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Ghost Mines of Yosemite (1958) by Douglass Hubbard


12. AH WEE DIED THREE TIMES

Lee 'Ah Wee' Chung, May 1884. Last know photograph

Last known photograph of
Lee “Ah Wee” Chung, May 1884.
(not in original book)

ONE AUTUMN AFTERNOON during Benettville’s heyday one of its illustrious citizen a Chinese named Ah Wee, departed unceremoniously:

Last week Jim Toy, the Celestial restauranteur of Lundy, received intelligence that his countryman and friend, Ah Wee, the pioneer laundryman of Bennettville, was sick unto death. Jim hastened to the bedside of his dying friend, reaching his destination but a few minutes before Ah Wee expired. After the body became cold and rigid, Jim went to the boarding house for his supper, after which several parties accompanied him back to the laundryman’s shanty— and it was well that they did, for Ah Wee was up and walking about, and it required the united strength of the whole party to get him back to bed and hold him there. Jim remained by his bedside, administering such remedies as he thought the case required, but all to no purpose, for just before daylight next morning Ah Wee peacefully breathed his last. After breakfast Jim had a strong box constructed in which to transport the body, by pack mule, to Lundy for interment —occasionally throughout the forenoon looking in upon the corpse to see if he could discover any signs of returning animation. So things stood until noon when Louis Amoit’s pack train arrived. The body was then placed in the box and the burden strapped on the back of a pack mule. On reaching the lofty and nearly level ridge known as Mount Warren Divide, Louis hurried up his mules. The one with the corpse began to trot, and the “corpse” began to groan. Louis thought at first that it was the mule, and still his hat showed a disposition to crawl up on the top of his head. He stopped the mule. The groans became more audible. Then Louis’ eyeballs crawled out on his cheeks, took a look at his ears, and tried to climb under his hat. Ah Wee was alive again! He was brought to town, placed in comfortable quarters and appeared to be convalescing until 11 o’clock Monday forenoon, when a ’Melican (American) physician and an undertaker (among many others) looked in upon him, when Ah Wee turned his face to the wall and died again—this time for keeps. He was buried on Tuesday with imposing ceremonies of the Chinese kind. Jim Toy said that he died of a cold. We inquired if it was not a case of pneumonia. (Evidently thinking we said “no money”) “No, no,” said Toy, “him got no money—him allee time gamble—tlee week ago him losee two hundled dolla—him got no money!” 33



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