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Listen to the land a profile of a nation in terms of its living language. This week. The in. Nuggets from the Gold Rush California 1849. By sharing aloud the writings of our country past and present. We can come to a fuller appreciation of those things which are meaningful to us as Americans. And perhaps of the nature of our role in a contemporary world. Listen to the land is produced by a station w h y y Philadelphia. Under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Now with pad in hand and the gleam of gold dust in his eyes. Here is your host and narrator Richard S.. Burdick. Hello. Let me begin by reading you a very short story only a couple of hundred words in fact but written more than 2000 years before the California gold rush. It was written by an ancient Greek author
who had titled it The Athenian and the Frog and Athenian once fell in with the Boeotian who was sitting by the roadside looking at a frog seeing the other approach the motion said his was a remarkable frog and he asked if he would agree to start a contest of frogs on condition that he whose frog jumped farthest could receive a large sum of money. The Athenian replied that he would if the other would fetch him a frog. But the lake was near. This he agreed and when he was gone the Athenian took the frog and opening its mouth poured some stones into its stomach so that it did not indeed seem larger than before but could not jump the Boeotians soon returned with the other frog and the contest began. The second frog first was benched and jumped moderately. Then they pinched the Boeotian frog and he gathered himself for a leap and used the utmost effort. But he could not move his body the least so the Athenian departed with the money. When
he was gone the Boeotian wondering what was the matter with the frog lifted him up and examined him and being turned upside down he opened his mouth and the method the stones. Does that sound familiar. Judd more than 2000 years later Mark Twain's version of a charlatan a frog and a sucker transplanted to Angela's Camp California became the first published story of Mark Twain to receive attention beyond the Sierras and the start of his road to fame. Angel's camp was one of the best known of the mining camps in California gold rush days. Gold had been discovered before 1848 but it was John Marshall's discovery on January 24 1848 on the property of Sutter's Mill that electrified the world and signified the start of an unprecedented stampede converging upon California. Rainbows and was planted in Northern California for all the world to see
and seek. Farmers merchants craftsman artists even philosophers perhaps after Fool's Gold joined in the rush to stake their claim to fortune. This week we're going to take a look at some of the writings of that period. And we can't find a much better spokesman than Mark Twain. So let's start with him and the story of Jim Smiley who owned a prize frog known as the Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Where this year Smiley had rat terriers and chicken cocks and Tomcats and all him kind of thing you couldn't rest and you couldn't fetch nuts and rim to bet on but it matched it. He catched a frog one day and took a moment Galle to educate him. Enjoy. Never done nothing for three months but certainly had backyard not frog jump. You bet you it didn't earn him do you give him a little pinch behind him the next minute you see that frog Oh we're going to nearly get known it she won
Somerset or maybe a couple for it got a good start and come down flat footed All right. It got him show in a matter kitchen for liége and kept him in practice a constant he'd nail a fly over timers Verjee could stream Smiley said or frog one was education and you could do more dinners than none and I believe him. Well I've seen him shut down or Webster down here on this floor. Daniel Webster was a name with a frog in sing out from down over RH quicker you could wink. He'd spring straight up and snake a fly off from the counter there and flop down on the floor again as solid as a gob of mud in Florida scratching the side of it head with his hind foot is indifferent or should be had no idea what he'd been doing in the morning a frog might do. You never see a frog so modest and straightforward as he was for all he was a gifted and when it come to fair and
square jumping on a dead level he could get over more ground one straggler that any animal of his breed you ever see jumping on a dead level was his strong suit you understand. And when it came to that smiley would ante up money on him is wrong as he had a red Smiley was monstrous proud of his frog and Willie might leave for fellers that had travelled and been everywheres always said. He laid over a new frock Did they ever see. Where Smiley kept the beast in a little box and he used to fetch him downtown sometimes in L.A. for a bat one day a feller a stranger in a camp you are come across him with his box and says What might it be you got in that box. And Smiley says Shorty and different like. Might be a part of it might be a canary might be but it ain't jolly just a frog and a feller took it and looked at it careful and turned
