-botherin’ him. He wore his har long like a Injun and had a funny mustache like a Chinee, an’ he wore a vest was designed with a hole in the arms frayed on the edges, and all kinds of buttons and ins from strange organizations, like the Masons and the Odd Brothers and much more all pinned over it. He wore thick boots too, with straps across the tongue, and tucked his duck trowzers into that. He looked to lots a people liked he coulda use a bath, but then so did everone else up har in them days, and weren’t no Aunt Sally round to give him no grief for it.
Hog Wald played a kinda music I guess them Suthrun and Jamjob boys mighta called it “nigger music” but it were very soulful and he learned all the tunes down south himself he like to tell us. I guess there were no gainsayin the voic e of experience, and what the hell did Suthrun and Jamjob know about music anyway? (So Nicletto said, when I broached upon the subjeck in our conversation.) I swore as I sipped my Wise Ass that, yep, when you wants an original rendition of a great old traditional tune, Hog Wald sure could play the blues.
Well then, it were only headed into the first munths of summer but Cakey tole ever one he had made his pile and set to take off now back fer the Sanwich Islands. He tole me et were a good time I should git down to Frisco too afore the winter an’ all an maybe I culd see bit more of the place. We set out fer Sackaminnow with hiz dawg Scratch besides us and dang if when we it ta Scakaminow but he takes thet loyl ole dawg an’ sells him to sum Chinaman. Don’t feel much like thinkin bout thet dawg much any more, cuz it real jes makes me shudder... We catcheted thet ferryboat tho and come down the Delta agin. I seen from the marsh plants even they wuz startin ta turn a bit yeller. I wondered a bit whut it musta bin like fer the Injuns round hear afore the white man come. Cuz it were mighty spooky on thet Delta, when alls you kin see is about ten feet in front of you, then thet ole fog jes covers the world.

When the rains came, the rivers rose, and there was little work anyone could do (once one had seen to saving one’s life from a sudden drowning) until the spring, when the trickles of snowmelt tapered down to a reasonable level, and the banks of the rivers could once more be panned for fresh nuggets, swept down from their lode-veins by the inexorable dripping waterfalls, streams, creeks, and freshets. Gold-leaved oaks that had been shed in the fall put out new green thorny leaves, puffballs hung precariously over moss-carpeted branches, madrones and mountain laurels and ponderosa pines freely bent to the calmer breezes which swept east from the Pacific and brought with them the morning fogs which departed when the sun had risen no higher than ten...
All along the river banks, if men had not moved their sluice gear and rocker-boxes, the wrack and flotsam from upstream lay smashed or scattered in crazy heaps as though giants had been playing with tinker toys, and thrown delicious tantrums. Huts or tents which had not been placed a good ten feet above summer’s waterline would be swept along themselves, and often, one man’s shack of last year made the roof of another’s for the new one. Veterans of prior winters snickered at the bad luck of newcomers who hadn’t taken the time to site themselves proper to the whims of the waters. Sardo Pat was one of those who had placed his own shack in a good spot, for once he had seen the river running full and strong, he knew that there could be but one safe spot for him- up the hill behind the town, and he could walk to his claim in the morning, he didn’t mind the budging, because the coyote hole was high enough above the waterline it could be worked at any time of year and it kept him busy, and he kept bringing out the scales.
The sweet air always seemed to be singing with sounds of birds he knew and didn’t know, but they all made pretty music, and the dew was always sparkling in the early sunlight.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Gold! It was really nothing so special before 1848. That is, it was never “just then discovered” in California. There had been gold found early on in the Spanish Settlements. Lumps of it, in fact, were still being picked in hand from straight off the surrounding land, or with a little seeping away of topsoil, prised from the red dirt. But in colonial Spain, all gold was property of the King. There were conquistadores and galleons to carry it away back home. Coronado invaded the great Southwest in search of El Dorado, one of the seven cities of Cibola... rumored to be paved with the stuff. Pizzaro had run roughshod over the very Inca for every bit of it he could milk out of Peru, and set the Inca on fire atop a heaping pile of the stuff (or so it was said). But the friars who stayed to tame the California Indians from their “savage” state of grace were good subjects, and passed it back along up the chain. Even when it became free Mexico, gold found on the land belonged to the state.
What was different about 1848... well, an American being a King All In His Own Right, he could keep that gold, and maybe if he found enough of it, he could retire. So it was that when James Marshall found a big hunk of it in his boss’s millrace, Mr. Sutter asked him to keep it under his hat. Word is that maybe he did, or maybe he didn’t, but word somehow got to the biggest mouth around, Sam Brannan of the San Francisco newsrag California Star, and after cagily finagling a large stock of prospecting gear he sold out of the paper’s store front, Sam Brannan brandished a vial of gold dust and walked up and down the streets of the city, yelling “Gold on the American River!” and that, as she said, was that.
Sardo Pat came west in the first bunch of Easterners known as the Forty Niners. The very first batch that could (and the economy must have been tanking pretty bad back east, to uproot men from their wives and families and businesses, and send them two thousand miles away on journeys that more often than not took thousands more miles to complete)... Pat took a boat out of Boston to Limon, Costa Rica, sweated his way for two weeks across the jungle to the Pacific, and then, hopped on a mail boat out of Puntarenas headed to San Francisco, and by so doing, cut himself a good hundred days or so off the usual “round the Horn” journey so many who followed him ventured. “The yellow rock that makes white men crazy”, as the Indians called it, had worked its effect on him as surely as it had the rest of America. The new “Manifest Destiny” nation needed to grow. And anything and everything, and anyone and everyone that stood in its way would soon come to acknowledge there was no stopping the white man in his madness, it was indeed all-consuming, and on the banks of the Cosumnes, one of thousands so infected, Pat staked his claim to a bit running up the south bank.

