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The Call of Gold (1936) by Newell D. Chamberlain


Great praise is due to the pioneer men and women, who mastered every hardship, elevated hell-roaring camps into substantial, liveable communities and reared families. Many of these law-abiding and industrious pioneer parents did not leave behind great material wealth, but they did leave worthy descendants.

Children, born to these pioneer, home-loving parents, grew up surrounded by the beauties of nature. They had the opportunity to learn, early and at close hand, the value of the small but essential fundamentals of life, such as obedience, self-reliance, honesty, virtue, generosity and love of parents, school and country. They lived close to people, observed their feelings, thoughts, struggles and ambitions and learned to sympathize. This love of the commonplace, human understanding and the acquaintanceship with nature, gave them a wonderful advantage, in later life, when added to honest endeavor, in business, profession or homemaking.

The world needs the qualities of self-reliance and the spirit that never grows old, such as were exemplified by the pioneers and which are still being exemplified by their successors on the gold road to Yosemite. The author witnessed the following episode.

It was a cold winter night. About a foot of snow covered the ground and all indications pointed to additional snow almost immediately. In the country store, the big stove was sending out a welcome heat.

A customer, known as “Feliciana Frank”, with long hair, stooped shoulders, a wrinkled face and powerful frame, was buying supplies, of canned goods, bacon, etc. As he purchased each article, he placed it in a burlap sack and lifted it to determine the weight. When he had approximately seventy-five pounds of goods in the sack, he paid the bill, then cut a slit on each side of the top of the sack, through which to place his arms, when the sack was hoisted on his back.

Just as he was getting ready to start out on his five mile walk, two miles of which was a narrow trail, up a steep mountainside, a conveyance stopped in front of the store and a rugged Swede came in and stood by the stove. He was superintendent of the mine, where “Feliciana Frank” lived and worked.

“I will take you home, Frank, just put your things in the wagon”, said the superintendent. But Frank only shrugged his shoulders and said in a slow, drawl voice, “I guess, I vill valk”.

The store-keeper, being anxious to learn why an old man, for Frank was over sixty, would refuse a ride on such a wild night, especially with a seventy-five pound load, entertained him, until the Swede left and then asked the reason.

“Over twenty years ago”, he said, “I had been working for a large lumber company and my work had always been satisfactory. In the winter time, the camp was closed down, so in the Spring, I showed up, expecting to get my old job. The foreman said, ‘Frank, you are over forty years of age, so we will be unable to hire you any more’.

“I was stupefied. I, who had always done my work right, had been condemned and refused employment, because I was over forty. It made me mad, but I was not discouraged. I determined to return to the mines, where I had once worked, and I came up here with a seventy-five pound load on my back. Tonight, I want to see if I can still carry the same load that I did when I came up here over twenty years ago.”

The store-keeper, wishing to encourage this interesting man to talk some more, then asked, “How have you done since you came up here?” The old man’s eyes gleamed with an almost uncanny lustre, when he replied, “I have done better up here than I ever did when working for lumber companies. I can still do as much work as I could twenty years ago. God has been good to me. He once saved my life.”

“How was that, Frank?”, questioned the storekeeper, and Frank replied, “I was out in the woods cutting timber for the mine, when a fierce storm started and the snow piled up faster than I had ever seen it before. I tried to make haste to get to my cabin, but the snow came down so thick and fast, that my trail was obliterated. I lost my way and struggled almost helplessly through the timber for many hours. I became exhausted and the thought kept coming to me ‘why not lay down and go to sleep for just a few minutes?’, but another voice, that of God, urged me to keep going, saying that if I layed down just for an instant, I would never wake up. I kept going and finally God led me to my cabin. I know positively that if God had not helped me, I would have perished.”

“Feliciana Frank”, in a short time, started with his load, out into the wintry night, for his home on Feliciana Mountain, reaching there about midnight, according to the Swede superintendent, who came in to the the store, a few days later. He, also, said that Frank could do the work of two ordinary men, despite his age. Such is the pioneer spirit of self-reliance.

Another such example, the author witnessed on a recent visit to the home of Katharina Reeb Morrison. This interesting courageous lady was born in Hornitos, her father being George Reeb, the pioneer butcher there. She lost her sight eight years ago, but one would not know it, unless told. Her mind was keen, she was active in household duties and there was no evidence of helplessness. The following poem, written by her, came from her heart:


“I love you, old Hornitos,
With your buildings wrecked and old,
With your crooked street so narrow,
And weird stories still untold.
“Where the days are now so quiet,
Where at night, one has no fear,
With no noise but crickets chirping,
Or a night owl hooting near.
“Where the little children gather,
In the grass-grown streets to play,
With no fear of Murietta,
Stalking out to seek his prey.
“There are now no faro tables,
Within the Plaza square,
No dark-eyed senoritas,
To dance by the torch-light’s glare.
“No shining bladed bowie
Grasped with a steady hand,
Ready in an instant,
To stain that Plaza sand.
“The secret passage underground,
Deadman’s Alley and Three-fingered Jack,
Are just relics now in our memory
Of the days as we look back.
“When the shades of evening gather
And soft breezes fill the air,
I try to picture those early days,
When our fathers and mothers came there.
“But little do we know of the hardships,
And the dangers they went through
To civilize that little town,
And make a home for me and you.
“So, we all love you, Hornitos,
We pay homage now to you,
And to those sturdy, good old pioneers,
Who were so brave to dare and do.”

Next: 39. Re-unionContentsPrevious: 37. Mariposa Al

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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management