it round this a way and so does what she good for. Now which is smiley and careless like. He's good enough for one thing I should judge he cannot jump any frog in Calaveras County. The feller took the box again and took another mom particular look and give it back to Smiley and says murder but where am I says I don't see no prying about that frog or Johnny barn or any other frog. Maybe you don't smileys jazz maybe you understand frogs and maybe you don't understand him. Maybe you've got experience and maybe you ain't only an amateur as it were. Anyways I got my opinion and I'll rest for $2 that he cannot jump any frog in Calaveras County. When the feller studies a minute and says kinder said like I'm only a stranger here and I ain't got no frog. But if I had a frog I'd bet you mention Marley said let our eyes
or I'd if you will hold my bucks a minute I'll go and get your frog drilled a feller took the box and put up his forty dollars along with smileys and sat down to wait. He said their good work think and think and do itself. Nannie got the frog outen prised his mouth open and took a teaspoon and filled him full of quail shot filled him purty near up to his gin and set him on the floor. Smiley he went to the swamp and flopped around in the mud for a long time and finally he catched a frog and fetched him in and give this feller and says Now if you're ready. So am I wrong China down here with his forepaws just even with Donald and I'll give the word and he says one two three get. And him an offender touched up the frogs from behind and a new frog hopped off a lively but Dan'l give a heaving. I stood up and shoulders so like a freshman but it weren't no use. Couldn't budge. He was planted as solid as a church and
he couldn't no more stir than if he was anchored out. Smalley was a good deal surprised. He would discuss to do but he didn't have no idea what the matter was of course a feller took the money and started away. And when he was going out at the door he started jerked his thumb over his shoulder so that non-OEM says again very deliberate. Wearily. I don't see no pint about that frog is better known out of rock Smiley he stood scratching his head looking down at Dan a long time and at last he says I do wonder what in a nation that frogs wrote off for. I wonder if there ain't something the matter with me. He appears to look mighty baggy somehow and he catch Donald by the nap of the neck and hefted him and says Why blame my cat if you don't weigh five pound he turned him upside down and he belched out a double handful and then he see how it was and he was the
maddest man. He set the frog down and took out after that feller but he never ketch him. It'll. Go and maybe some of the world thought Angel's capital a fictitious name. To be quite understandable some of the names of the towns that must roam to northern California as a result of the Gold Rush are among the most colorful in the land. Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote none can care for literature itself who does not take a special pleasure in the sound of names. And there is no part of the world where nomenclature is so rich poetical humorous and picturesque as the United States of America. He might well have been thinking specifically of the names of California gold rush towns. Having lived in California these names hold a special interest for me and whenever I come upon a new one I added to the collection. Let me skip through the list here just at random for you.
Chilly Gulch Hangtown pinch him tight rough and ready Jack ass hill mad mule Canyon Whiskey Creek delirium tremens God liars FLAC humbug skidoo tin cup you bet shirttail big bug shoo fly. Kentucky slide growlers vill bootjack slumgullion. And so on you go on for an half an hour here but time doesn't permit but those are all actual names or names of actual towns in California during the Gold Rush. One of the most picturesque figures on American on the American literary scene for more than 40 years was Joaquin Miller the long haired top booted poet of the Sierras. Miller's was one of the authentic voices of the gold rush and he left an immense amount of work. The trouble was they wrote too easily and too fast. And as a result the name of Joaquin Miller is in danger of ultimately fading away altogether which would be a shame. Or at his best he was a
poet of deep understanding insensitivity to qualities by the way most often lacking in the Argonaut poets. Listen to this geographic expansiveness and freedom in an ode entitled Carson's ride. Room or room to turn round and to breathe and to be freed to grow to be giant to sailors at sea with the speed of the wind on a steed with his mane to the wind without pathway or route or a rain room. Room to be free. The white bordered sea blows a kiss to a brother as boundless as he where the buffalo come like a cloud on the plain pouring on like the tide of a storm driven main and the lodge of the hunter to friend or to fall offers rest and unquestioned. You come or you go. My plains of America seas of wild lions from a land in the seas on our arrangement of foam that has reached to a stranger the welcome of a