I gots to tellin you about my claim. Yeh, I knowed, I coulda but I didn’t, right?
OK. As I said, Transom was one of the firset guys with me took out one on this here bend in the river. He took one side of that big rock overhang and I took the other. When the others of the company come in, they began workin’ the other sides of us, so there could be complete harmony in the work, and alla us could work both sides of the river, and it weren’t long afore each of them found somethin, too.
My claim like I said runs back from the banks a good thirty feet, and Nicletto he’s on the other side of me from Transom. Nicletto sure is a funny feller. All day long he sings songs outta operas while we work. I must say it’s sometimes nice to have the pretty music, though there ain’t nothin purty about Nicletto’s voice. Transom likets to joke that back in Italy, Nicletto he was a hurdygurdy man, an’ strode about the streets of Milan singing his fool head off, grinding that organ, maybe he even had himself a little monkey or somethin’, though I sorta doubts that, ‘cause he ain’t have no monkey all the time I seened him here. Transom though he said that the monkey died on shipboard when Nicletto set out for ‘Merica, and they had to bury him at see. Makes sort of a funny sight, in the eye of the brain, don’t it? A little monkey getting set into the sea on a little gangplank board, wrapped up in a little pillercase or somethin’, poor Nicletto standing there with tars in his eyes, a dozen sailors snuffling into their wrists.
Anyhow! That claim pumps out some good money for us, and we see about keepin it protected, yes we do. Oncet we had some Injuns come and demand us give money for “their” land, but Nicletto set them straight, tellin’ them that ever since Crist’fer Columbus came this ol’ country been property of the white man, an eff them Injuns don’t like it no more, why don’t they come back where they came from. Them Injuns looked at Nicletto like he was crazy (which in fact, I kinder think he is) and gets up on their ponies and hightails it back to wharever they come from— up in the hills out past Auburn, I gesset. After that day, Nicletto, he sometimes gets all puffed up about it, but truth is, them Injuns wasn’t even armed or nothin’, they must have maybe had a lil too much whisky themselfs, or somethin, because even I can’t see how a little stud like Nicletto scares anybody. But maybe that’s jest cause I’m Irish.
When alla us put our money together an’ founded this here company, our first an’ most bigges’ investment was our Long Tom. It were long enough to stretch down each man’s claim- a good sixty feet! Cakey helped build it, cause he seen and knows how it were done, and he had that thing up and in good shape inside o’ two nights. We diverts river water down one end o’it so keeps the sluice full, an’ every man he’s got his own riffle box, he dumps it all in, so he can pick from the riffle box stuff he wants to pan and strain finer for. Like I said, at the end o’ the tom, which comes at Suthrun’s pickin’s, there’s a good riffle box on the end too catches whatever wuz too fine to get caught in all the other spots. That dust, we all split, with one small fraction goes to Cakey. We all doing good though on most days.
Everone’s got their own coyote hole, too, right along one side o’ the river or the other. Mine ets on the South bank, Suthrun and Jamjob, they gots there’s on the North. I put mine right there in the hollow of the big overhangin’ rock, and dang if I don’t work it once in a while cause there’s some white quartzite in there actually has something. I knows the best days are yet to come, but I sorter gotta keep my tongue quite about it. Transom, he snuck his coyote hole on the other side of the overhangin rock, a course, and he prolly has his own share of the same vein. Ain’t neither of us gonna even talk to each other bout it, lest it stirs up any trouble with the other fellers. But I know he knows, and he knows I knows. Jes’ one o’ them things I guess.
Now I tolje early on how we had a guy name Piney with us. Whale I sure should say, we did have a guy name Piney, he conestogied his way har, but it war the very week I gits har he drownded and drownded dead as a dornale rat thar near the claim. It heppened like this:
You see, Piney were a big one fer doin’ a bit of unnerwater prospeckin. an the Cosumniss is a mitey fast river in this har place, war we iz. He seened something down thar uner a big rock musta looked to him like a big old placer, and he gits uner the water thar an all with his crowbar, but, on account o’ the water so quick, he’s workin on pryin this thang out, and durn but he never come up, cept, we found him laid out on the rocks lain face down about fifty yards downstream.
We said some prairs an’ dug a hole and berried him up on the hill above our spot with a nice Crischun cross an’ all, an’ all of us felt sore and sorry cuz nobody knewed who we must or mite write to ta tell them the sad condolences. Yep, it were sad, and I never got to know Piney too good, and I gesset now I ain’t a gonna, neither.

Somewhere far far back in the creation, yet not so far back as to precede the formation of the galaxies, numerous stars began collapsing under gravity at some point. Some collapsed so far they formed neutron stars— objects so intensely heavy that one tablespoon of one would weigh over five billion earthly tons... On occasion these were formed from binary stars, pairs of stars which managed upon all odds to collide, and in the process formed hundreds of thouands of tons of new matter: heavy elements such as lead, uranium, platinum, and most rare, gold... Atomic particles of all of these scattered willynilly  and flew aimlessly on in any direction until reaching gas clouds contracting again under gravity... and gold atoms collide, compound under the pressure of the formation of planetary crust, and fluctuate within the hot magma centers of planets... leaking upward into fissures and cracks in the superhot liquid flux, igneous and metamorphic granite... most often, finding their way to pair with crystals of tetrahydal silicon oxide otherwise known as quartz. By bits and flakes it is washed away by rains— the winter rains which sit over California like dull grey airborne manta rays, rinsing free topsoil, granite stone, tumbled in the rivers, hiding in the riverbed under larger accomodating lignites, until one day its sparkle catches the eye of a mill carpenter and reveals itself to a nation and world of men full of ambition, hope, or desperation

Then it were that I got some time an a invitation from Teasdale hisself ta come over an give his great house a toor. The missus, Meana, a coarse, had everthing good an’ sparklin’ clean— warn’t not even a hang o’ dust noplace t’ be seened. I come in the front door, a coarse, an’ removes my hat, a coarse, an’ looks around in the parler.
She had doilys an’ lace table cloths everwar, but thar wuz also sum great candle sticks that wuz not the uzual Californee lampstick. Thar wuz nice furnicher, a coarse, all of it trucked across the county in the back of prairie schooners at wut musta been high expense fer Mister Teasdale.
The missus she come at me with a plate of cake an’ a cup of tea. I said thankee ma’am an’ had me a set in one of them fancy furnicher chairs, had arms up to the gonads on it, it did. Mister Teasdale excused hisself ta see after dinner, which the missus had been a workin’ on all afternoon— wuz severl ducks, antelope roast, an’ extra speshul fer me, cuz I’m Irish, potato stew made with real rabbit. Thet were something else, thet stew, when it did get to me. But fer now I set thar with the missus an’ we discussed life out har in Californee. She saw me fer wut I wuz, I  am indeed a Forty-Niner, but I is from New York which ain’t after all so far from Boston. She sed she culd har it in m’ voice. I guessed I couldna outrun it anyhow no matter how far west I ever come. She sed when they got out har wuz only Ollarud’s Pewter Eye (thus she puts the lie to ole Mster Teasdale’s claims he were first of em all ta set up shop) and ever body got their everthing from Brannan’s in Sackaminnow or Stockton. She sed the price of sum thing is still far too high fer Mister ta stock up an sell at discounts, but thet she unnerstoood the minders needs some things and less dear than their payin fer.
I sed, “Me, I jes want a decent egg oncet in a whiles.”

