Friday, November 28, 2014


Sunday morning. The air rings with the sharp rasps of bluejays, flutters with the song of the mockingbirds, and echoes in the creekbeds with the chorkle of frogs. With the sun not yet over the edge of the eastern divide, but the air yet glowing rose and cyan in expectation of the bright return of Sol to the shadowed glades, Sardo Pat is fixing his flapjacks on a iron skillet, whistling a merry tune, harmonizing with an interior ledger line a half forgotten melody. A pot of already hot coffee sits beside the fire, and on the hearth has been set his tin cup, full of  a rich full-bodied blend of mountain grown beans.
One cabin away, just a matter of some yards as the crow stumbles, is the cabin of Transom. Transom sits in its doorway, now starting to squint as the first rays break across the granite line of hilltop. In his hands is a letter he hs just received, but immediately, he wished he hadn’t. Actually this is the fifth time he has read this letter in the last two days, but even so, he can’t quite come to comprehend the message it bears. It is a nervous and uncertain Transom who finally rises, stuffs the letter into a tin biscuit can with his other important papers, and seeks out a needle and thread. There is a shirt he loves and it’s got a dastardly rip in it which needs mending. May as well mend that, if he can’t mend anything else in this life.
Two cabins over is the humble abode of Suthrun and Jamjob. Jamjob is working on his “special project”, which is a new, homemade, batch of Fugitive Justice, ninety-five proof. After tiring of spending half a fortune with Ollarud (and losing the other half in supplying the larder) he has rigged up a contraption with copper vats and spiraling coils of tubing, and is busy applying a pestle to his “special mix” of grits, rye grains, and peach peelings. By the time the viscous liquid has spun its way through the tubing and released itself into the waiting ironstone jug that sits, mouth wide, waiting for the honey, and once that jug has filled, he will have settled his bet with Suthrun and they will have a shot or two each of this Mountain Distillation themselves.
Nicletto has taken his dirty clothing— and by now he has a great pile of it— over to the river to wash it. He will wheelbarrow it back, and hang it from a rope he has stretched between a pondersosa and a sugar pine. He will have it all up before it’s even hit the hour of eight, for it will take a good day for the thick heavy cotton and wool garments to evaporate away the river from them.
MacDavish has decided that today will be his day to court— if that be the term we might politely use? Miss Millicent Vermouth Tabener. He will court with a sack of gold scales marked with “$200” on the side- a fair bargain for the presence of Milly’s attentions, which tomorrow, of course, she will offer to the next high roller. It won’t happen to be MacDavish. While he’s in town to see Milly of course, before he makes that choice of recreation, he will stop at Teasewater’s store, buy whatever is the latest Eastern newpaper is available, he will take his breakfast at Ollarud’s, tip Ling Lu for washing and mending his clothing, and stroll down the main street twirling his crystal-topped cane. With a diamond pin in his boutonierre and his collar crisp, stiff, and knotted with a two-inch tie falling at either side like the droop of his moustache, he will see about this matter of a gentleman’s elief with the lady of the town.
On the Spanish side of town, there are groups of men putting bets on a table marked out for faro, a croupier with a missing ear counting out the cards, and a teller calling them from a table covered with a blue velvet cloth. The men who have stakes wait, hands at the table, eyes on their picks, and the men who don’t stand back behind them, sniggering as to whom they feel might be the next biggest loser.

I spoze now I got to tell ya about some of the other more unsavery characters round about these parts. Now there’s some thet  went out thar and got caught and thar’s some thet ain’t but been caught yet, and I think I spose I orter tell ya about the ones thet are still out thar yet. These people of course is the outlaws, the Pikes, the ones thet come out har lookin not really fer the gold they could bring outta the ground, but thet is already settin in some poor boy’s pockets.
I am gonna spear you the details of Wockeen Murryetta, since thar’s too much confusion over who and what and war he just zackly was, an’ besides he don’t quite fit the period of muh story, but I’m shore you heared about him. No, I have a mind to let you hear about another feller, a white man, his name was Red Langendorf.
Red Langendorf, a Swede, a course, so many of the folks round har is Swedes, an’ I don’t mean the turnip sort. He is known to work the road from Gold Hill to Sackaminnow with a couple of other fellers who is The Junger Brothers. He come har from Wisconsin, like Yon Yonson, and realize within the first wek he’d broke a pick, a shovel, and buried two mules, and there were no way even Sister Sarah could help him with the minin’ busines. Specially if it was mindin’ his own.
So Red Langendorf made it his business to mind other peoples, and mine them fer their pockets. They say his first victim was a feller named Spitzzen, a German a course, who had jes come outta the Assyer in Hangtown with two full mail sacks— his entire fortune, ackshully. Spitzzen wuz found dead as a doornail on the side of the Hangtown-Gold Hill Road, with his horse grazin on his chest rather lonesome. It must have been a few hours time before the Sheriff found him, and he was no fair sight- bullet holes stiched up and down his vest, and his minin’ gear scattered all across the roadside war it happened.
Sherrif Neatness was the first one to break the case, ackshully, and identify it were Red Langendorf was the evil perpetrator of this foul action. Red Langendorf left a calling card, soon to be famous across the landscape— he scattered sardo breadcrumbs across the chest of por Spitzzen, an’ that of course explains why they found his horse nuzlin’ offa him like he wuz a feed bag.
