Sunday Scribblings is hosted by peckapalooza – the Confusing Middle
This weeks prompt is Gold.
The first thing to come to mind for this weeks prompt was … There’s gold in them thar hills.
You could justly accuse me of reading too many penny dreadfuls. There are a zillion stories of men afflicted with gold fever. Selling all they had, heading for the gold fields where rumor had it fist sized nuggets were sitting in the streams waiting for men to come by and pick them up.
The many fictional stories are based in fact. The gold rush was at it’s height in the mid-to-late 1800s and stretched from California to Alaska. It’s true there was gold to be found by some but more often than not it was the outfitters who made money on the phenomenon. Life was beyond hard for many of these dreamers and their families. Many loved ones were left behind to wait for a man who may or may not ever come home.
One positive fallout from men chasing their dreams – many areas of the US and Canada were settled with residue from the influx of hopeful prospectors.
Some settlements were short lived and a few of those survived as ghost towns. One is Barkerville in British Columbia, Canada. It’s listed as a world class historical site and well worth seeing. As a BC resident most of my life, I’ll admit to travelling through the Fraser Canyon dozens of times without making the short detour to visit Barkerville. It’s still on my wish list.
There are many non fiction books to be had on the subject but here is one such book by a celebrated author with personal connections to the Klondike.
The Klondike Fever: The Life And Death Of The Last Great Gold Rush
In 1897 a grimy steamer docked in Seattle and set into epic motion the incredible succession of events that Pierre Berton’s exhilarating The Klondike Fever chronicles in all its splendid and astonishing folly. For the steamer Portland bore two tons of pure Klondike gold. And immediately, the stampede north to Alaska began. Easily as many as 100,000 adventurers, dreamers, and would-be miners from all over the world struck out for the remote, isolated gold fields in the Klondike Valley, most of them in total ignorance of the long, harsh Alaskan winters and the territory’s indomitable terrain. Less than a third of that number would complete the enormously arduous mountain journey to their destination. Some would strike gold. Berton’s story belongs less to the few who would make their fortunes than to the many swept up in the gold mania, to often unfortunate effects and tragic ends. It is a story of cold skies and avalanches, of con men and gamblers and dance hall girls, of sunken ships, of suicides, of dead horses and desperate men, of grizzly old miners and millionaires, of the land its exploitation and revenge. It is a story of the human capacity to dream, and to endure.
If I lived in those times I think I would have become an outfitter to amass my share of the gold. Seems like a safer bet.