She tole me thet she offin thought that herself. Maybe next year when their cuzzins come out from Misery they’ll be bringin some chickens to be their layers. Until then we’s all stuck a coarse, payin out the cheek fer an egg a doller or more.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Judas Gulch, that’s the name of my town. Course I can’t tell you its really my town, only is, that’s where I been living these last fifteen-sixteen years or so, most of the time. It’s one of them places only got up on its hind feet and going once the Niner miners started comin’. Like some of them I was here, if not first, I’se one of the first and lucky ones.
It sets on the junction of the Consumness River and Big Injun Crick like a little bunch of prairie dog burras. Back when it started up, was not much more than a few little cabins, and then a few Forty Niners came up and started millin’ the waters. Evenchally they needed a laundry and a saloon, cause nobody wanted to hafta ride all the way to Hangtown jes to git a collar pressed. When I came it was about twenty houses with the saloon and jail and no post office (yet). But it did have the store, and that war a good thing itself.
The main street was muddy and warn’t no side walks, ‘cept for some two by fours that the saloon owner Ollarud set down. Warn’t no women, ‘cept the First Hore, Millie—that’ be Millicent Vermouth Tabener, to you. Millie Vermouth was a crack shot for a girl. She could take down the wash off Old Swede Hensen’s line with her one hand tied behind the back, draw a bead on a clothes-pin and shoot off his trousers from the line in a eye blink. I knows because I seed it, twice. Guess old Hensen wasn’t too good on keepin’ up his payments to her— Millie didn’t allow for no credit after her first year in town.
The Saloon, which Ollarud called the Pewter Eye, was a two story affair. Downstairs is where we all came for our water, whisky, and wine, and sometimes if we was lucky Ollarud would have some steamed beer sent up the rivers from Frisco. Boy howdy you shoulda seen the place when the steamed beer was in! Cats lined up down the block for a chance to have a glass of that stuff. Rumor was, Ollarud had big stocks of it stashed underneath the saloon for “speshul occasions” but those were rare, and few, and maybe I’ll tell ya about one or two by the time I gets done.
Them little cabins mainly belonged to some of the other guys what worked the River claims with me. There were Cakey, Jamjob, and Suthrun, and there were MacDavish, Transom, and Nicletto. Nicletto were an Eyetalian and he made some good grub for us when it were winter and nobody had nothin much but a big side of sowbelly we carved bacon offa and coffee we biled in little pots, to each his own. Them was my compnee. I had me a claim of my own— hell we all had one, but we made our compnee up cause after some while minin’ placer alone, a man gets rather worn of one spot, and six men runnin their dirt through a sluice, hell that’s more ‘speedient than one man tryna build his own sluicebox. Everone had his own lil section and it had a sluice screen and all so nobody lost out— whatever come out in dust at the end, why we poured into the compnee kitty. It were a good way t’ make money, and cause we all shared that, weren’t nobody felt too left out.
Anyhow. I was tellin you about their cabins! This was afore most of the tenderfoot crop came through, this woulda been like Fifty to FiftyTwo, when there was still fish in the river and a man could et them If he wanted to too.  Cakey, he was the best fisher of us. There were days when Cakey caught enough fish that we could all eat, and then some! What he couldn’t eat, he gived to his dog, Scratch. Scratch were a big yeller feller, all too friendly, if you was a friend of Cakey, and none too much if you weren’t.
Nicletto he had maybe the best lil’ cabin, but that was cause he thunk to bring his pots an pans with him. Half the others had nothin, some of them cooked in their sluice pans, but hell, once a sluice pan been used for fryin fish then all gets gummed up on the sides with awl and grase and ain’t fair good for much.. they learned. Nicletto he had it down though, had all his own pots and pans, and sepert from his mindin’ gear. He had a little frilly brocade thing he hung on his winder to make like a shade, an’ everyone said “Dang that is down right purty, Nicletto!”
He would smile with pride, and then he would invite you in to set a spell, at his little card table what had an awl lamp burnin whale awl all day and night and he had him some books too. I never seen much use in books, m’self, an’ I told him so, but he just laffed at me.
That was Nicletto’s place tho. Transom, he had himself a little bed had a b’arskin rug, gotten when he kilt a grizzly b’ar and skint it alived, he said, anyhow, and I never had no real reason to doubt it. His bed was tucked back in a corner, underneath a shelf had hung all his minin’ gear, like picks, shovels, pans, and then there were his hat, his bandanner, an’ his dungaree jeans. I never took up dungaree jeans, but everone else said they was sure the thing. Me I still wears my woolen cuffed trousers, cause they looks better with my fancy jacket when I goes down to Frisco.
There was MacDavish— his cabin had a farplace, and he done most of his cookin’ there. Get him a deer or a big old hog or a side of cow, why he would run a big old spike through it and set it on a rack, an’ turn it once in a while till it were good an’ toasted. Might take him half a day or more, but when it was done an’ if he shared it out, you was happy he had.

If anything, food supplies in the mining country were hard to come by, dear to the price, and in many cases, superfluous to the way of life many men took up. Hunting and fishing accounted for a great part of their fare, and minimal stocks of flour, lard, grits, and molasses were the most often procured. Those who were in, or came from, or went into the grocery field did land-office business bringing expensive and overpriced items such as eggs, oysters, tobacco, pork bellies, and steaks to the miners. Often as not a miner would eat in a bar or catch a meal and fry it up in a skillet wherever he was. The Brannans and Sutters and others who made their fortunes in the gold fields did not do so by the sweat of their brows, but by their own abilities to arrange transport and profit off wholesale purchase of commodities. Food was often something on the minds of the miners— and variety was often sought after, but rarely found.

Jamjob came along and took it over oncet they had built their own cabin and Jamjob, he keeps it mighty neat he does. Some of us wonders war he keeps his gear and duds, but I thinks he jest happened to luck out on some farniture and hides everything real good inside o’ them cabinets.
Cakey, he ain’t got much, not even a cabin, even if he been up here mostest of us. All he got is a little she-bang made of tent and some madrone branches. But he says it do him just fine, even in the rain. When the rain and the now come, why, all he do is rough it up some more with more madrone branches outside but these he leaves all the leaves on, see, and piles them all around the place. He ain’t got no cabinets or stove, so I guess that’s why we often finds him askin one of us if he can cook his grub on our fires— but only in the winter.

Most of the year, the golden hills of California’s Sierra foothills burn with the warm sun— spring, summer, and fall. For a few bright weeks immediately after the first rains come, bright green shards of new wild grasses poke up through the humus and tumulus, granting food to the foraging beasts and the cattle, sheep, and horses that the valley ranchers see fit to turn loose under a trusting sky. Then winter falls, and it falls usually with a few sudden, sodden downpours.
Out from the north come the strong arctic-borne winds, and with them, the first rains, ice and sleety hail and snow fall in the mountain passes, blocking all travel east or west for weeks on end. Snow falls in great clumps and drifts well over a man’s head in placs, and in the high regions, it remains most of the year, gradually giving way to melt once the planet’s axis has providentially turned once more at the equinox. For those months of November through March, however, the snow of the hills translates into rain over the valley and coastsides— rain if not to rival that of Oregon to the north, then certainly to laugh at the lack of it shown to the southern half of the state.
Under these rains, the streets of towns like Judas Gulch turn to mud, churned well by the hooves of horses, the wheels of stages, and the boots of men who crawl out from their shanties looking for companionship, of whatever human form so long as it be friendly. Men like Ole Ollarud and Ling Lu the laundryman take days like this in stride, for not soon after, they know they’ll get their fill of men seeking a hot coffee or a cold whiskey, a clean set of ducks or a mud-free slicker.
Mud and dirt come as no strangers to the men of Amador county, the Mother Lode itself one long stream wallow of mine tailings, gravel, mud, slime, brackish sloughs, and twice-combed ore. The Cosumnes travels its way to the brackens and mystically dissolves itself into the Mokelumne, and the Mokelumne into the San Joaquin near the Sacramento delta,where mystically it too vanishes into marshes and tule fields. The Sacramento, river of life, brings news and supplies up from the harbor port of San Francisco, and distributes them like cells in capillaries into the many towns that are the miner’s sole connections to whatever they had left behind. The San Joaquin, however, not being much fo navigation, acts as a huge drain for the miners and their dross—including a fair amount of toxins, which will one day work themselves into the groundwater in places, and coagulate in the sediments of the Carquinez Straits and San Francisco Bay.

