Between the cannibal, the aliens, and the long-distance romance, this gold miner has his hands full.
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF
JOHN WILLIAM CALDER
Being of sound mind and such, I, John William Calder, son of James Zechariah and Rose Elizabeth Calder, do solemnly write these here accounts from my own life, some of which are sure to be real rip-snorters, and all of which being true as anything.
I figure on writing this here autobiography of me since I already got the implements handy from having to keep records mining for gold. I am now the sole proprietor of the Buckwourth mining camp a good ways up Little Miss River and right on the edge of Indian territory. Regarding gold mining, or mining of any sort, it is true that I know next to nothing on the subject, having never had occasion to undertake the occupation prior to my mother's brother kicking the bucket and me thereby falling into it. But seeing how life as a clerk fits poorly on my disposition, plus taking into account Uncle Luke's certainty of the mother lode about to show, that I am plum willing to give the venture a go, and reckon I can say the same for this here autobiography writing that I am fixing on doing.
In San Francisco I met a man who told me he had been to Sutter's Mill early in '48 and found a fortune in four hours. The biggest chunks filled his fists! Buckwourth being northwest of the Sierra Nevadas, I am nowhere near Coloma, yet cannot say I would too much mind if I was, because at the train station I also met a woman who said she was bound for that very destination, and except for Miss Felicity she was about the loveliest and most enchanting creature to ever trod soil.
I have cooked up a mess of beans, and they are very good. What with flour, coffee, salt, tea, tobacco and a deal of venison I picked up at the trading post for one of my three fifteen dollar beaver traps, I am feeling fairly well-provisioned. My nearest neighbor is a devoutly religious man by all accounts--most of those coming from the trading post--a trapper and a miner whose piety is reputed to be matched only by his delight on practicing cannibalism. And he's done that at least twice. But the last white man he killed and ate was fifteen years ago, and even though he is older and slower, he has passed up plenty of chances in favor of savages picked up at the post. So with my .40-caliber rifle courtesy of the Hawken brothers of St. Louis, I am not too concerned.
My Dearest Miss Felicity,
I have fixed my mind on writing my own autobiography, and would certainly be a good bit into it were it not for the hardships of daily life. Amenities-wise, the outhouse appears in distressed circumstances. After gnawing off a deal of venison this morning by way of breakfast, I have come to learn through hard tribulation to never trust a man trading venison again.
It being spring, the river is bracing and brisk. I have tried my hand at panning. You cannot believe how cold a man's hands get holding a pan in the shallows. Yet this biting cold was made less bitter by the image of your divine visage there to sustain me. Looking at the water I'd see your face floating there. Or if with a crick in my neck from being all hunkered over I looked up, why there you'd be again. I confess I felt a most marked and shameful embarrassment in wondering exactly how much of my hardships of the morning the hovering image of you had seen, but your vision sweetly reminded me in the most angelic manner that I was still working off the ill-effects of the tainted meat.
The bulk of the day went toward repairing the sluice, which I have done as best I can. When I have made my fortune and come calling on you proper, I will share with you this letter along with my autobiography so that you can come to understand the warm ardor with which I regard you as I remain now and forevermore your devoted admirer,
John William Calder
A week has slipped along since I last wrote. Though the days pass filled with toil, still I do not lament. I shall persevere in my endeavor to secure my fortune or perish in the attempt. I find the load of my drudgery lightened when recalling amusing incidents which I yet intend to pen. The plain fact is, however, at end of the day, I find both body and mind so beset with fatigue as to preclude all possibility of any sort of further pursuit.
I have discovered an additional neighbor, by all appearances a deformed albino native child. The wretch watched me from over yonder rise while I worked in the river this afternoon. The feeling I was being stared at suddenly washed upon me. On my word, I have never in my life seen a waif half as white as this poor malformed native entirely destitute of clothing.
My Dearest Miss Felicity,
I have been cooking up a mess of beans this evening and thinking on that fateful day I first seen your beatific visage. A man gets powerful lonesome with hardly no companionship to speak of other than a family of otters upriver that sometimes chase each other down here and splash around a bit.
On two occasions now I have seen a malformed waif, the slenderest child with the whitest skin and hugest head you ever saw. The wastrel wears not a stitch of clothing, and likewise has no hair. As on the first occasion, I did not achieve a satisfactory view of the elusive creature, but rather glimpsed it when retreating from me in the denseness of a thicket. I am pretty near certain I have a fix on where within the thicket the creature most often resides. If it appears any closer to camp, I am prepared to rout it out.
The evening sky, profusely bedecked with a myriad of stars, shines in great magnificence, but next to thoughts of you it stands hardly even better than the rear end of a green apple mule.
Your ardent admirer,
John William Calder
Today my nearest neighbor, a disagreeable man and thoroughly wretched in most respects, stopped by for a visit. "Name's Red Meat Bob," he said while I was fixing the slough. "Reckon you prolly heard I et white folks back when."
"Yep," I says.
"Well, I'm plum done with that. Been done these seven and a half years. Whaddaya call this operation?"
"This here's the Buckwourth mining camp, mister."
“You play cards?”
“Ain’t no hand at poker,” I says.
“They say the beginners have the best luck.”
Regarding Red Meat Bob, beyond all doubt he has shown himself to be of less than any use where work is to be done, but verbosity has its benefits. The old coot jabbers away rain or shine. Upon occasion, I confess, I have found myself not entirely averse to the sounds of social company. Half the time, what comes out of the pious old sinner's hairy head sounds almost like a kind of singing. Often he says to pardon his French, but then he goes ahead and says it all again louder.
Upon my word I was like to knock Red Meat Bob sideways into the river just this very afternoon, on account he refused to shut up, except for he scampered off easy enough with me up on the sluice. I will tell the world I was plum angry.
Come suppertime he shuffles round closer.
"Them beans smell good," he says. Couple crickets chirp by way of reply. "Coffee smells good too," he adds.
By way of reply with my Hawken at my side I told Red Meat Bob he could go to hell...
NOTE: Several new pages of the story are ready to go, and more will be written by Thursday to appear here.