home. I turn to you lean to you lift you my hands. Unlike many of the writers of his period Joaquin Miller did not put on the frontier as a garment after an eastern upbringing. He was born in 1841 in a covered wagon and later became an Indian fighter and was an intricate part of the Great Western migration. Miller was a devoted student of Swinburne and influence which is evident in this admittedly sentimental but sensitive sensitive Lee expressed poem to a friend of his. A carpenter who had recently died. What you'll be said to this soldier now dead. This builder this brother now resting forever. But you'll be said of this soldier who bled through 33 years of silent endeavor. Why name him die hero. Yeah they write his name down as something far nobler
as braver by far than purple robe Caesar of battle torn town when bringing home glittering trophies of war. Oh dark somber pines of my starlets the arrows the silent of song but the master is mute the carpenter master is dead and lo there is silence of song upon nature's draped salute. Brother 0 9 Lee. Dead brother of mine. My brother by toil the toiling and lowly and brother by sign of this hard hand by sighing of toil in hard toil. But the Christ has made holy brother of all the brave millions that toil brave brother in patience and silent endeavor rest on as the Harvester rich from his soil. Rest you and rest you for ever and ever. Of all the writers of The Gold Rush the name that rings with the greatest authority and
probably will ring the longest is that of Francis Bret Hart. He was both a poet and a short story writer. Both verse and prose reflect the spirit of the rough defiant sometimes uncouth but often eloquently spiritual West. It was never quite so authentically captured by any other writer. Bret Hart wrote poetry and wrote prose he wrote with a rollicking unkempt humor and with a genius for rough hewn sensitivity here is probably as best known humorous poetry called plain language from Truthful James which I wish to remark and my language is plain that for ways that are dark and for tricks that are vain to even Chinese is peculiar which the same I would rise to explain. Ah Sin was his name and I shall not deny in regard to the same what that name might imply. But his smile it was pensive and
childlike as I frequent remarked to Bill Nye It was August the third and quite soft was the skies which it might be inferred that Austin was likewise. Yet he played at that day upon William and me in a way I despise which we took a small game and Austen had a hand. It was euchre the same he did not understand but he smiled as he sat by the table with a smile that was childlike and bland. Get the cards they were stocked in a way that I agreed even my feelings were shocked at the state of 90s sleeve which was stuffed full of aces and Bowers and the same with intent to deceive. But the hands that were played by that heathen Chinee and the points that he made were quite frightful to see. The last he put down the right bar which the same knot I had dealt unto me. Then I looked up at NAIA and he gazed at me and he rose with a sigh
and said Can this be. We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor. And he went for the than Johnny in the scene that ensued I did not take a hand but the floor was screwed like the leaves on the strand with the cars that I assented been hiding in the game. He did not understand. In his sleeves which were a long he had twenty four packs which was coming out strong yet I state but the facts and we followed on his nails which were taper. What is frequent in tapers. That's why ax which is why I remark and my language is plain that for ways that are dark of a tricks that are vain the heathen Chinee is peculiar which the same I am freed to maintain. It was as a short story writer that Bret Hart spoke with the greatest eloquence. And this is nowhere better illustrated than in his tender story of a group of
miners who unhurt the illegitimate child of a local woman of easy virtue. A story called The luck of Roaring Camp. It was Hearts first great literary success and through the years it has maintained great popularity. The story is in Bret Harte's most characteristic vein it shows elemental virtue existent behind crudeness of minor dress and speech the uncouthness of a mining camp is invested with a certain kind of ideal grace which the presence of an infant child mysteriously fashion's. The child's mother died in childbirth. And the infant became the charge of the miners. Particularly a grizzled old Argonaut by the name of Kentucky and another one called Stumpy. Because the child affected such a change in their lives not only moral but in the way their fortunes seem to prosper anew following his birth. They christened him. Tommy luck.