That was what I had to say fer our compnee. Now for the rest of the town.
Teasewater’s generl store, now thet’s been here bout as long as Ollarud’s Pewter Eye. If you want to fine a good way to get a fight started, you just asks the two of them which one got here first, and each will say, “Why sir, I did!”
Teasewater, he’s a nester outa Boston, like so many of us, and maybe I guess so many of the ones comes after me. I might be “a Boston” but then agin I likes to say I’m a New Yorker, there’s a difference, but ain’t so much as peoples pay much attention from that. Teasewater and his little wife—Meana, thas’ what she’s called too, and she likes to joke on you “Thar ain’t nobody Meana!”— they come up here in summer of 48, and decidet that weren’t no better way to bring in the gold, than to sell whatever they could to the miner. That were right smart of them but, still Mr. Teasewater he’s got to head to Stockton to resupply those things. Sometimes (and maybe like once a month, if they are lucky?) the resupplies come to them, on top of a stage, or in a wagon cart. Things like duds, and canned oysters, them is in high demand, and they try and keep them in stock, but ain’t no better than this than a miner has to head to Stockton or Sackaminnow hisself if he wants anything. Prices is cheaper anyhow in Stockton, cause old Brannan has the fort in Sackaminnow purty well cornered and fenced in and marketed, he does. I was lucky I got my pick and shovel in Stockton not Frisco nor Sackaminnow, because Cakey he dun give me the good advice on prices.
All the same I still thinks old Teasewater and Meana is fine peoples, for nesters. That store there is prolly the best sized building on Main Street.
But there store, that’s one thing. What’s more remarkable is the house that Teasewater built. It got built by Chinee an Injuns, so Teasewater did not have to pay them white man wages, and it sorta looks it, too, cause all the had for a white man on that job was the foreman, Old Swede, before he got to be the town drunk. Old Swede probably couldn’t hang a frame plum if you set a compass on his nose, and dang if that house of Teasewater’s don’t tip northwards by about ten degrees from the rear. But if it’s allright for Teasewater and Meana, well, that’s there their problem. It’s got some kewpolas, fancy pants winders, and even a portico-minded porch, but only times I seen either of them on it is in the hottest of summer.
You can’t say much about our Post Office. Letters take a coupla months to even get back east, and maybe who knows how long to get replies. If your carrier weren’t scalpt on the way, or robbed by bandits, and if they had good horses, an’ made the stage stops reggerly, perhaps yer letter had a chance. I know Jamjob he’s had the durnedest bad luck sending his mail all the way to Carolina and back. Suthrun too, they both complains about it a lot.
But I suppose the very best of the buildings there on main street is Ollarud’s Pewter Eye. I’ll have more to say about that in a bits. Guess maybe I orter first tell you bout an insidint took place first week I got har. It were them Teasewater brats and the bizness they got up to around Kanaka Joe an’ Old Swede Hensen.
Now, Swede Hensen, of course I alreddy tolja, he war the man Teasewater contracked to bild his house. An’ Teasewater he did pay a handsome some, fer what he got, many folks said, well, that war way too much for the slipshod job. But warn’t too many other carpentirs up har jes yet, and sorta like, eff Teasewaer wanted it dun, he better take who was on hand. Which war Old Swede, and his accompanist, (in crime?) Kanaka Joe.
Kanaka Joe, he war another Sandwich Islands boy been har as long as Cakey. Like Cakey Said tho- he hadda name was so hard and long I I think the way you cirreckly spell is “Lonolupupuulimonaaeweikanimapalamanapa”.  Cakey explained it means “He who fishes with a sharp shark’s tooth in troubled waters” but then agin, I don’t think too many people put a lotta stalk in what Cakey ever sez, even if Cakey offin as not is tellin’ the truth—or “the honest humbug”, like he calls it. Since everone figgers thass all too much of a mouthful, we all jes’ calls ‘im Kanaka Joe.
But ennyhow. Back when the Teasewater manshun wuz ben’ bilt an’ Kanaka Joe war the fust assisstent, he set himself up his own lil’ shack nearby war he could make a shrine to the Shark God— like Cakey sez, all good Kanakas prey to the Shark God. And he sackerfices a part of his food—whatever he’s a gonna set to et that day, to this Shark God, an’ he chants a spell so he kin have more to eat an’ sech. I’ll learn ya that in a minnit.
Them two Teasedale boys Jimmy and Pawl (Jimmy’s the elder an’ the one with the branes, and mebbe he’s the one thinks up these kinda shennanigans) iz about eleven an’ nine, respeckively. Swede he war handlin’ shingles an’ sech, an’ it war lunch time fer Kanaka Joe.
The big one, Jimmy, he sets to creepin’ around an’ lissenin’ in on Joe, and he hears the pagan chantin’ and sees the blood sackerfice an he gits skeered. He tells his brother Pawl thet thar’s something goin on thar not zackly Crischun.
“Kanaka Joe be worshipin the devil an’ idle worshippin too!” he declairs. “Pawl we gotta think up sumpin, quick!”
So they set down an’ began a figgerin’ stuff.
Now neither one of these boys will admit to it these days ,but I still thinks et were Jimmy the eldest, got this consumption in his mind, he is gonna show Kanaka Joe what the rewards fer idle worship rilly is. And so he gits a jar, like the kind thet his momma uses fer makin preserves, and he heads over to a big ol far ant pie, an he starts a scoopin up the dirt an the far ants an makes thet jar all fulla far ants. When the lunch time is over, see, Kanaka Joe goes back ta work on helpin with the shingles, and so, Jimmy an Pawl they creep ever so sneaky inta the shack an’ war the sackerfishel food is, an’ lays about thet dirt and the far ants, so thet the far ants gits the idear, and soon they is all over the food, and maybe even diggin a new nest out unner it.

When Kanaka Joe gits back, a coarse, why them far ants is everwar an iz ettin his sackerfishel food. He scoops some of it up tryin’ ta wipe em off but thar is too many far ants! They is now crawlin’ all over Kanaka Joe, an’ on his arms, an’ gittin inta his face too, an’ soon he’s yelpin’ an’ a hollerin’ thet these far ants is makin his life hell, an’ puts a Shark God curse on whoever dun did this to his Shark God Shrine.
Them two kids though, they was plenty funned by all this. They heard the hollerin an’ come a runnin, but keep theirselfs hid, a coarse, an’ had ta see how Kanaka Joe was farin with the far ants.
Lemme tell you a little sumpin bout Kanaka Joe. He warnt no stranger ta far ants. Back in the Sandwich Islands thars plenty far ants, an’ they makes there homes in hot red dirt, almos’ as red as a far ant itself. When he was a lil’ cakey (that’s the word in Kanaka fer child) he set on a far ant nest not jes once but two times, jes ta show his brothers how tough he rilly wuz. While Kanaka Joe had a hard time on this particklar day with these particklar far ants, wuz a lot less the cuss it mite have bin fer some other minders, whut never knowed a far ant, and what never had ta pass a test of braviry fer their bruthers.
Kanaka Joe sets to thinkin, who done this? Who in the worl’ might have a beef on him? Wuz it one of the Gospel Sharks that cruises the minds lookin fer minders what needs more of Jesus than Minin? Wuz it Teasewater, Who maybe be did it cuz he wuz a Chrischun an’ not so fond of annythin’ pagan? Er- wuz it... Wait a minit, sez Kanaka Joe- Meybe it war Teasewater’s little cakeys done this to him! Shorely it warn’t no mennihoonys (thet’s a Howeyean elf) an it warn’t no takkamony (thet’s a Injun elf). Yeh, he decidet, it war them Teasewater brats, alright, an’ when he catcheted them, he was gonna pound them like poy!
So, he decides wut he is a gonna do an’ gomes up with a good old plan and sleeps on it. He makes like ta pretend ain’t nothin happened et all.
The next day he gits up, goes ta work fer Old Swede, an’ when cums time fer his lunch, he takes exter speshul care ta look about him. He makes his sackerfice, and he chants this lil Kanaka chanting song:
Kepau A’u Lono, a lau kumu’ia ame pua’a
Hekau ko’u pahi a’me ihe ololu amake nui mea’a’i
Hekau A’u kipona makau nau ko’u hoa kaua
A’me kaunu nau ko’u hoa pili...