Langendorf’s next victims was a couple Chillymen on their way down to the assyer’s. Held them boys both up an’ farced them t’ strip to their long johns and took several bags worth maybe ten ounces, and earned himself some bad enemies from that. There was sardo breadcrumbs all over the scene of the crime, which included the Chillymen takin’ their clothes down in daylight from the oak tree Red Langendorf flung ‘em into. A course weren’t nobody ackshully witnessed that happen except what the Chillymen says happened, but they swore under oaf to Sheriff Neatness et were the truth, and Red Langendorf wuz ackshully seen in Stockton the next week, buyin’ himself some rather expensive food stuffs. Word is he perhaps has a hideout someplace near Skull Pie Hill and thet’s war him and the Junger Brothers hides out.
There are a few other reckonings about Red Lagendorf, but somewhere along the way the trail for Sherrif Neatness went stale. I heared that there was a posse hunted up to the so called cabin but there were nothin thar when they arrived but a lot of empty oyster cans, bread rappers, an’ California chandeliers.
Sheriff Neatness tole me that eff I ever sees Red Langendorf in the flesh agin he will absolutely deppitize me and give me fair rights to git his scalp even. I sez, I dunno about no scalpin, I’m a Fremont man, and thet sort of thing ain’t zackly fair play.
“Even ef you is a Fremonter, Sardo, I warnt you t’ know I needs ever man I can git to pray tell find this har interloper and set him t’ justice.”
But it’s kinder sad Red Langendorf made hisself so many enemies. Even in the Chinee camps they tend to be purty skeered at least of the Legend. Eff I ever runs inter him I hopes I ain’t carryin’ no color, cause I shore can’t afford the loss.

The great stream of humanity flows across the wide prairies from Independence Missouri West, across the Missouri River, the Platte, the Snake, the Columbia... Into eastern and Southern Oregon, down the Siskiyou into the Klamath, down the Klamath into the Central Valley... Or over South Pass and into Utah and across the Great Salt Plain, the Badlands, southward to Donner and Carson Passes, and over the Sierras into the Valley...
Or it takes flight in steamer and clipper from ports on the Eastern seaboard, from Chile and Brasil, from Ireland and Australia and China and the Philippines... Humanity comes in troops and droves and tribes, driven insatiably by the lure, the promise, the false hope, the illusion of great wealth, fortune to be made, riches beyond measure—the same dream which drove Coronado up from the mouth of the Colorado across Arizona and New Mexico into Nebraska and Kansas, the city of gold, the land of the Amazon, and the Quetzal bird...
Each traveler brought what things he thought he could... The easterners packed huge trunks with clothing and supplies, much of which they found needed to be sold off before they reached Concepcion... the waggoners discovered the oxen they’d purchased died gasping in the dusty sun of the great Southwestern Desert... Horses starved for lack of grass, should have have been started off late, and all including humans found water a precious commodity... On shipboard, passengers crammed like steerage into the holds and on  the decks of the hulking freighters perished for lack of green vegetables or fresh fruit and sickened from spoiled water, thousands on each great tributary died blanching from cholera, dysentery, malaria in the mosquito jungles...
The wagonners also left half the mining gear they’d purchased behind on the shelves of riverbanks and sides of buttes, overburdened by the weight their oxen could no longer pull... only to find when they arrived those same tools could cost up to three times what they had paid back home to replace...
Fortunes were made off these rivers of people by the equippers, the clothiers, the tailors, the grocers, and the bar men—especially the bar men! By the middle of 1850 the wagons and ships often carried enormous carved bar fronts, huge beveled mirrors thirty or forty feet long, and tons of barrels containing Widow Maker, Stump Puller, Cincinnati Whiskey, Taos lightning, Scamper juice, Kickapoo Jubilee, Red Eye, Diddle Liquor, Fool Water, Monongahela Rye, McKinley’s Delight, Tornado Juice, Gut-Warmer, Forty-Rod, Old Joe Gideon, Little Brown Jug, Old Joe Clark’s, Jackson’s Sour Mash...
All these barrels were meant for the men toiling in the sunny gold fields, but many ended up in other hands... for good or ill. The residents of the Plains when all this great migration began discovered the mind-bending powers of the white man’s medicine liquor, and the white men discovered its power over the residents of the Plains— a magical power which could be used to connive, finagle, and in many ways, subdue the red men into doing nearly anything, including giving up all sense of self respect and territory, and soon movement began in the camps of the Indians to resist the magic of alcohol, and reclaim what they were losing. But here in 1850 all was yet too new, and it would be another decade or two and a half before the resistance took its final and most potent form.
Out in the gold fields California’s Indians worked alongside the whites, many of them as indentured servants or slaves, breaking the ore, panning the sluices, and filling in for the whites who felt they were yet still above the hard backbreaking labor it would take to make a claim pay out. The California Republic was yet young, and there were many of these Indians who had known little but the white man’s coming forth and obscuring any sense of a homeland which could remain. The Miwok, Tuolumne, Yosemite, and Yurok were often found in situations forced to defend themselves against bands of marauding whites. The whites drunk on both the gold fever, and the whiskey they flourished about, and the joy of the American victory over the Mexicans in Tenochtitlan which ended ceding the entire California Territory to the brash and burly new United States... California ached to become another bead upon Columbia’s necklace, and men were working ever so quickly to bring that about...

