1849: The Gold Digger

Colton Lang, guest writer

Many decades ago, there lived a man named Rodger Dale MacWorth. Rodger was what they called at the time A Drop Out. He was not the popular kid in town, and he dressed in ratchet clothes. It seamed like he did not take showers on a daily basis because he always carried around an oder of sour milk. He did not finish school and was basically a nobody who stayed home and worked for his father on their small farm in Ohio.

Rodger dreamed of a better life. When he would lay in bed at night he would dream of ways to get out of his parents’ ancient two room shack. His dad always shot down his dreams saying “Dale, you’re 28 years old and, you have 7 years of schooling under your belt. There is nothing to do except take over the farm once I get too old to work.” His fathers words discourage him a little bit, but he still had hope that he could live a better life.

Rodger was a coordinated man. He knew how to do all of his daily jobs like distributing the hay to the horses and collecting the chickens eggs on the farm in a rather fast manner. When he set his mind to something there was nothing much that could stop him. He often would get done with his job on the farm  then go and play a game of baseball with his local church fellowship group.

One day, while riding his beatup bicycle home on a sunny October day from a baseball scrimmage, he stopped at his favorite beverage shop, Take a Sip, to get a nice cold glass of  raspberry lemonade. Dale normally did not do this because he usually felt short on money. After he finished his lemonade, as he was walking back to his bike, he passed a news stand. The first page of the newspaper caught his eye: in all caps ” 4 YEAR OLD GIRL  FALLS INTO SINK WHOLE ONLY TO FIND GOLD IMPALED INTO HER CHEEK!” At that moment Rodger realized what he was going to do with his life.

Rodger rode his bike home as fast as his legs could possibly move, rolling into his gravel driveway not even coming to a stop, just letting his bike roll into the grass. He burst through the back door to find his parents eating dinner. “I’m gonna go diggin for the gold!”

“in your dreams son. Said Paps with a harsh voice There is no gold in Ohio.

“Oh. I know, that’s why I’m going to take a great trip to the West Coast.”

“who is going to help your Paps on the farm when you are gone”?

“Well, maybe cousin Brewer can help out for the time I am gone.”

After talking over Rodger’s whole plan for about a week, his parents finally came to the conclusion that their son was old enough to make his own decisions. So Rodger had to come up with some type of plan. He did not want to take the whole entire journey all on his own.

Even though Rodger was 28 years old, he had not been away from home much. He searched and searched around in his home town for someone who may want to take this adventure with him.

Dale had absolutely no one that was remotely interested in going with him. People usually could not understand him because he had terrible grammar and a horrific slur when he talked caused by a stroke when he was just 19 years of age.

He decided that if he had to, he would make this journey alone. He started planning his trip out in his head. Trying to figure out all the things he may need or run into along the way. Taking his rifle was the most important thing to him, killing dear and rabbits was going to be his main source of food. He also needed his gun to protect him in case he came across a viscous animal like a bear or maybe even an angry Indian.  Every day for the next month he had shooting practice because in order to survive he was going to kill his own meals.

Finally, it was that time! Rodger had his backpack all filled up and all his equipment for gold digging in his wagon that was strapped to his horse named Digits. After he gave his parents goodbye hugs and kisses, he leaped up onto Digits and rode off into the distance.

Rodger had his route methodically planned out in his head. Going slightly down through the middle of Kansas and keeping far away from the Nebraska boarder. He heard from a traveler, that Indians roam the Nebraska territory and will kill any white man they see because white men attacked the Indians at the battle of  “Custers Last stand, and they ended up killing all the soldiers that tried to attack them”(Sioux).

Dale would ride for about 14 hours a day and sleep in the wagon every night. Dale planned out his trip pretty well, but he forgot some details. He did not quite know how large the North American continent was. So he did not know the exact time it would take him to get there. He usually could not sleep well at night because the woods out there where spooky at night, and he felt like there was always something watching him.  The days were so dragged out and repetitive that Rodger would just lay back on his horses saddle and close his eyes to try and make the time pass. He had faith that good old faithful Digits could keep a straight line and keep heading toward California.