[Lead me Lono, to many sharks and many pigs,
make my knives and spears kill much food
Make me feared by my enemies
and loved by my friends.]
Now I gesset you already gesseted this but a coarse them two Teasewater boys wuz hidden in the bushes agin, watchin’ an’ a hopin’ thet Kanaka Joe mighta been all skeered outta shape an’ maybe he’ll give up his witchcraft sumtime soon.
Only thet were not about ta happen, as you will soon see.
Late in the day the day before, Kanaka Joe went a creepin around the Teasewater place tryin ta find the far ant nest. When he found it, he did a real sneaky thing, Only it were as sneaky as wut them boys did ta him. He got hisself a jar like they dun and he filled it up with far ants— so many far ants, in fact, they way out numbered the dirt in the jar, this time.
And he goes an does his sacekrfice to the Shark God, an’ he knows, see, them two boys is sumplace closeby. He hears a russlin’ in the bushes an’ he knows it’s them. So he pops his head out, and he takes thet jar, and sprinkles far ants all over them boys! Yep yessir- both of em!
Lord alive you never heered sech screechin’ an’ hollerin, cuz little boys screeches and hollers lots louder than growned mens, and they commence ta run off — direckly to thar Mom and Pop!
Now, see, Mr and Missus Teasewater, bein’ polite an’ civil type of Bostons, they don’t cotton to much nonsense outta there boys, no sir, they don’t. So when they come inta the kichun all yellin screamin’ an hollerin’, do you think they git much simpathy from ol Meana Teasewater! No sir!
But she sets down and lissens, once they is all finished with the skwallerin’.
“An thet Sandwich Island man, Kanaka Joe— he did this ta us! He pored the far ants outta us! He’s pracksing witchcraft in thet lil shack et lunchtimes, Ma!”
“Now lemme git this straight!” sez mean ole Meana Teasewater.
“You boys gotcherselves inta some troubles, on account a Kanaka Joe? Why, he might be a pagan, boys, but he’s a bildin’ us this fine house we’re all goin’ ta be livin’ in, an’ as sech wut he deserves is yer respeck, not your deeveeayshuns!”
“But we wuz not bein deveeayshuns! We wuz jes watchin in on him.”
Meana Teasewater tho new her two boys a bit better than thet tho. She hed heard this kinds lies outta Jimmy before, an’ so much sass. She had a speshul bar of sope jes fer Jimmy, who liked to talk tuff and uncivil a lot anyways.
She sez, “I’m a gonna go have a talk with that savage Sandwich Islands man, and git ta the bottom of this. Now you boys ain’t gonna git no supper til I do, ya hear”
And thet makes them cringe and cry , cuz they is two growin’ boys an settin’ them fer the day with no supper wuz gonna be hard and mean. Wuz not but fer this sorter justice she wuz called Meana. But I is digressin.
Miz Teasewater knocked at the winder (wuz no winder, wuz rilly more like a hole) of Kanaka Joe’s shack.
“I hear there’s some trubble with muh boys, Kanaka Joe... You wanna tell me wut this all here is?”
“Ah, yes, Miz Teasewater. Dem boys of yours make big wreck of my Shark God shrine. Cover all sackerfishel food with dirt, and far ants too! I come in an’ try make all shrine clean and new, an’ far ants is everwhere. I could not think who might done this but not you, an’ not Mister Teasewater, You fine kind wahine, he good strong hones’ kane. Even if you Crischuns you respeck my right to have shrine, I thank you for dat. And so I find boys and give taste own medicine. Shake far ants all ova dem. Dem all holla “murder, Momma!” cuz I know all dey knew about dem. Dass all what happen’. I tell honest humbug.”
“Sounds like you have done thet, true, Kanaka Joe. I knows what a lar and sneak an’ trubbelmaker my Jimmy kin be. And so I am gonna say thank ya fer helpin. In yer own way. Because theMister and me we gots enough trubbels har in Judas Gulch tryin ta git stablished and all. I’ll git them boys some proper dissaplin, you don’t worry no more.”
“Dats fine and da kine good, Missus Teasewater. I like work for you and Mista an Old Swede. Makes less trouble than hafta work on river! Bless you.”
An’ Kanaka Joe took a shark tooth offa his necklace and give it ta Miz Teasewater an’ thet war the start of a fine friendship rat thar.


Monday, September 29, 2014


Call me Sardo Pat. Everbody else does, why not you? You know what sardo is, doncha? It’s that special bread they bake down in Frisco. Folks claim the air got some special magical yeast in it or sumpin, makes it all so taste salty an’ tangy. Anyhow, my real name is Patrick Menahee Machlachglenahee and I was borned in Ireland. Came to 'merica when I was two. My pappy he worked on the Eerie Canal. You heard of that, aintcha? Lived in Skanecktidee. Came out west with the Rush I did, got me a claim on a placer on the Consumniss River, and my main drag is the town of Judas Gulch.
I gots to tell y’all a little sumpin bout how it all came about, too, how I come out here, becuz I am oner those them like to call “Original FortyNiners”— That is, I made it out here while there was still somethin’ good about it, an’ I had a chance to make me an ackshul bit of money. Nowadays with all the hydrollicking goin on, there’s lots of land get washed through but lots less gold fer the pickin’! When I com here a man could still work his own damn claim, didn’t need no help or none.
But that’s all different now. Takes me my six pardners and me together workin’ a sixty feet sluice together to get what little we gets. Oh its still somethin, usually bout two ounces a day I supose, but it aint like the old days when you could jest find them nuggets willy-nilly sometimes.
I come from Skanecktidee New York, like I said, ain’t all so much back there ‘cept my folks and little brother, and I ain’t been back, an’ I don’t care if I don’t, neither. I left Skanecktidee and got myself on a boat outa city of New York called the Curij. The Curij she were jest a two-master, culdn’t take the trip round the Horn, you know, and so I had me passage to Limon in Costa Rica, down there in jungle land. Took me a week of hard travelin’ through them rustic vines and tangles, with a cupple Injuns as my guides, with twenny others, hackin’ and hewin’ our way to the Pacific. But we got there, and we got to Puntarenas.
I was lucky, some of them other fellers took ill off malaria cause they got killer skeeters down there, an’ a couple of cholera, because ain’t no good water, I was lucky I had this here special large canteen carried my own so sip by sip I slipped across the Isthmus. Soon as we gets to Puntarenas we all catched a schooner headed up Frisco way. Ackshully it was headed to Portland Oregon, but had a stop there.
Frisco! Man what a place. Folks told me that when I got there was about started to get hoppin’ and it’s been hoppin’ ever since! I only stayed enough time to get me a map and an outfit- for me that meant a pickhammer , a shevel,and a pannin’ pan and a fryin’ pan, and a good hat. That lucky hat’s been with me all along, too! And I headed up this here way to Judas Gulch, and put down my claim on my little place on the Consumness. Made me a couple of friends there, them is now pardners in the minin’ comp’ny, too, Piney and Transom. An’ Cakey. Cakey’s sorta like our man Fridey, he’s frum th’ Sandwich Islands, he is.
In fact, Cakey were the first actual man I met that first day on the street of Frisco. I was just to set about gettin’ my land legs when this feller comes up to me- he’s got dark skin like a Nigro but more tan- an’ he asks me if I would be going up to the mines.
I said, “Why, yes, what man here ain’t?”
He proceeds to tell me he will make me an excellent guide, for a small fee. He is Cakey Kowakowa, from the island of Owahoo, an’ dang if he ain’t already been up thar in the gold fields and has his own claim goin’. Says, I will need some good advice as to how to go about things, this I cannot argue with, and he says, again, for a small fee, he will guide me to a good panning river, the Consumness, and he will help git me an outfit (that war the shevel and pick and pan and a little rocker) an’ we would both git two mules, and I can strap my gear on the back of one.
Now I happent to have brought me a blanket, and that were a good thing, since that would have cosset me some fifty dollars there if I got it in Frisco. The shevel and pan and pick war bad enough, that war a whole thirty. By the time I had bought us both lunch and paid for the supplies and paid the rent on two mules, I had about spent near seventy whole dollers, and I had left only about a hunnert, for whatever else would need come up.
Cakey said, though, that up thar a man must rely on his wits, slim supply, must make his shelter, must have good strong clothes, “much also he must have good strong back, because mine is hard work.”
I weren’t afraid of no hard work, that is so.
So anyhow I must also pay for the ferry for us both. My ticket was thirty and Cakey’s was thrityfive dollers on account of his Kanaka color, but we got the ferry, and left Frisco that same afternoon.
Now there were some troubles going on, and which I had of course no sense of the meaning, though Cakey seemed to.
“We get out of there just in time, Pat” he says, looking back over his shoulder at the town of Frisco as it diminished behind us on the water.
“Big bad fight happen. Sidney Ducks and Frisco Hounds making big trouble for Chillytown minders.”
“Chillytown? Frisco Hounds? Sidney Ducks? Me no savvy,” I says, intersted in the paticulars.
“Chillytown. Make homes there in tents, many Spannards from Chilly. Come up to work mines with sons and wives. Sidney Ducks- bad news operators. With Frisco Hounds, get paid to watch docks, and drag sailors back to boats. Unlucky sailor cannot leave his ship to go mines! Bad.”
“Sidney Ducks, Frisco Hounds, back there, they raging on Chillytown. Say, men from Chilly have no pay tax on mines. I pay tax on mines too! Yes, twenny dollah! Twenny dollah for year for man work mines not white American man. But Hounds mad that many, so many, too many Chillyman here in Frisco. So fight. Big fight go on, we leave it behind us. Big trouble. Where we go, not so bad. Lots of kanaka, lots of Chillymen, lots of Chinaman, lots of Injuns. But many men friends. You see. Gold work magic!”
I had to let this sink in for a whiles, but what I would find, of course, would be nothing like he described things.
When the ferry docked at Sackaminnow, he said it would be good for us to rest the night. We held the mules with a livery man at a hotel. Weren’t much of a hotel, just a little tent with five or six partitioned made out of drop cloth just like the walls. But they charged me and Cakey three dollers each to sleep thar. In the orning we rustled grub- was not so bad cept it were a dollar apiece, again. He still had not given me a price for his “good honest fee” but I was hanging on (if I could) to every cent I had. Still, it were tough. Not so tough as the steak we ate for breakfast, though!
We got up in the mornin’ and saddled the mules, and riding on mine were not much fun withtht rocker behind my butt, but somehow I managed and so did the mule.
Cakey was leading me onward, to the fated camptown of Judas Gulch.