Jes a little ways down th’ road from us here in Judas Gulch is a little town they call Chuwah. Now most of the people thar in Chuwah is what you must say is colured. Yep, in Chuwah whatchoo find is mostly Messicans, Spannards, Californeeo’s an’ Chillymen. All them speak a same language, so they gits a long better than any with us white mens, and besides, most of us white men’s we don’t want no truck with them neither, so it sorta works out OK. Long’s they keep to their side o’ the Consumniss, ain’t nobody really have a lot of trouble.
Well, maybe there’s some do. But on this particular Sundy I was lookin about fer something new t’do an’ ol’ Salpietro Nicletto he asketed me t’ come long wif him, he wuz goin down to Chuwah t’ see the rodeo!
Well how kin I discribe it fer ya, pardner? Chuwah’s rodeo ez probly one o’ the mos’ originul rodeos on the whole west coast. On account of all the caballeros skilled at ridin’ and ropin’, and all them seriously horned cows ranging up and down our republick in and out of fences, with and without brands, Chuwah must have a population of at least three hunderd cowpokes! And bull fitters, an’ matadores, pickadillys, an’ all that other stuff makes a Spannerd git hot blood in him.
I took me a notion when I wuz thar I might have some chance ta maybe play the keno table myself, thow et were something I dint really cotton to an awful lot. But here I had me a excess this week about six dollers and I figgered eff I only gambles one at a time I might come out ahead. So one of the things I was fixin to do in Chuwah was ta find a gamin’ saloon.
Nicletto gits me to the rodeo spot— thar wus lak I sez, hunderts of Messicans, Spannerds, Chillymens and all, and they was settin up a ruckus, fer the first ‘tractions were gittin out an up on the bulls to do the ridin’ and ropin it.
First off was Pancho Zambrino, famous a course amongst the Chillymen fer bein the best man they had in this department. He wuz up aginst a bull name Zweiback, and then thar wuz his competition, Pablo Quedosa, an’ ablo wuz a Spannerd with a fiece glint in his eye, and he rode on El Gorito, who had a even meaner look in his eye.
El Gorito and Zwieback stood off in the pens wal the Chillyman and Spannerd picked up thar lariats and whips and got ready to jump em from the fence. When they pulled up the gates, both bulls come kickin and snortin and squealin outta the pens like they wuz magnificent forces of freak nature. I guess the Chillyman lasted the longes’— (about fourteen seconds)— the Spannerd lasted much less, about seven, and the judge was a little greaser with a ducktail haircut name of Alviso Pardon.
The judge awarded the Chillyman the prize, which wuz a bag fulla gold dust itself about six ounces. That were a fair purse! We watched two more of these matches then Nicletto starts itchin’ in his ‘spenders and tells me he wants to go have a drink and grub.
I smiled cuz now I could drag him off to the gamin’ saloon and we could do all that an’ more!
This saloon, the Borracho Muchacho, set on the Chuwah main street much as the Pewter Eye done in our own town. They did have a keno table— and some fancy machines you dropped in pennies and they spun round little wheels showed pitchers of lemons, cherries, or crossbones. an’ sometimes them little machines pumped pennies back out like puke! And they call that a jack-pot. I didnt see no use in thet tho cause I ain’t even carryin’ no pennies.
Nicletto he tole me I shuld git some from the bartinder, an’ he had a huge sack full of em hid out under the bar with his digger ounces. So I got me some “change” an’ sets down to do some keno chancin’.
Nicletto gits hisself a big plate of fried eggs and cactus leaves and washes it all with some chilly pepper sauce an’ a side of grits, and he smiles an’ licks his chops like he were a Spannerd or Messican too, by god, not jest a greasy Wop from Italy.
“I knew you would like this place, Salpietro!” I sez to him, as I laid out another doller fer the one the keno man done took off the table and stuck in the kitty. I were no good at this, I wuz afeered, but I had some four more afer this one, and I wuz gonna go fer broke.
Nicletto asketed the bar man (Jose Muchacho) fer a bottle of wine and proceeds to polish off one glass an’ then another. He dint ask me eff I wanted none but that wuz okay cuz I was shore I might win me a glass fer free eff I won the keno pot.
So they was callin’ the numbers now, an’ I had one of um! But thet only paid me sevenyfive sense. At his rate I’d not be gittin far. But then they called agin and thar wuz now two more numbers I had, cuz I stuck the sevenyfive cents right in on it. And thar were a lotta losers on this turn, so now I won me five dollers! Boys, that wuz about as good as I could hope for for only throwing down two dollers in the firs’ place.
Well that wuz good, an’ I felt good, so I called the joker’s bluff and pulled my stakes outta the kitty. I got me my own bottle of wine—the name was Rancho Del Canada Loona, an’ et was from Sonoma, not so far aways as the crow chickens out.
Nicletto had him his fat luncheon breakfast and his wine wuz half gone. I had me one fine glass an decidet I wood save the rest fer the affernoon, maybe after we gone back to the Rodeo.