We'll pick up the story of the luck of Roaring Camp near the climax. In the in the. Woman. And so the work of regeneration began a Roaring Camp but the cabin assigned to Tommy luck or the luck because he was more frequently called first shown signs of improvement. It was kept scrupulously clean and whitewashed. Then it was boarded clothed and papered. The rosewood cradle packed 80 miles by mule hadn't stopped his way of putting it. Tried to kill the rest of the furniture so the rehabilitation of the cabin became a necessity. The men who were in the habit of lounging in it Stumpy to see how the luck got on seemed to appreciate the change and in self-defense the rival establishment of Total's grocery bestirred itself and imported the carpet and mirrors.
The reflection of the latter on the appearance of Roaring Camp tended to produce stricter habits of personal cleanliness. Again stumpy imposed a kind of quarantine upon those who aspire to the honor and privilege of holding the lock. It was a cruel mortification to Kentucky who in the carelessness of a large nature and the habits of frontier life had begun to regard all garments as a second cuticle which like a snake's only slewed off to decay. Mortification to Kentucky to be to Bard this privilege from certain prudential reasons on the long summer days the luck was usually carried to the gulch from whence the golden store of Roaring Camp was taken there on a blanket spread over pine boughs. He would lie while the men were working in the ditches below. Latterly there was a rude attempt to decorate this bar with flowers and sweet smelling shrubs and generally someone would bring him a cluster of wild honey suckles azaleas or the painted blossoms of last might oppose us. The men had
suddenly awakened to the fact that there were beauty and significance in these trifles which they had so long trodden carelessly beneath their feet. A flake of buttering Mica a fragment of a very a good quartz a bright pebble from the bed of the creek became beautiful to eyes thus cleared and strengthened and were invariably put aside for the lock. It was wonderful how many treasures the woods and hills size yielded that would do for Tommy. Surrounded by playthings such as never a child out of fairy land had before. It is to be hoped that Tommy was content. He appeared to be serenely happy albeit there was an infant teen gravity about him. A contemplative light in his round gray eyes that sometimes worried Stumpy. He was always tractable and quiet and it was recorded that once having crept beyond his corral a hedge of tessellated pine boughs which surrounded his bed. He dropped over the bank on his head in the soft earth and remained with his
mottled legs in the air in that position for at least five minutes with unflinching gravity he was extricated without a murmur. I hesitate to record the many other instances of his sagacity which rest unfortunately upon the statements of prejudiced friends some of them were not without a tinge of superstition. I crept up on the bank just now so I can talk one day in a breathless state of excitement and dern my skin. If you wasn't a talking to a jay bird as was a sittin on his lap. There they were just as free and sociable as anything you please. A jaw at each other just like two cherry bombs. How be it whether creeping over the pine Baal's or lying lays only on his back looking at the leaves above him to the birds. But sighing to him the squirrels chattered and the flowers that bloom and the luck appeared happy. Nature was his nurse and playfellow for him.
She would let slip between the leaves of golden shafts of sunlight that fell just within his grasp. She would send wandering breezes to visit him with the balm of bay and rosin is gone to him the tall redwoods nodded familiarly and sleepily. The bumble bees buzzed and the rocks called a slumberous accompany mint. Such was the golden summer of Roaring Camp. They were flush times and the luck was with them. The claims had yielded enormously. The camp was jealous of its privileges and looked suspiciously on strangers. No encouragement was given to immigration and to make their seclusion more perfect. The land on either side of the mountain wall that surrounded the camp they duly preempted. This and the reputation for singular proficiency with a revolver kept the reserve of Roaring Camp inviolate. The expressman are only connecting link with the surrounding world sometimes told wonderful stories of the
camp. He would say they have a street up there and roaring that would lay over any street and Red Dog. They've got vines and flowers around their houses and they washed themselves twice today but they're mighty rough on strangers and they worship an engine baby. With the prosperity of the camp came a desire for further improvement. It was proposed to build a hotel in the following spring and to invite one or two decent families to reside there for the sake of the luck who might perhaps profit by female companionship. The sacrifice that this concession to the sex cost these men who were fiercely skeptical in regard to its general virtue and Reese fullness can only be accounted for by their affection for Tommy. A few still held out but the resolve could not be carried into effect for three months and the minority meekly yielded in the hope that something might turn up to prevent it. And it did.