So when Cakey get me up there into the hills, and after we had passed through Sackaminnow and I seen that fer what it was, we pulls into Judas Gulch on our old mules and goes up a hill where’s his place. Now I seen from the way he were livin’ weren’t much to advertise and that I wanted my own cabin right aways, jest as soon as I could make one. Cakey said “Oh fine, das right, I help you make house, you no worries!”
 First things I gets offa the mule, he sets me down in this llittle hutch of his. I don’t know what else you’re gonna call it, causeit aint more than a roof and a wall, and on three sides mostly open to the are. He pinned back canvas around the edges. It was not til winter I seen him double back up them canvas flaps and make it almost a proper house, but that’s all it was, canvas flaps bent round some posts. And the roof, well, it were only a piece of grass really, flowers and all growing on the top of it.
Anway he sets me down an’ asks me what I’ll have ta drink.
“I don’t know, watch you got?”
Cakey says he gots whisky, but I passed on that, I figger I can see whisky enough once I gets my strike, and then have more reason ta drink it. He says he gots coffee so I says, “OK, fine”
He pulls some coffeebeans outta a big old sack and pounds them with a hammer on a stump-head, and scrapes them off into a pot, throws water on, biles it, and there, that’s a cup of coffee. Weren’t no nothing to it. Of course I was gonna set him back on his tail oncet he seen the cofee grinder I buys when I gets flush but fer now this were luxury.
Then he asks me eff I’m hongry, and of course I am, since we ain’t et nothin since this mornin when we lit out of Sackaminnow, and pulls a can offa his wall. He musta had twenty more these cans up there on a shelf and they all says the same thing- “Mr. Cook’s Two Finger Poi”. I never heard of this none. He says maybe I will like it. He opens up a can and I looks in and it’s the mos’ ugly looking purple slop!
 He laughs, and pours it inta a skillet, grabs a jug of molasses and mixes it around, stirs that gloop like it were a regular soup or somethin’. Once its hot he says “Give a while cool down” then once it looks like it is, why, he takes his forefingers and dips it in, pulls up a hunk of it on ‘em, and slurps it right down!
I says, “Don’t you got a spoon for me?”
Cakey laughs and says if I needs a spoon, I be’s no good in Sandwich Islands, but he hands me one, and so I tried to start anyway, eating the glopaguss.
“It go so much bettah with fish. I show you nex’ time.”
RIght now I guess he ain’t got no fish, so I sat myself there and stared into the wiggly face of the glopaguss and I et what I could. Which weren’t all of it. ‘Cept for the molasses that were some purty rank stuff. Half sar, and that were probly cause it were sar to start off with! Without that molasses I can’t see none how anyone let alone Kanakas could want to tech it. Mus’ be a quired taste.
When I et my full of his “poy” I asset him where he got it, seein’ as were a Sandwich Island dellikasy.
He said he got a whole case of it brung to Stockton secure and custom, when he made his first strike. Tells me once a man makes his strike well it’s lots like the gates of Heaven opens. All kinds of things is used and useful and comes to him easy like, much never thought of before. I was talking to him this way when he takes that thar empty poy can and flattens it and throws it in a bucket full of other poy cans, similarly skwarshed. I assed him what he was saving them all fer and he says, “ I melt down latuh. Make small pile tin and iron. Sell again.”
This were a unique conception to me of how to get ridda the trash. I made me a mental note about it.
“Now,” he says “Let’s see the river and the claim!”
I reckon I had no other reason to be there to begin with and he leads me on a path heads up a hil then down again and we are now walkin in what I sees as a reckonizable river valley. He brung along a gold pan with him, since he wanted me to see I was not bein’ led astray none- this were a bonafidee good claim, and all I needed to do was set myself down and start washin’.
When we gets down to the river is when I meets Jamjob and Suthrun. They are workin in the sun, Jamjob is loading the rocker, and Suthrun is trickin’ the sluicebox. On the flat side of a big old rock there is sparkly nuggets drying in the sun- first I seen the Californee gold! But it were real.
“Howdy Suthrun!”— all happy bright says Cakey.
“Howdy, Cakey! Who’s the Boston?”
I gesset and gesset right that the Boston were me, since there were none other in the presence.
“This hea Mista Pat— how he say- Micklockhagenahee- Dang his name almos’ bad as  Kanaka Joe’s!”
Them other boys they laughed and interduced themselves. Suthrun been workin’ there best part of the year, and Jamjob, he were but three weeks ahead of me. Already they said they had their own cabin made up and I were welcome to sleep in tonight, if I would have none of Cakey’s little grass shack.
And that were it, of course. When I had set there watching them, Cakey were in the crick himself, and he brought that big old gold pan over to me and showed me some of what he had washed out of it. Sure enough, that was gold thar, in that pan, and all of it came from the river gravel, and if I would like to get my feet wet now, well, I could start working on my own pile!
That sounded purty good. So for the next thre hours, while them other boys sat on the river bank and did their little fill and wash and sort and preen, I did my own bit of pannin’.  It took me a bit to get the hang of it, and Cakey showed me just zackly how you angle the pan and dip it so slightly for more water and to let off the sand or dross rock, but I did get the hang of it, and dang if I did not at least take a half-ounce of gold, home with me all wrapped up in my little bandanner! That were real good for a first day, Cakey says.
“Now you see I no Gyp you, I telling you honest humbug!” he said.
Yep, it were honest humbug, and I knew I had found the answer at least for now what I come all this way for.
Them other two boys takes me in to their cabin and sets me there and then I succumbed to their request to share their homemade whisky, which I insist, were perty good- smooth, clear, sets down the throat all smooth and syrup like and soon enough, you’re setting there and singin. Cakey come over after an hour or so with a little pint size git-tar he calls a ookoolaylay and plays and sings while we set there, sometimes we’re singin’ ourselves, sometimes it is jest him. And the moon starts rising big and full over the large mountains on the Eastern side, and them crickets commence their serenades, and all is fine, and that were the honest humbug.