Now somethin strange happened in the saloon. This here ciderhouse, Muchacho’s Borracho Hole, or whatever, et had its own musickers in the back. And they trooped out onta the little stage! Thar were somethin like seven of em— was a trumpet, and a bugle, and a fat old base git-tar, a git-tar (regular), a fiddle, an a girl played somethin like a coupla wood clamshells. An once they wuz all out thar they was a sight, lemme tell ya!
Thar har wuz either sliketed back (eff they war a dude) or eff they wuz a girl (thar wuz two) they had it swep back real severe an’ braided down the back. Them girls had har down to the bewtocks! And then that weren’t all. Each one wored a speshul soot, which were all the same colur, an’ had fancy embroidery and pearls- pearls! Up and down the sides of the sleeves an’ the legs. They was some slick kids!
First off they begun with singin that fine ol tune Celeeto Leendo, “ayayayai! Can’t get no yo-rays!” Man that was hot. Thet girl with the fiddle could play that thing fiercely! And the funny thang were none of them moved but a inch when they wuz all singin and playin. They stayed straight and stiff, like lil tin sojers, and maybe the girls stamped thar feets but et all happened in the same place. I dunno maybe them Spannerds has a word fer this, they call it— macho? Ah gess thet ez the word. Well this were some real macho gal, lemme tell ya. She sung that tune then sang another about someone name Maguelena and then the fat-faced base git-tar guy they called Gordo, as in, “Gordo esta cansione por tu se la bambino negracia enciente!” He git up thar and sing a silly song goes, “Bamba, Bamba; bamba, bamba!” over an over agin like I wuz about ta git sick already but sooner than later they ended the song. Ever song they played they ended the same way— the girl in the front with the fiddle slapped her feet down real fast ONE-TWO! And they wuz done and you knowed it.
Well, after they done these four songs, then somethin real speshul happened. The girl with the purty long har and fiddle announced et were “La encanta, la enspiracion, la especial presenta: Senorita Lola Montez!”
Man you must a about seen the batwing doors flyin back an’ forth so fast the place filled up in a second with Messicans and Chillymen and Spannerds an’ a few genuine Californeeos, jest ta hear this famous girl from Europe.
Now lemme explain t’ yew all somethin’ har. This Lola Montez were no ordinary woman. Afore she came ta Californee, she were the speshul mistress of the King of Bavaria hisself! And she were knowed to have bed-sacked quite a few other famous fellers like (Robert Louie Stevenson, Whore-ass Greely, even maybe Henry Clay, although that, Nicletto said, were a dam lie)— And when she come to californee she tried to git a show goin’ with Wolfram Grizzlepizzle in Frisco, but Grizzlepizzle war on his Jenny Lind kick, and couldn’t be budged fer no “greaser washer-lady.”
That really insulted and hurt Lola, so she headed up here to the gold country, war she earned more money than she could in Frisco, and she decidet she would maybe git herself a cabin er a house up har. An I heared once finally thet war jes what she done!
But today I was quite expecting to see this har girl in the flesh.
She did not dissapoint.Her har were curled all up in lil piglets an’ styled something fierce. She wore pearls herself, but they wuz in a long long necklace wrapped five er six times round her neck thet fell past the end of her volupchus bosom. She had a hat which were lace and had a big ole osterch feather stumpin’ from it. Her dress (mebbe you orter call it her pinafore) were accompnied by a wide bustle thet stuck her butt up a good six inches better than she wuz borned, and she hed tall boots thet were not miner knee boots but laced all the way from the tongue to the top with real twisted brocade, and hed little sparkles— I swears it— on the toes.
This majestic apparition strode herself up ahead of thet little band, and struck up her tune, and friggy lil’ dance, The Tear-an’-Tella, ir the Taranchella Dance. Thet, she called her signature. She then sang a aria from Lucia de Lemmemore and old Donnyzetty culdna sung it no better, an’ he wrote it!
The band pumped along behind her (chuffa chuffa) end fat ole Gordo snuck looks when he could et the fantastic derriere as it twiched away ahead of him. Them girls— well one of them must bin married ta Gordo cuz when the number wuz done she walked up to him an’ slapped him with the big ole comb-piece thet were stuck to the front of her har. Then she set it back in place an’ dint not look at Gordo even til the songs were over. I seened her woppin’ on him some more after they wuz leavin’ the stage.
But  now back to the beautiful miz Lola. I swars I never seen a more cultured lookin gal, and her manner an’ bearin’ were the cats meow fer that, too.
She innerduced the next number as one wrote by her pal Billy Gerta, “a fantastic poet and such you will never know in United States” whut were called Panageeya Jovenalia er somethin like that. The music, she sed, were wrote by his pal Loodyvig Bait-hovin’. Dang eff that trumpet and bugle dint capture the whole show with thet thar little riff!
“Dadada da dadada dada dada da dadadada..”
. Et still haunts me an’ brings tairs to muh eyes.
Nicletto he enjoye Lola Montez most emensley too. By the end of it all, good old Salpeitro war jumpin, shoutin, kickin n clappin like all the rest of them Spannerds in the saloon.
“Etsa besta, belissimo, uh, Pat? Viva! Viva vivace! LOOOOOLAAA LOOOOOLAA!” Nicletto had no shame nor did none of the rest of us. When thet girl strode offa the stage agin in thet twichen bustle, she had the love of ever man thar, they woulda shot the kings of France an’ England ef she called thet tune for em.