The winter of 1851 will long be remembered in the foothills. The snow lay deep on the Sierras and every mountain creek became a river and every river a lake every gorge and gulch was transformed into a tumultuous water course that descended the hillsides tearing down giant trees and scattering its drifting debris along the plain red dog had been twice underwater and Roaring Camp had been forwarned water put the golden of them gulches said Stumpy. It's been here once and I don't be here again. And that night the North Fork suddenly leaped over its bank and swept up the triangular valley of Roaring Camp. In the confusion of rushing water crushing trees and crackling timber and the darkness which seemed to flow with the water and blot out the fairy Valley but little could be done to collect the scattered camp. When the morning broke the cabin of Stumpy nearest the riverbank was gone higher up the gulch they found the body of its unlucky owner but the pride the hope the joy the luck of Roaring Camp had disappeared. They were returning with sad hearts when a shout from the bank recalled them. It was a relief boat from down the
river. They had picked up they said a man and an infant nearly exhausted about two miles below. Did anybody know them. And did they belong here. It needed but a glance to show them can talk. Lying there cruelly crushed and bruised but still holding the lock of roaring cap in his arms as they bent over the strangely assorted pair they saw that the child was cold and pulseless. He's dead said one. Kentucky opened his eyes. Dad. He repeated feebly. Yes my man. And you are dying too. A smile at the eyes of the expiring Kentucky. Dime he repeated. He had taken me with him to the boys. I got the luck. With me now. And the strong man clinging to the frail Babe was a drowning man is said to cling to a straw. Drifted away into the shadowy river that flows forever to the unknown sea. The old. The
O.R.. It with. Well we've been panning for literary gold and came up with a few nuggets from the Gold Rush. Thanks to Mark Twain Joaquin Miller Bret Hart and others anonymous. It's interesting to note that all of them were colorful personalities in their own rights and one of the most colorful eras in American history when a sturdy Forty-Niners in the cradle of the world sleep the sleep that knows no waking neath the flag their hands unfurled still in memory for ever. We will keep the stories told of the hardships and the toils in the struggle after gold. Next week we're going to do is part one of a two part program on the American 20s one of the most fertile periods in our literature. I hope you'll be with me to meet Ernest Hemingway Sinclair Lewis Amy Dickinson Dorothy Parker Robert Benchley F. Scott Fitzgerald and other writers of that storied period whose names are indigenous to its characters and spirit.
Thank you very much for joining me this week and until next week. This is Dick Burdick saying it's all on you. Listen to the land was produced and recorded at station w h y y Philadelphia under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center. And is being distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is James Keeler inviting you to be with us next week for part one of the fertile 20 years. With your host and writer Richard S. Burdick. This is the ne Radio Network.
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Listen to the land
Nuggets from the gold rush
Producing Organization
WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This episode discusses various stories that emerged from the California gold rush of the mid-nineteenth century.
Series Description
America's literary heritage is explored through readings of short stories, poems, folklore, journalism and legends. The series is narrated by Richard S. Burdick.
Fiction--19th century.
Media type
Funder: Murdoch, Iris
Host: Burdick, Richard S.
Host: Keeler, James
Producing Organization: WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
Subject: Twain, Mark, 1835-1910
Subject: Mickelson, Sig
Subject: Harris, Rex
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 60-54-22 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:00?
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Listen to the land; Nuggets from the gold rush,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 25, 2024,
MLA: “Listen to the land; Nuggets from the gold rush.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Listen to the land; Nuggets from the gold rush. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from