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49ers (II)

发表于 8-11-2014 18:31:13 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
Gerard Helferich, Kickoff Time for the Forty-Niners. Tens of thousands headed west, with rival wagons clotting the track like rush-hour traffic. Within six months of reaching California, one in five prospectors would be dead. Wall Street Journal, Aug 9, 2014.

(a) “Pity the poor writer who takes on the California Gold Rush. One of the great migrations in American history, the rush profoundly influenced what came afterward, not just in California but across the nation. Yet the images are so familiar—a watery glint at Sutter's Mill, wagons snaking across the plains, prospectors hunched over shallow pans, saloons seething with ruffians—that every literary vein may seem tapped out, every authorial claim already jumped. Even so, in ‘The Rush’ Edward Dolnick unearths some fresh nuggets.”

jump (vt): “to occupy illegally <jump a mining claim>”

(b) “After gold was discovered in January 1848, some 50 miles northeast of present-day Sacramento, the reports were too fantastical to be believed. And so it was only in December of that year, after President James Polk confirmed the rumors in his State of the Union address, that the stampede began. * * *Unlike many foreign immigrants, these weren't desperate souls hoping to claw their way out of poverty. As Mr Dolnick points out, the poor couldn't afford the journey to California, and the rich had no reason to go. Instead, the gold rush was ‘a mass exodus of the restless, dissatisfied middle’ * * * Many of these greenhorns had never slept out of doors, had never cooked a meal. But they were generally literate, and they wrote copious letters and diaries.”
(i) greenhorn (n; animal with green or young horns)
(ii) greenhorn (n): "mid-15c., 'young horned animal,' from green (adj) in sense of 'new, fresh, recent' + horn (n). Applied to new soldiers from c1650; extended to any inexperienced person by 1680s"www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=greenhorn

(c) “Mr Dolnick quotes often and well from these sources, which give his chronicle grit and color.”
(i) grit (n): “firmness of mind or spirit :  unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger”
(ii) grit (n): "sense of 'pluck, spirit' first recorded American English, 1808"
www.etymonline.com/index.php?all ... amp;searchmode=none

(d) “He [author] pays close attention to five atypical aspirants * * * Finally there is Joseph Bruff, an architectural draftsman in Washington, DC. Forming the 66-man Washington City and California Mining Association, he outfitted his corps in smart gray uniforms with gold buttons and paraded them to the White House, where he received a farewell handshake from the president [before departing for California].”

smart (adj): "NEAT, TRIM <soldiers in smart uniforms>"
(e) “Mr Dolnick immerses us in the emigrants' trials, starting with the many unaccustomed decisions they faced. Should they travel overland or by sea? If by sea, should they invest five months in sailing the 15,000 miles around Cape Horn or chance the speedier but more expensive and more dangerous trek across Panama, through 60 miles of mosquito-infested swamps?”

chance (vt): “to accept the hazard of :  RISK <knew the trip was dangerous but decided to chance it>
(f) “The rest of Mr. Dolnick's forty-niners traveled overland, where they confronted a grueling journey of half a year, across forbidding prairies, deserts and mountains. And though they piled their covered wagons with belongings, the travelers themselves walked across the continent, to save wear and tear on the precious animals. Whether to purchase mules or oxen was another irrevocable, high-stakes decision—mules were faster but more costly, less robust and axiomatically stubborn.”

covered wagon

two consecutive paragraphs from Wiki:

“Covered wagons were primarily used to transport goods. Small children, the elderly, and the sick or injured rode in them, but since the wagons had no suspension and the roads were rough, many people preferred to walk, unless they had horses to ride.

“While covered wagons traveling short distances on good roads could be drawn by horses, those crossing the plains were usually drawn by a team of two or more pairs of oxen. These were driven by a teamster or drover, who walked at the left side of the team and directed the oxen with verbal commands and whipcracks. Mules were also used; they were harnessed and driven by someone sitting in the wagon seat holding the reins.

(g) “Though the forty-niners feared Indian attacks above all, tribes at the time were still more interested in trade than in resistance. Diseases such as cholera and scurvy took a far greater toll on migrants, and thousands were hastily buried along the way.
* * * When they finally arrived in California, the emigrants discovered that the reports of gold were not exaggerated. The mother lode stretched for a staggering 120 miles and in 1849 alone yielded 17 tons (valued at $20.67 an ounce). Though Mr Dolnick's evocation of the prospectors' life doesn't match the immediacy of his (much longer) section on their journey, he does give a solid account of its rigors: brutal, dangerous work; filthy camps; poor diet; widespread disease; offhand violence. As early as 1849, life insurers refused to cover miners, and for good reason—within six months of reaching California, one in five was dead. Despite everything, hopefuls kept arriving, and between 1848 and 1851 San Francisco swelled from a drowsy town of 800 to a cosmopolitan metropolis of 30,000. The city was a notorious free-for-all”

mother lode

(h) “The era of the independent prospector lasted just five years. By the mid-1850s, the steel pan and the wooden rocker had been surpassed by the ‘hydraulicker,’ a water cannon that could blast away a hillside to free a few ounces of ore. But the new technology was expensive, and mining became the province of corporations. * * * ‘The Rush’ will please readers looking for a breezy, compact narrative. Those preferring an equally readable but more detailed treatment (some 200 pages longer) may want to look up HW Brands's ‘The Age of Gold’”
(i) rocker
(mat refer to "a rocker, or Cradle, was a mechanical contrivance used in placer mining")
(ii) “a gold pan, a sluice box or a rocker box. The principles of all of these pieces of equipment are the same. They work because gold is heavier than water and other rocks and minerals”
(iii) gold panning
("Once a suitable placer deposit is located, some gravel from it is scooped into a pan, where it is then gently agitated in water and the gold sinks to the bottom of the pan")
(iv) For hydraulicker, see hydraulic mining
(the resulting water-sediment slurry is directed through sluice boxes to remove the gold)
(v) HW Brands, The Age of Gold; The California Gold Rush and the new American dream. Anchor, 2003.

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