Then the little band wuz back, and sang ome more, an’ the big traction war over, so mosta the crowd of Chillymens and all went out in the street, an’ most of um went back to the rodeo.
“Come on Pat, lets go rodeo!” Nicletto grabbed his hat, and I guess I had to grab mine and foller along and I sent a little glass of my good wine up to the purty girl with the long braids an fiddle, special from Sardo Pat, and winked at her on my way out the door.

Now the Messicans, Spannerds, Chillymen, and few Californeeos what made Chuwah their home hed a sartin problem goin’ on wif’ the Republick of Californee. And this har sartin problim et was called the “Furrin Minders Tax.” This har wuz a compinsation due to the Republick on account it war Messicans, Chilymen, Keskidees, Englishmen, etceterra, comin har and mindin’ the gold rat out from under the white Amurricans what was real Republickins of Californee. The excess excise on extraction of the mineral war assessed at twenny dollers a munth. Now some of them boys they had it, and they had good claims, so et never hurt them none to pay it, but thar wuz many others for who it war much worse, and twenny dollers could be haff a munth’s diggins, eff you git my drif.
I spoze thar were plenty resentmint, expeshully on the half of the Californeeo’s —them whut wuz borned heres in the firs’ place affer all- but thet war till the cause of much dissatifackshun an’ mistrust. Cause them assyers started shortin’ on them, too.
I spoze though whut coulda even bin worse wuz what happend to the Injuns. That thar wuz such a thang as the “Digger Ounce” to begins with, an’ fur a very long times et wuz nothin but a secrit between whitemen, but evenchully it all came out in the wash, like my friend Ling Lu might call it.
And this har is how it happened.
Up in the Mokeylumnee tribe wuz a big chief named Kitita Ndukash (Exploding Hawk). Kitita Ndukash was a river-minder too, and had bin catchin’ the “white man illness” fer the purty yeller rocks too fer some whiles, an’ had him a claim on the Mokeylumnee brung him in about sevennyfive dollers a munth. Now he would take thet sevennyfive dollers in dust down to Hangtown and the assyers, and git his spendin’s from them.
Only thing is, the assyer in Hangtown were not a straight man when et come to Injuns.
Under his table with the skale he kept the infamous Digger Ounce. This war a bar of arn— what looked like et war a ounce of arn, but, ackshully war shortend by some measure so et ackshully weight about two thurds of a ounce. An’ when the assyer saw some Injun sashay in with his diggins, why he’d jes pull out thet Digger Ounce an’ use it fer his calkalations lak it war the real one. Happened ever time, an’ fer many a time were not no Injun no wiser. Cept fer Kitita Ndukash happent ta see the differnce (don’t ask old Doddle, Hangtown’s assyer how he discovert, he jest did...) and took a fence to it.
“White man cheat and gyp Injun! You not honest. Me want see real wait.”
“Me sabby you no wait long with your wait, what I sez ez, yer dust comes to a wait of fortyfive dollers!”
“Me bring same size bag dust las’ week to Judas Gulch and Mester Teasewater at store. Me get sixty from Mester Teasewater. How come you only give fortyfive and he give sexty? Me no stupid, me can count.”
Doddle hung back thar and tiched his whiskers some but Exploding Hawk the Injun were not gittin no more than forty five outta him. It would be a crime ginst all other white man eff he give an Injun a far shake. What Teasewater did in Judas Gulch thet war his problim.
But Doddle did not figger on the rage swellin’ up inside of Exploding Hawk’s head and heart. No saree. Now it is the facks thet Injuns doesn’t lak the ideer more n any white man does about gittin gypped and cheated, and Kitita Ndukash tole Doddle he were for sartin askin fer sartin troubles.
But do you think Doddle lissened to any of thet? Why, a course not. Hail no!
Et were a shore shock then to Doddle when the nex night, Kitita Ndukash and some of his warryers shows up outsie the assy house with arruhs an’ tommyhocks an busseted down the doors of Doddle’s smoke kitchin with a fierce venjince. They was so fierce they made out like to scalp Doddle’s little boy, Petey.
Petey wuz shore one scairt little boy when it wuz done. A course, they (Doddle and his Boston wife, who were no unsartin danger hersef) kilt Kitita Ndukash and skalpt him an stuck it up on old Doddle’s assy house flagpole as a jinx so no other Injuns might try any similar type of caper.

So it wuz then thet I get hauled off to see the rest o’ the rodeo by my pal Salpietro Nicletto. By the time we git over thar they done all the ridin’ an’ ropin’ an’ gallivantin’ fer the day, though and we come to git the bullfights.
I guess som Spannerds and Messicans still appreciates them things, but fur me wuz only a grootesk spectacle. The bull was gonna git sackerficed anyhow, and the firs’ one we seen this happenin’ to was no less than El Gorito.
El Groito was a big mother of a bull, built like a steam engine. He had two prong horns comin outta his haid and them were not all the business end of him. They stuck purty littel ribbons on the ends like to make a mockery of him, but his hind quarters wuz jes as fierce. When he kicked in the pen it like ta nearly broke off the gate, an’ it took four strong men to hold back the gate fur the rest of the day. But now thet he was gonna be the object of the bullfight, they let him out, and didn’t he wander.
Up and down the ring he wandered, lookin’ for a loos man to jump off on. Et were not long afore they found him his trouble.