The Cosumness River runs roughly east-west from the Sierras and empties in marshlands off the San Joaquin. It is one of about forty tributaries of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers which madeup the bulk of the gold rush digging known as the Mother Lode— Names such as the Tuololumne and Mokelumnee, the American, the Feather, and the Stanislaus are all a part of the great network of Sierra Nevada watersheds which come to a due conclusion in the waters of the great San Francisco Bay. In Sardo Pat’s day all of this was virgin and unspoiled territory—men were just only now beginning to ply up the delta in steamships, bringing daily hundreds of gold seekersup from San Francisco- or Frisco, as everybody called it then.
If things had been left to the work of individuals and even companies comprised of same, perhaps it may not have ended as it had to— perhaps the evidence, a century and a half on, might not have been quite as obvious. Yet greed was the currency in common all men that came to the Mother Lode shared. Greed took many forms but most often, it morphed itself into the shape of larger and larger collective enterprises and took more and more technological forms until the great waters had been stuffed back into artificial flues which stretched for miles up and down each river and stream, and great hoses capable of knocking a man down at a hundred paces were plied against the hillsides, that the hillsides themselves transformed into mile after mile of pulverized piles of dusty earth... which still remain, evidence for all of the complete ecological ignorance of 19th C. Man.

When I first started workin’ it, I started with the riverbank of course. Must have gotten eighty ounces out of it, that first summer. People asket me war didja hide it all! I ain’t a tellin them but I’ll tell you- when I had it all assyed an’ converted into Samuels I hid it all up in a coffee can under a floorboard in my cabin, is war it is, and unless you’re a damn fool, you won’t get any ideas yerself about comin to steal it from me, cause now I gots a Colt, and I can use it too.
Anyhow I said eighty ounces, that was a lot of money, yeh and I went back to Frisco that October once I had it and once winter come on cause who is gonna tryin’ be the big fool and mine the Consumness in winter? I come back to Frisco and musta blown a good half my wad then. I stays away from Sydney Town of course, and I stayed away from a lotta things, but I had me a ‘stablishment I prioritized and it were good fer whisky and decent card games and sometimes even a good decent breakfast, with eggs and bacon and ham and some beer.
Piney, he come from Caroliner, all the way hisself in a Conestoga wagon, the hard way to the stars crosset Injun land from Misery. Misery ain’t got much to recommend it, he says, but the Mississip, and Saint Louie, but nothin there but trail vultures, he says, and the ones led him out here was nearly well that too. Had him a few Injun scrapes, and I guess nobody amongst us hates Injuns now more than old Piney. He’d be ready to shoot one and scalp one ifet one even stuck up a feather over the edge of the rocks beside the sluice run!
Transom, now there is a characer. He come from Phillidelphy and he uset to be a solid citizen and all, but when he heard the word the gold was out here, he took off from his wife an little ones like you never seen a man do for want of it, and he sold half of his land right out under them and bought a ticket round the Horn. Him I met in that little stablishment I was talkin’ about. He was just headin up here and I was goin’ back, so I took this gentle tenderfoot aside and told him some of the facts of life, which he was thankful for, because after our first spring together, Piney and Transom and then Nicletto ganged up on me and forcet me to begin the company with them. I can’t say twas a bad decision, cuz we have darn near made six times over together what I did myself end of forty nine, but still, somtimes I get hungry for the old days, when you didn’t need to split nothin with nobody and you were always sure then of an even Steven, cause weren’t no Steven!
Me and Transom though we did get along, and amongst all them other fellers there, he seemed to be earnest even if he was a tenderfoot. I asket him why he was fool enough to sell out his land underneath a wife and kids, and you know what he said? He said, “Pat, if you had one chance to make the world a better place for them wife and kids, and you knew that you could do it, and you knew there weren’t no hope in the grocery bizness like it carries on in Phllidelphia, and that if you could make it in Californee and ship yerself back soon enough, who wouldn’t try and do it? D’you think you could? Specially if you loves that woman and kinders like I do.”
I looked at him long and said “Well, it musta been some gamble, cause now you been out here two year already and you ain’t doin yet half as well as you figgered! Why doncha go on back, now?”
“Because, Pat, them is goners to me, now. Yeh, oncet I been out here a while it was the girl got the old itch and began lookin’  round fer someone sensible. Like a lawyer. Sent me a letter one day said she had got herself one, and a deevorse, and now she was take up with him too! So now I gots nothin to go back for, Pat, and I jest mine fer myself and my own dreams.”
“Seems like you bout lost all you had to get what you didn’t need to me, son.”
“I reckon it too.”
That was last year when I had that talk with Transom. But let’s go back again because I got to keep on tellin’ you about how I come up here! I did not finish really I jumpet the claim on yer story.
I built this here cabin in the winter of forty nine and that was a good thing. It has a stove, yep, genuwine Franklin, and it has a farplace, yep, and I does my cooking either way. Has me a little feather bed and pillers to rest my head, and a rockin chair, and an awl lamp, yep, and each new day I gets up and sweeps out the dust and shakes out my special carpet, was a soovenir from my first Frisco trip, too. Folks told me it was stupid expense, but I thought it was good to have at least one purty thing in my house, and this rug be it. On the wall I keeps all my surplies—a can of lard, cans of beans, bags of sugar and flar, can of pepper, sack of grits, sack of coffee beans. A sack of Injun popcorn, too, that’ll come in good in a pinch, by crackee. A keg o’ gunpowder an’ some pistol balls, an’ another one o’ terbacky, so’s I can smoke my own cigartees. Sometimes though I likes a pipe instead, it’s more homey, and sometimes, you jes aint got the cirgartee papers. Yeh I got me a good coffee grinder too, got that offa Teasewater runs the store down in town, cosset me thirty bucks. I make do with what I eat cause I catches fish, I snares rabbits, I shoots squirrels and other varmints, and deers, when I can. I got tard of tryin’ to keep horns fer trophies, though, I don’t want a bunch of clutter, so I gives most of the heads to the other guys, they are happy to hang um on their walls.
I hardly never see no eggs, cause they cost about a whole doller just for one, but if you go down to town you can get them, if you wanna pay an arm, leg, or foot t’ get some. I keep happy with hunks off my side of sowbelly, I buys one every season, that’s good enough, with a little beans, makes a tasty meal. I makes hortcakes with muh flar and sugars them over, and with my coffee ever mornin, it’ s breakfast. Any day a man can get up and make his coffee, ets a good life and a good day t’ die! I don’t care.
I grows me taters, too, on the sunny side of the cabin, got a whole wall side deddicated to nothin but taters. Takes so little to get so many, you only hasta set down a few good starters, and in half a year boy, you got enough taters last ya through as much time again! Taters is might good with that bacon and beans. Course me being Irish I cannot do without my taters and neither would you.