Rodger would eat only twice a day. Every morning he would pick a large amount of berries from bushes before he would start his trek. He would usually stop thirty minutes before sundown every night to see if he could kill a deer with his rifle; if he could not find a deer he could always settle with a bunny or a squirrel. Starting a fire to cook his meat was usually pretty easy for him. In his wagon he had a tarp, and he would usually have wood underneath the tarp so it would stay dry when it rained.

Rodger finally got to the state of Kansas. He absolutely despised the scenery in Kansas. There were no trees, no hills, and little water. It was the most depressing part of his trip; sitting on his horse moving but not feeling like he was moving anywhere because everything looked the exact same.

Just as he passed the boarder into Colorado, Rodger saw a speck in the distance. It caught his attention greatly. As he rode toward it his heart deeply sank into his chest. His heart felt like it was about to race right out of his chest. He saw five horses with muddy dark faces on top of each horse. He didn’t know what to do! There was not very many decent places to hide. The Indians did not notice him because they were still very far off in the distance. Rodger kept having this voice in his head saying “shoot your rifle, shoot your rifle”!  So that’s exactly what he did.  He quickly got Digits to stop and lay down in the tall grass so it would be difficult to see them. Dale slung his rifle off if his back and was ready to fire. Dale had never shot a man before, and he didn’t feel right to do so. He quickly thought of something; if he just shot in any direction the sound of the gun would bounce off the mountains in the distance and it would sound like it’s coming from a different direction. “POWWW” the rifle blew and the Indians quickly alarmed, not knowing where the shooter was hidden took off North to try and escape the danger they thought they were in.

After waiting for what felt like eternity, he finally stood up out of the grass and kept moving to try and get away from that location as fast as he could. As he reached the the Colorado mountains his trip got much more difficult. Digits could not possibly go straight up the mountain. This is something that Rodger did not think through before he left. He had never seen such enormous rocks in his entire life! This is where Dale had to make the hardest decision of his trip. It was either he leaves Digits behind and goes straight through the mountains on foot, or he stays riding his horse and goes far south and around the mountains. He decided to leave his precious horse and take it by foot.

Up through the jagged rocks Rodger climbed toward his goal of gold. Rodger walked for days at a time weaving in and out and up and down through the Colorado and Nevada mountains. Finally, Dale made his way across the boarder into the California and down into where “The discovery of gold nuggets was in the Sacramento Valley in early 1848″(History).  He finally saw a human for the first time in 2 months.

He met this man named Stamp that traveled from Texas also for the gold rush. They became great friends practically over night, and they decided to pan for gold together in the San Joaquin River. This was finally Dale’s chance to do something different than what his parents had told him he was going to do the rest of his life.

Stamp and Rodger’s first day out in the water they collected all pebbles and no gold. This was discouraging for them because they were hearing of everyone finding gold out there. Finally, on their fourth day out they found their first golden flake! This excited them so much that  they did not even get out of the river that night, and panned the whole night. Between both of them they had found $200 each! A month later they had $1,000. Two years later they had their own gold-digging business. Rodger achieved his goal of do something different from what his parents told him he would do the rest of his life. No longer was he cooped up in his parents shack, and now he was making more money than he could handle.

Works Cited

History.com Staff. “The Gold Rush of 1849.” History.com. A&E Television Networks,                               2010. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

“Historical Events in 1849.” OnThisDay.com. p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.

“The California Gold Rush, 1849.”The California Gold Rush, 1849. p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

“Sioux Indians.” Learn about the History of the Sioux Indians. p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.”U.S. History Timeline: The 1840’s – America’s Best History.”U.S. History Timeline: The 1840’s      – America’s Best History. p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017