The picadillys came out, with their pickadore dagger darts, like to stickin pins in a Voo Doo doll, en thet made El Gorito even more pissed offen. He took off after one of the pickadillys, a little guy couldna been moren about fourteen, tall, though, and this little guy  got both his little pickadillys n thar. Then he runned off outta the ring.
Was now the time fer the bandy-yerros. These characters make a mockery of the matadore, of course, but they is dressed pretty good like the same sept they gots no cape er sord. The bandy-yerros have bandilleras- there er kinda like the pickydillers exept they got long ribbons, is about a foot long, and when they stick in the hide of the bull they starts to droop. Objeck of this is ta start settin' the bull up fer the let down, piss him off but weaken him. Usually they git stuck in the neck, shoulder, or the back o’ the haid.
 When all the bandy-yerros is done and quit runnin' around and run outta the ring, to the compneemint of some sad bugle and drum music, in comes the matadore, dressed in his cape and silly silk stockings and buckled shoes and micky-mouse hat. He has his sord, a course, an’ with the sord, he uses the red side a his cape like et wuz a flag, and pisses off the bull.
El Gorito was shore one brave bull, even eff he maybe had no idear whut was comin, he kept on turnin', and makin' that matadore dance an bob and weave and jump like a puppet.
But a course, this is always how it ends— the matadore pulls his sord out one last time and runs it inta the branes of the poor critter, and thet is all she wrote, dear minders.
Then the bandy-yerros and pickadillys all runs out while the matadore bows and scrapes to cheers, applause, and many flung rose petals, and they drag the beast off to be butcherd, for the town feast that gits a cookin when the sun is settin’.
Now me and Nicletto, we stayed fer the town feast. We felt invited though we wuz both real white men cuz we had the guts to sit thru the bloodshed and all, and nobody sed we culdn’t stay neither. I seened the bullfights before like I toldja, down in Frisco, en I figgered by gum you done seened one you seened em all, cuz they allus turns out the same in the end, anyhow.

Monday, November 24, 2014


 Professor Guilliame 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?


When we got to Frisco and was at the corner of Kearny and Market, Cakey tells me he’s goin’ up to Sydney Town and gettin’ a ticket back to Honnalooloo. I tole him good luck and thanks him for all he’s done for me and the company, and just for good measure, I walks him over to Pudent’s saloon and gives him a send off whisky (or two). When that’s all done, he shakes my hand and tells me “Sardo Pat, I hope someday you come to Honnalooloo too! You gone make one good boy happy verry much! Maybe island girl for you too you find, eh bra?"
I said “Thanks then Cakey, fer everthang, and I hopes you has a safe trip.” I knew that Kowakowa would go on to be big shakes back in his hometown with that sack of dust he had...
Well, I got to reckon I was gonna be a little lonesome now since Kanaka Cakey Kowakowa took himself off on that Express Clipper back to Honnalooloo. I figgered I could use some recreation of a type, and so I moseyed over to what was the old Spanish Mission to see me a bullfight or two.
Was at this little old bullring carved inta the hill there, right acrost the street from the Mission. ‘Twas a little ampitheater, with wooden seats, kinda benches, carved inta a soft hillside and made flat with planks. Was about sixtyfive Spannards or so, all types, Messicans, Chillymen, Californios, and such-like, all surmounting this ampitheater and down there in the center was El Toro.
It were the spectacle, of course, but after two or three of these fancy dance-of-deaths with the same durned outcome (the bull always died. Cusset! Couldna been a fair fight no how, since the Toriodor always come out on top!) even after the picodores and the trocoderos and the bandalleros got done with the bugger, then toriodor come alongwith his little cape and sword and finishes him off. Weren’t no fair fight, not atall. I spoze some of them Messicans and all paid a good penny then fer some fresh steaks afterwards, but steaks was not in scarcity no how, and I was feeling gypped of my dollar anyhow. Oh yes, it cosset a dollar just to sit thar. If you were nice to ‘em a pretty seniorita might come by you with a jug of “agua fresca” which weren’t no agua and it weren’t no fresca, but you could give her two bits and get a shot of that retchid cactus juice and join in the hollerin’.
Only I didn’t feel like it none. After a couple hours of this painful sort of boredom, I wandered back to downtown, and I goes to the Parker House to see me a theatrical event— it were no other than old Edwin Booth in MacBeth. Now I heared about this MacBeth character, like he was this old King of Scotland, and he done murdered the real king, Duncan, y’see, and all on account of his wife Lady Macbeth whose a shrew and a half and it wonders anyone anyway how can a man marry such a cuss herself if all he gets from it is a stain he can’t ever get offa hisself. Cause that were one horrific event, and a horrific scene. Even more impressive of course was how the new King-to- Be MacDuff sprung his trick and trap on MacBeth. Disguised his whole army up like trees, and hopitty hoppity they surrounds the castle like they was a forest, until all ready, and “Birnham Wood come to Dunsinane!” and all, and MacBeth is found out and kilt, and there be a righteous justice, the Lady MacBeth falls on her sword, and the whole playhouse erupted in cheers, it were so merciful to see a decent ending to a pair of wicked dealers. Thet man Bill Shakespear were no dummy.