I come up, partly on the riverboat, the Sitka, an’ partly on the stage. The stage dumpeded me an’ Cakey off and I took on up toward the river. I was gonna git me a good spot, I was, and weren’t nobody here this side o’ Sodom was gonna tell me they was thar on the river firset on me. Cause I was! An’ was I ever lucky cause most of the other boys thought war I chose were none too smart- was way too much heavy boulderin’ thar, was not a lot of sandbar either, an’ besides, they said it was on the wrong side of the river bend for it to have any good placer. Well I reckon them boys all figgered wrong, cause the first week I brung out of there a mighty whole ten ounces and that were well enough to stablish me amongst the eyes of all the citizens here in Judas Gulch that I was, at least, one lucky Irishman, and I ain’t really looked back since, ‘cept to tell y’all this.
Yep, I had some luck. Me and Transom eventually decidet we needed to pardner up, and there war other pardners, and I guess I’m a gittin a little bit ahead of m’self, but Transom were a good guy to meet, regardless. I reckon his natrual honesty were better than most of the boys up here, who may as well been created liars right outta the fire, because Transom, when he set his own claim, he made sure that he left me that overhang of rock on the bend the overlapped his, if you reckon by a plum line, that was mine, aright and I’m glad he knew it, ‘cause the next year when I blowed that rock aprt I found a nice quartzite seam inside her was less pyrite than gold enough, and that boulder set me up for another twenty ounces all itself.
Now days when they come up and do all the highdrollickin’ like to see fit to wash all the hills into the durn sea, you can find sums like that lots quicker, if you set yer jets right and you happen to have a good vein to mine. Lots of people got claims that were nothin but a whole wash— lost lotsa money on them hose and pumps, lost lotsa money on their sluce runs, lost a lotta time cause they never had the sense to test the sedimentry layers fust. I tell you even smarties like Transom come out here, alls they ever knowed about gold is what they read in books, but some of them find that nothin’ out here is quite like they found it to be in college books, nope, cept it is true, that gold runs in quartzite, and so do mica and pyrite, and a man’s got t’ have a good eye t’ tell pyrite from gold on sight anyhow. But I ain’t ever been fooled. Even gold flakes is heavier than pyrite kind, and you kin tell jest by turnin’ it in the sun if it’s black on one side, was pyrite anyhoo, might as well hand up the pan and filler up agin.
I gots my coffee grinder, like I said, from the store here. Old Teasewater runs the place, he’s another smartypants college boy, says he went to Wesley in Massachoosits, has him a brood of little brats and a wife of course he hatched them all with. They are some fierce little terrors, and some of the boys say they is even worset than Injuns, for all the troubles they sponsible for sometimes. Them boys of the group loves to play pranks specially if they think they can get their Dad some money by means of doing so— I tell ya, one of them little varmints near broke up part of our sluice run just so McDavish would need to buy more railing from his Dad! Things like that happen up here, though. That coffee grinder, anyhow, it’s my only concession to what them folks back home might call “civilized.” Otherwise, me and the rest of the company, we’re right True Barbarians.
Suthrun is one of them sort come up outta the South, which is why is his name Suthrun. Him and Piney get along real famous. But you orter hear them two talkin. Sounds like they hardly knows a word of English. I’ll bring that into it later. But Suthrun, he come from Georgia, some say he escaped and has a bounty on his head, but he don’t seem to act none like a crim’nal to me any. Mostly he stays up in his little shack- and I mean it, his place ain’t even a cabin proper, just a little lean-to that he made ‘reiginally out of a tent and some post beam, then when he got good and ready, he mad a little roof from a dilapidated river raft, and hung it up on to. He ain’t got much of nothin but a moss bag to sleep on, and a lamp, o’course, and he do all his cooking on a fire. On rainy days he is plum outta luck so he eats down at the Eye. It’s good for that, too, yes it is. But I likes to save my dough, not spend it, so I eats at home mostly. A lot more than Suthrun do at least!
McDavish, he’s a Scotsman. I reckon I gets along with him partly for that, and cause he was borned over there too, and come around the same time as my Pappy did, around the same age s me, too, ‘cept a little older. He’s got the red har and the temper, t oo, and if you pore him a mite of whisky, well, that would just wet his whiskers, he’d soon be at ya fer the whole bottleful. That’s why I never drinks with him, on account of trying to stay friends. Hard to stay friends with a man if you drinks too much with him, I thinks.
An then the last one of our company, Jamjob. He’s a sartin piece of work he is. Ain’t nobody ain’t a white man he’ll even speak to, not even a white woman, outta what he thinks is courtesy. Otherwise again if a feller ain’t white, I knows he hates ‘em. I never seen such a skirtscairt pigeon in all my days as that man. Why one day I seen Millie talking with him, and he kept his hat on his chest like to be handled, and backed away from her so fast... Everone at the Eyeball laffed at that. We found out later that Jamjob has a wife back east too, just like Transom, only he’s tryin to be a good little boy and then someday (maybe) he thinks he’ll be able to order her up and bring her to Frisco. Jes’ like that! I knows it’s a ‘saster jes’ waitin’ to happen.
Now Cakey Kowakowa, he’s been up har since before even the word came out about the First Strike. He’s from Honnalooloo, an’ fust he war a sailor, but when the Strike hit, he took off like a jackrabbit fer the Gold Country here. Lucky I found him, too, I spoze, and he was lucky I was all green and all like I was, cause I needed somebody to larn me the way this is all spposed to shake out, you know? I might not a got the hang of pannin’, nor even reckoned with no idears about a Long Tom or a Company, eff I hadna runned into him. He’s been a good soul, too, not a streak of savage in his heart, even if he does like eating pounded goop. He ain’t a full pardner, on account of him not being a white man, but we do give him chancets to take his own cut, and he swears he’s savin’ his dust for a trip back to Honnalooloo sometime soon.
Arcadia Cosmopolitan Mining Company we calls ourselves, and that we are, cause we is cosmpolitian—Why what else can ya call it when you gots an Irishman, a Scotman, an Eyetalian, a Boston, a Suthrunner or two, an’ a Kanaka? “A right mess!” says MacDavish, an’ I reckon he ain’t far from wrong.

The summertime fog of morning hangs like the hand of a lunatic monk over the land west of the Sierra Nevada, above the sleepy little town of Judas Gulch, above the sleeping heads of Sardo Pat and his partners— Transom, McDavish , Nicletto, Suthrun, Jamjob, and Keiki Kalakaua. Great piles of cumulus are lumping up above the mountains now, pregnant with the first storm of autumn. From the valley foothills, they appear like rough clumps of cake frosting, sculpted into high forms the height of the mountains themselves and more, shaded in tinges of grey, blue-grey, and white. As dawn arrives the cumulus are now colored with the back-light of the sun, which as yet may not break through, and perhaps, over the mountain towns of Truckee and Nevada City, may not break at all today. For the storms often remain a day or two. They got off easy this summer— few rained any if at all, and the cumulus had remained white. But now with the onset of winter, the wind out of the Oregon lava beds had added a northern chill to their makeup, and lofted them much higher than summer’s, and they settled over the mountain passes like men who meant business.