Payback at Murderer’s Bar

Sunshine suddenly flooded through the open door of the cabin. I picked up the crutch my eldest, Enos, had fashioned from an alder branch and limped outside. Thick, dark clouds still roiled above the river as far as I could see, but off to the west a small gap between heaven and earth had given the setting sun a last brief opportunity to remind us of the glory of it’s existence. It was a welcome sign. Rain had fallen in a steady downpour since yesterday morning, starting just after we’d … [Read more...]

Equality in the gold mines

A great majority of the men who flocked to California in the early years of the gold rush were an industrious and enterprising bunch. As many as five out of six were young men between eighteen and thirty-five and they came from all parts of the United States as well as many foreign lands. When they got to the mines all found that in order to keep up with their neighbors hard work was required. Every man, regardless of his former station in life, was forced to toil with his hands and this … [Read more...]

The San Francisco Write to Market Conference

Are you a writer hungry to break into the big, bad world of publishing? Do your knees knock at the very mention of a query letter to some mysterious agent somewhere far away who will toss your e-mail into the cyber trash without so much as a backwards glance? Does the idea of getting your manuscript turned into a real paper and ink book by a major publishing house seem about as likely as rush hour without traffic jams? Then you should take a serious look at the San Francisco Write to Market … [Read more...]

Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage

The other night I saw an old western movie, Under Colorado Skies, starring Monte Hale. He was the singing cowboy Republic Pictures dug up in case Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers had to do their duty in World War Two. And Monte did a pretty good job too, but for me the real stars were Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage. My goodness, what tight, smooth harmony they had, and such great songs, Holiday for the Blues, Jimmy Crack Corn, and that old Bob Wills hit Rose of San Antone. It seems … [Read more...]

“The Cowboys” and the Encyclopaedia Britannica

Gregory McNamee writes in his Encyclopaedia Britannica blog about the great John Wayne western, The Cowboys. McNamee calls the movie a contrarian film, not because of the poor treatment Long Hair, played by Bruce Dern, gives to Wil Anderson, Wayne’s character, but because Anderson dies from the wounds then the story fits into the antihero film ethic of the early 70’s he calls contrarian. It could be, but did anyone really even notice any antihero bias back when the film came out? Anderson had to … [Read more...]

Where did all the Westerns go?

“Where did all the Westerns go?” Bob Kuhn asked in his blog. And it jerked me awake, right out of my fog. I thought long and hard but couldn’t answer him. It’s a serious question, and not just a whim. We’re about the same age, both you and Bob and me. Maybe I’m a little older, but I suppose we’ll see. He’s looking back and I guess I am too, to days so long ago that we shared with you. I saw the old photos, me in hat and boots, a pop gun by my side, bad hombres I’d … [Read more...]

The world-shaking power of a Western

In an Autry Libraries blog posted July 5, 2011, the role of one of the greatest western movies ever made, HIGH NOON, starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, is highlighted as helping in the fall of Poland, a fall that precipitated the end of the communist bloc. It’s a remarkable story that clearly points out the power of a well-told western tale even in Poland, a land far removed from New Mexico Territory and the town of Hadleyville. The human values that appealed to an American audience in the … [Read more...]

Hangtown and the Blue and Gray Channels

One of the most important mining locations to arise after Coloma and Mormon Island was about eight miles southeast of the sawmill. Discovered by William Daylor, whose land grant along Deer Creek Slough and the Consumnes River was south of John Sutter’s property, prospected there early in 1848 and found many deposits of gold, most in ravines along a small creek that was substantially dry during the summer. The area quickly drew miners and first was known as the Old Dry Diggin’s before the name of … [Read more...]

Modern mining with a long tom or sluice

Placer mining hasn’t changed that much since the time of the 49ers. Sure, you drive close to some of the many good spots to look for placer gold but you will still have to walk into the river and carry your equipment with you, so it needs to be light and easily portable. Here are some examples of modern miners using over the counter gear you can pack in and back along with all the gold you find. Notice how the two guys with the long tom are taking their ore from somewhere on the hillside above … [Read more...]

Who owns the gold in California?

There are still millions of dollars of easy to mine gold in California, most of it on public land. The mining laws are clear. All gold and other valuable metals belong to us, the public, in contrast to Russia or China where this wealth belongs to the government. All one needs to do is file a claim and any gold found belongs to the claim holder. But in California this is about to change. The most available placer gold has always been in the rivers. From the early days of the gold rush men … [Read more...]