Thet took about two hours offa my day. So I was at the Parker House but weren’t no way I was gonna spring for no meal there, being five to ten dollers, so I went over to the good Old City Hotel, I gets a ten dollar room for overnight, I spends two dollers on steak, taters, sparagus spears, and a glass of Sonoma wine. That being satisfied for my gut, I took to the streets and came to the Fulmar Fandango House, to have myself some sort of dance, if I could find one, with a lady, if I could even find one of that sort.
Now the Fulmar Fandango House is the creation of old Wolfram Grizzlepizzle, a name in his own right, and highly feared in orchestra pits acrost the country each side of the Mississip. They say he had competition in the name of old Lep Phelps, but Lep Phelps could not survive it, an’ committed sewercider but half a years into the game with Grizzle. Grizzle he’s a tough old snake. His Fandango House shore was a alot of fun, though. I reckon I were there a good four hours before I could drag myself outta there. The pretty waiter girls there was for real, but they were also tipped for the house— just like you would spect it in the gambling tables over at City Hotel. Tipped for the house, I tell ya. They must have got me for at least five before I was outta there, what with cigartees, drinks (I had a Pisco Punch, I had two Phlegm Cutters, I had at least one Taos Lightnin’ and one Ginger Pop.) For snacking, they had fired-up peanuts and Injun corn in a sack, with salt and butter, which were purty good, too.
I did get me a dance, and I got to get on home after that, since the purty waiter girl I danceted with were not kind to playing low in the bushes none, not without taking another sack of gold offa me, which I was not about to do! But here I shall digress and give you more about old Grizzlepizzle, since now everone both sides of the Rockies knows who he is, and that’s his fault.
Wolfram Grizzlepizzle I spoze by now is an institution, far as Frisco’s fandango palaces goes. Here’s the dope on him: He was borned in Poland an’ his name- I kin barely spell it lest alone pronounce it— Grczlpczlye— goes back some centries. Both his parents was kilt when Napoleon invaded Warsaw an’ little Wolfram walked his way crost Poland, Germany, Holland, til he got to Brussels, with eighty other little orphan children, led by a monk named Frank Hans, a Dutch Reformist. He took ship with a buncha them to New York, where he grew up on the street, making petty theft with a Polish street gang, until his early twenties, when he made a small pile selling insurance to poor widders. When the Messican War come, he joins the US Cavalry t’ fight Messicans so he can get the free trip to Californee. When that ruckus petered out, he was in Frisco, an’ he took his cavalry pay, and some of what he had left from robbing ol’ widders, and he started his famous Fulmar Fandango House, war he’s bin ever since rakin in the dust, and being merciful to mining folk. Mostly.  I heared (tho I warnt thar) thet last year he caused some sensation by bringing Jenny Lind out here from Pennsylvania. Warn’t too many folks here realized it, but that warn’t no Jenny Lind! That war an imposture, but the ruse was good enough. Grizzlepizzle packed the house a week straight, and warnt no miner the wiser. Not at least til a month later when the newspaper from New York and Phillidelphy come out, announcing on the very dates of the San Francisco engagement, Jenny Lind’s excloosive P. T. Barnum show in Phillydelphy, New York, an’ Dee Cee. Well that mighta cosseted him some miner dough for a while, but it were all soon forgotten, because Grizzlepizzle found a few more attractions—and they were always fresh off the boat— to come and work his fandango house, and as long as the likker flowed, weren’t nobody no sadder.
Many famous musicians of course got their start from Wolfram Grizzlepizzle. Thar’s some say thet Englishman Edward and Crustyman, not to mention Ninefinger Ned, was reglars down thar. Of course, Ned must have been famous way way afore this, but he was said to be friends with Hog Wald and Hog Wald’s acompanist Pearl Genull. Ned came up to Judas Gulch first with a whole cartload full of band supplies and passed them around to all the campers, and anyone with half a lick of sense they was soon sawin and pluckin away. Would not be a fair guess that on any day’s fandago up har at Ollarud’s, thar was six or seven of the boys hampin’ and harpin’ on git-tars  and fiddles and squeezeboxes. When Ned had the money ta shar around he offen went out whole hog. I guess this wuz kinder his way of makin’ friends, turnin’ miners inta minstrels, but durn if it were not appreciated by the likes of John Spondino and Sunbeam Davy. Now thar was two boys was always meant to be wakin’ snakes together or apart.
One weekend, Ollarud set up the bar and a stage (this stage apparently stayed all the rest of our time here at Judas Gulch) on the back wall. Folks could come in and set themselves at a table or set at the  bar and lissen to the purty music, cuz I sed, them boys could play— or they could spend some time tryin’ t’ git somewar with Millie, Ollarud’s flash assistant purty waiter girl.
I ain’t tellin ya much about my “special friendship” with Millie cause ain’t a heck of a lot to tell ya, ‘cept that she would always pick out the pizen I like and set it down nice and easy with a “Well thar y’are, Pat!” ever time. I never so much as asseted her fer a kiss— now that thar was MacDavish’s big talk how he even had done much much more with Millie than that, of course, and he was still payin’ fer it in consequences, too, it was wishperd ta me by Nicletto.
