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A Bit of Humor From the Gold Country

There was a huge flood during the winter of 1861-62.  The Mariposa Gazette reported the extent of its damage in this part of California.

"The San Joaquin Valley was under water, and it was over a month before any supplies could be freighted by wagon.

"A rain gauge at a drug store in Mariposa had recorded 49 1/2 inches since the first of November.  By the end of January, 21 more inches had fallen.

"Goods were being delivered by steamer to Neal's on the Merced River, about 15 miles below Merced Falls.

"Sheriff Crippen had returned after being gone for over a month delivering prisoners.  He reported taking a drink at a saloon in Stockton while sitting in a boat--the water was level with the bar top.

"Wells Fargo came to Mariposa "mulus obstinatus,": a mule pack train."

In 1919 Ranger Billy Nelson was assigned to guide Queen Elizabeth, King Albert I, Crown Prince Leopold and a large group on horseback to Glacier Point.  Chief Ranger Townsley had primed him on how to act in front of royalty.  All instructions fled his mind when presented to the King.  He saw a man about his age, so he shook his hand and said, "The Chief told me what I was to say to you, but I've forgotten, so you call me Billy, and I'll call you King."  They were friends by the time the group reached Glacier Point.  (from Memories of El Portal)

We often read about prisoners escaping from jail, or how wardens boast that their prisons are escape proof.  But this was not the case when the town of Gustine built its first jail.

The first prisoner who lodged in the new jail was leaning against the door, when it suddenly gave way, causing him to fall into the street.  Instead of running away, the prisoner reported the situation to the constable.  Then the constable found the builder so they could rectify the problem.

The builder couldn't believe the door was at fault, because he had put a special kind of lock on it.  So the constable put the builder in jail and locked the door.  The new prisoner leaned against the door, and it gave way again.  They soon realized the lock was faulty.  When it was repaired, the door stayed put.

There have been no more "jail breaks" in Gustine.

When gold was discovered at "Hildreth's Diggings," the population immediately grew from practically nothing to 5,000 "gold-starved souls" within a month's time.  Due to a shortage of accommodations, miners slept wherever they found shelter.  Being that April's weather is usually mild, many bodies just fell down on a blanket, exhausted from the day's toil.

The men typically slept in their sweat-soaked clothes, and worked in them again the next day.  When the "aroma" could no longer be tolerated, they'd put on the only other shirt they owned, hanging the soiled one on a tree branch to "freshen."  If it happened to rain, so much the better.  If not, the first shirt was put back on when the second shirt's rankness became unbearable.

A lady reporter from San Francisco was near Columbia, interviewing miners about their lifestyle.  She asked one bearded man how he took care of his laundry.  Wiping his brow with his sleeve, he told her:  "Lady--we don't use much starch."