The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk: Race and Ethnic Images in American Children's Literature, 1880-1939



WHEN Lloyd's father told him that he had sold the farm, and that they were going to spend the summer camping out, Lloyd was very much delighted. His father and two other men had formed a partnership and were going to spend the summer in mining. They bought their provisions and mining outfit, and loading them in two wagons, they started. Lloyd's father and mother, with Lloyd and the provisions, were in one wagon; in the other were the two partners, with the picks, shovels, gold-pans, and the lumber for sluice-boxes and rockers.

When, after several days' traveling, they arrived at the place where they intended to mine, the men cut down some trees, and in the course of a week built a log cabin. They had planned to work a "placer claim." It had been mined long ago, when gold was first discovered in California, but not very thoroughly. Lloyd liked to watch the men shovel the dirt into the sluice-boxes and see the swift muddy water wash the rocks and coarse gravel out at the other end. They found the "dirt" was not very rich, and some days when they made a "clean-up " they would find a very small quantity of gold-dust in their riffles, less than half an ounce for a whole day's run.

Lloyd soon grew tired of watching the men work: he wished to do some mining all by himself; so his father, one evening after his own work, made him a little rocker out of the thin light boards of a dry-goods box, and every day Lloyd would play he was a miner. Finally he carried his rocker up the stream nearly a quarter of a mile above where his father was working.

One of the men had called to him, "Hello, rocker, where are you going with that boy?"

Lloyd looked back and said, "We 're going up the creek to find a claim of our own."

"Well, go ahead, and good luck to you!" they called after him.

Lloyd did not find much "color" along the creek, so he carried his rocker up a dry gulch that led into that stream.

Next day Lloyd dug till his hands were blistered and his back ached. He had been digging a hole where the ground was wet and soggy, so that he could get water to rock with. When he went back next morning he found that the hole was nearly full of muddy water that had seeped in from the spring. There was enough water to run the rocker for some time.

In one place at the lowest part of the gulch, near where his rocker was set, a rock cropped out a few inches. He did not know it at the time, but he had gone to the best place possible. A few inches below the surface he struck bed-rock. It was quite irregular. He took his shovel and scraped the rock, piling the gravel beside his rocker. He threw a shovelful of dirt into the hopper, dipped up some water, and started to rock. When the dirt and gravel had washed through the hopper, he lifted it off to throw away the coarser gravel and rocks that would not pass through the holes in the sheet-iron bottom of the hopper. As he did so he noticed a pretty rock he had thrown out. It was white, with yellow streaks in it. He found several more pieces, and put them in his pocket to ask his father what they were. He did not know that he had found some very rich gold quartz,but when he lifted up the hopper and saw a line of yellow along both of the riffles on the upper apron, he was enough of a miner to know that he had found rich pay dirt. The gold-dust was coarse, some of it being as large as grains of rice. He went to the camp and got a gold-pan so that he could clean up the rocker.

That night, when the men came to supper, Lloyd's mother said to her husband:
Well, how did you do to-day? Did you have a good clean-up?"

Lloyd's father sighed and said: "No, little woman; I am sorry to say that our pay dirt is running out. I am afraid we made a mistake in not sticking to the farm.

Lloyd brought out the gold-pan and the pretty rocks, and handed them to his father. When the men caught sight of the coarse gold dust and nuggets in the pan, and the pieces of rich gold quartz, you should have heard them shout.

"Where did you find that?" they excitedly asked. "Come and show us!" And without waiting for supper they started for the place. Lloyd could hardly keep up with them, they walked so fast.

When they got to his rocker Lloyd showed them where he had shoveled up his dirt. Taking his pick, his father struck the rock that cropped up in the bottom of the gulch. He picked up a fragment that was broken off and looked at it. It was quartz heavily veined with gold. He handed it to his partners, and caught Lloyd up, tossed him in the air, and said:

"Our fortune is made! You 'ye found the ledge from which all the placer gold on the creek has come."

The men broke off several pieces of quartz and then covered up the outcropping ledge.

It was pretty late before any one went to sleep in camp that night. Next day one of the men drove over to the nearest town with a wagon, to buy picks and shovels, fuse and blasting powder. They called the mine "Lloyd's Luck," though his papa said it ought to be called "Lloyd's Pluck," because he had worked so hard. Several mining experts for big companies had assays made, and it proved a very valuable claim. Indeed, so valuable was it that in the course of a month Lloyd's father, who had all along felt that the life of a mining camp was too rough for his wife, sold out his share to his two partners, and, with Lloyd and his mother, returned to their farm, which they were now able to keep up as it never had been before, and to send Lloyd to college as soon as he became old enough to enter.