MacDavish he really were also one big “fan” of Ninefinger Ned. When Ned got to strickin’ his banjer (thet wuz like a second instermint to him) and frailin' away and Hog Wald pulled out his harmonicky and blew the blues, and Pearl set up her wailin up a storm like a herd of cats tryin’ a scape outta a sack, well, MacDavish could jes sit thar, hypn’tized, and knock back even more of the Fool Water and Cincinnatti Wisky and cry “More, more!” and stomp his foot like a herd a cattle. Thet one man could make so much racket is a testamint to the glory of the vine, I sez. MacDavish he went down to Frisco and happened to be in on the big Grizzlepizzle— Jenny Lind gyp-o, and dang eff he didn’t throw down his hat and stomp vig’rously upon it when Jamjob came runnin’ in that day we got the newspaper told us war the Real Jenny Lind happened t’ be at that time.
Anyhow. If you want t’ hear a real musicker, you just settle back and lissen to the wondrous tones lucked upon by Ninefinger Ned on his git-tar and English Edward when he tickles the elephant tusk keyboard. Thar was a match thet were awaitin’ t’ happen, although, Edward he sometimes has a little too much Pisco in him, and likes to shoot off his big mouth about us Merricans. Well at least he aint no hard case, ackshully he survived the trip around the Horn with a sad case of consumption, they said. Anyway he found the nice sunshine of El Dorado t’ be much to his likin’, and we have ‘dopted him as our cuzin, brother, and friend, and ain’t nobody— said Sunbeam Davy and John Spondino— could teckle the tusks better n’ “thet man right over thar, wearin’ Millie’s garter on his arm!”
All these musickers what hung at The Pewter Eye war here to make a killin’ off the minders if they culd their own selves. A course, Ollarud war not all thet good to them, they had ta work fir him  each an’ ever single day ‘cept Mundy, cuz Sundy war the biggest day o’ the week for Ollarud, an’ Monday all the minders was back on the river agin. An’ weren’t none that happy for Sundy so they give thar best performances on a Fridy or Saturdy night—by Sundy afternoon all they rilly wanted ta do wuz drink an’ play cards and smoke the cuerda. I cain’t sez I blames them none, who would not git antsy an’ viscious when they is tied to a git-tar or pianner fer eight ares a day anyway? Almost like Ollrud insisted they be music machines er somethin. One day English Edward he were so pissed off at Ollrud he ez “Why doncha git yerself an automatic pianner, you old Fat Swede!” an’ he runs outta thar without his hat. Ollrud takes thet hat and sets it at the end of the bar war he kin see it, and shore enuf, English Eward come a runnin’ back in, spies the hat, tries ta grab it an’ pop it on his head real quick, but Ollarud is swift on the draw he pulls out a sixshooter an’ plugs thet hat fulla holes real quick. I heared English Edward brought thet hat with him all the way from London, but it were not long afore he made his way ta Sackaminnow and got another one, looked jest like it.
Thet is jes’ the way things are up har in the Gold Country. Easy comes and Easy goes, an’ if you ain’t got the gold dust, ya mite as well jes’ scoot yerself on outta town. Eff ya got the dust, then, an you is welcome, thank you but doncha put on no uppity airs around thet mean old Swede bar man, Ole Ollarud! He’s one mean cat. I gots other tales ta tell about him to.
It was talked about town thet Ole Ollarud and Sherrif Neatness had a sorta protection racket goin’ with the minders they liked best. Supposin ta say, them ones what sent the most money on drinks, a coarse, or they tip the musickers well. Anyway if Ole liked you he would send Sherrif Neatness around ta inspect yer claim fer good boundrys. Eff a man were forging boundrys then he were cheatin’ someone, somehow. A coarse eff you was cheatin a Chinaman or a Chillyman or an Injun, thet war a little diffurnt, but, when it come to white men cheatin’ each other, Sherrif Neatness were having absolutely no truck with thet.
I heared thet he run a couple of boys off the River for doin’ this on a man use ta be called Nashua Robbins. Nashua Robbins were an original, he were in the River since late Forty Eight, and he used ta work fer the famous John Marshall who discovered the whole shebang at the start. NashuaRobbins  allus claimed it were him brought the gold to Marshall who then went ta Sutter and it spread from there. But Neatness always douted this.
And yet even if he had has douts eff were sayin’ the honest humbug, then Neatness stuck up fer him when those two whackadoos wuz tryin’ to do a gyp on his boundry.
“Survey says thet Nashua Robbins has this line starts right har,” sez Neatness.
Slone Cawdry, one of them dishonest boys, wuz ready ta argue.
“No it ain’t. Ya see war thet stick is? Thet is his boundry, and I ain’t no Welsher!”
“Slone Cawdry, I is accusin you of stakin thet thar stick on the claim rightly b’longs to Nashua Robbins. He’s bin har since we started all this minin’ and he iz wut I nose to be an onnist man! You two is disgustin’ claim jumpers, an’ if you do not wish to hang by sundown, I might make you the polite suggestion thet you leaves Judas Gulch immejitly, lest I figure ta shoot you straight off an’ finish this bizniss up myself, ‘fore I turn y’all over ta the Miners Camittee!”
Them two boys looked nervis at each other then they change thar minds and packed up thar mules and left. Old Nashua got all his claim, plus, he even set a deal to take their claim too! He got sixty pounds outa thet spot by the end a last year I heared. So it ain’t a good idear ta miss with are sheriff nor none of us onnist miners.

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.