C h a r a c t e r s o f t h e G o l d R u s h D a y s
When the dust cleared and the cries of Gold Gold Gold began to
wane…what was left–in the west–were the people who left all
to gamble for instant wealth. By all accounts, in '59, the lure
of gold in Pike’s Peak culled more than one hundred thousand
from hearth and home. Following…are some of the remnants…
those who did and those who didn’t make enough from the mining to
retire in the life of luxury they dreamed of.
The streets are lined with buildings…and every fifth building
is a saloon…and every tenth building is a gambling hall.
Brothels are beginning to make their appearance in order to
accommodate an almost all male society. The men wandering about
are mostly all young…and weather-beaten. No one shaves.
Hey…for who? Some bathe…plenty don’t. Dress of the day is
moccasins and buckskin. Hats are slouched, black, and crumpled.
Those who can’t even get buckskin…they make themselves pants
out of old sugar bags. Guns and knives hang openly from belts. No
one is doing anything…there are no jobs around.
Suddenly a path clears. Psst. Hey…look. It’s Big Phil. And
with Big Phil is his dog and faithful companion…a mangy mutt
that will as soon kill you as not. Whispers abound. Hey…who did
Big Phil kill recently? A shrug. Who knows…just don’t get ‘im
mad. Aside from bein’ a murderer…Big Phil has also eaten
people… in some cases of emergency. Big Phil ain’t makin’ money
from gold …but he’s a survivor. Yup…seems he ate two Indians
and a White man at one time or another. Big Phil was once asked
which parts tasted best. He said he liked the head, hands, and
feet. Tasted a bit like pork, he said. The rest of the body was
too grisly and tough.
Of course…there are also the winners. There’s O.J. Goldrick. He
wears a silk hat, a frock coat, a white cravat, and lemon
colored gloves. His coat buttons are solid gold…fresh out of
the mines, he boasts. He wears a solitaire diamond as big as the
end of your thumb, and he wears it smack dab in the middle of his
Eugene Teats ( can you believe that name?) gallops by in fringed
buckskins…a yelpin’ and a screamin’ his joy for no other
reason other than that he’s alive. His clothing is a gift from
his friend-- Left Hand–Chief of the Arapahos. Eugene is a good
guy. He knows everyone. He’s a philosopher. Man ain’t dressed, he
says, lest he’s wearin’ his gun and his knife. Eugene, clearly,
knows what’s what. Hey…just the other day he helped some of the
Arapahos forage the streets in search of dead dogs. Dogs get shot
every coupla minutes or so. There are so many of them, you
see…and food is scarce. The Arapahos know how to cook dog. They
invite Eugene over for a meal. Dog…roasted…everything eaten
down to the bone.
The amount of characters that roamed the streets at the height
of the American Gold Rush Days are more varied than most of us
think. Say Gold Rush to me, and I like to think of Lee Marvin in
Paint Your Wagon. My friends, I can not deny it. I have a
tendency to romanticize. But it wasn’t all romantic. And it
wasn’t all gold. And it certainly wasn’t all easy.
And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
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