Spanish Gulsh. Calaveras Co.,
July 20, 1854.
Again I salute you, and will try and "post you up" in regard to the doings in these parts. The Fourth of July, "the ever glorious fourth," has come, and gone; and as usual in California, it was celebrated by a most unusual amount of powder burning, cracker-popping, horse racing, whiskey-drinking, patriotism, and (where the case seemed to demand it,) a small "tussle " or so. Early in the morning, just as the first suspicion of day began to steal over the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra, we were all aroused from our slumbers by the thunder of a big, hollow oak log, which had the night before been charged heavily with powder, and tightly wadded, and tamped up solid with old shirts, sand, old boots, and shoes, and "several other articles too numerous to mention," and it was agreed that the first one awake in the morning was to have the honor of doing the "artillery." Juan Fernandez (not the original Juan Fernandez, but a namesake,) a native of Hindostan, - having probably laid awake the majority of the night, watching the eastern sky, was the successful "hombre": he hastened out, applied a coal of fire to the fuse, and retiring to a safe distance, awaited the success of the application. Fizz-z-zwhang! bang! roar! thunder!! and instantly the air was filled with a perfect shower of old boots, shoes &c. and fragments of the "artillery," which of course was blown into "tarnal flinders." All hands on the gulsh were of course awake at once, and such a firing of revolvers, rifles, and shot-guns, and popping of crackers, never was heard in "these diggings" before, that's certain. Some of the boys had made a raise of an old American ensign, which was in the Mexican war, so we elevated it on a long chapparal stick, and to the music of an old cracked fife, and a big, tin coffee-pot, by way of a drum, we escorted the "stars and stripes" up and down the gulsh, all of us "armed and equipped," as the occasion seemed to require. In front of each cabin we stopped, played "Yankee Doodle," and fired a "few de joie," in honor of the day; and after going the rounds of all the camps, we dispersed quietly to our breakfasts. The day was very warm and the thermometer at noon stood at from 110 to 115 degrees in the shade.
Some of the boys went out and shot a lot of quails, hares, and rabbits, and had a game dinner. I went with several others up to "Mokelumne Hill," to the great horse races which were to come off, but the weather was so intensely hot that they did not run until late in the afternoon. We didn't think much of the race, and therefore didn't stop long. On our way home we stopped at the "Golden Gate" ranch; here we found a lot more of our acquaintances, and with them a flute and violin, which music was put in immediate requisition, and dancing was the order of the evening. We had no ladies to grace the occasion, so ours was a "stag dance"; all sorts of steps were taken, from polkas and waltzes, down to the "fore and after," and "Juba," and "merry feet were dancing" until supper was announced, when we all sat down to the enjoyment of a most glorious repast, to which we did ample justice; after which, cigars, music and songs were introduced into the programme; each one sung his "favorite song," and occasionally some one would step out and give a specimen of his abilities in the heel and toe line; one especially, a Scotchman, danced the "Highland fling" to perfection. Thus happily passed the evening, and about twelve o'clock we ceased our "jollification," and wended our way, each one to his own camp. Let no "old fogy," when he reads this, turn up his immaculate nose with a grim smile, at what he may term "follies." Just let him be situated precisely as we are situated here, and then see how he would act. If he has any warm blood at all about his heart, he might easily do worse than we did.
Down in the big cities, as a matter of course to-day, a great noise was made and a big fuss was kicked up generally, numberless cannon were fired, and bushels of crackers were popped while the shipping displayed innumerable flags of every nation, color, shape, and pattern. In the evening balls were given in all parts of the country, and were all pretty fully attended, notwithstanding the high temperature of the atmosphere. So ends this fourth of July. I see by the papers that Messrs Bull, Crapeau, and Ottoman have taken their guns and gone out on a big hunt, after a lot of “Russian bears” that have been troubling their “turkey pen.” I presume they intend to give those aforesaid “bears” “jesse,” and learn them better manners in future, than to cut up such “foul” doings among the Turkeys.
River mining has commences, and many companies have got fairly into the beds of the rivers. The Mokelumne is much lower now than it was last year at this time, and mining in its bed commenced this year a month earlier than usual. – Most of the companies have gone to a great expense in the way of damming, fluming, cutting long races, putting in heavy pumps, &c., and many of them in all probability, will lose time, labor, and money invested, while others will make fortunes. As for that matter, mining speculations here are nothing more or less than an extensive mode of gambling, and many a poor fellow has laid out all his hard earnings in purchasing a river claim, thinking he had “dead things” on making his “pile,” and at the end of the season found that he had lost all. Farming too, or “ranching,” as it is termed in this part of account of the soil, for that always yields bountifully, but the price of labor is high, transportation is high, and there is so much competition, that much produce is sold at cost, and in many cases at much less than cost; potatoes for instance. In the lower valleys potatoes yield enormously, and with little or no trouble or expense besides ploughing and planting; but last year so many were brought into market that it was overstocked, and many lost money on them, besides the transportation, so that others who had not yet dug their potatoes left them in the ground, as they could not afford to dig them. In the Passaro, Petaluma, Bodega, Santa Clara, and others of the lower valleys, potatoes could be had for the digging. Near Santa Clara one man had a large lot which cost him three hundred dollars for the digging alone, ready sacked for market, part of which he was obliged to sell at eight cents per sack of two bushels, and the remainder he offered to any one who would take them away, and leave him the sacks. He gave away as many as he could, and at last was obliged to go to the expense of hauling them away himself to get rid of them. Gardening in the neighborhood of the large towns and cities is profitable; the principal gardens have stands in town, which they keep constantly supplied with the earliest and freshest produce, and as they are so near market that their transportation costs them but a trifle, they make money at it. On some ranches the ground squirrels are very troublesome, making sad havoc among the vegetables, corn and young trees. They are very numerous, and the most effectual remedy yet found out for them is to poison them, which is done by means of strychnine. A quart of wheat is sweetened with a little molasses, and half an ounce of powdered strychnine is added. A table spoonful or less of this is placed at the mouth of their holes, and he who partakes of it is a doomed squirrel. In this (Calaveras) county the grasshoppers have been very troublesome this season; in some parts they have destroyed entire crops, the melon crop especially suffered. On one ranch near here was a fine large patch of onions about half grown, which the owner fondly hoped would escape; but lo! one fine morning a legion of grasshoppers commenced at one corner taking it clean as they went, even eating the roots, and in just seven days they destroyed the entire crop. The proprietor, however, paid them off well for it, for he set a lot of Indians at them, who with their squaws surrounded the patch, and driving them towards the middle, threw a lot of dry grass around and over them, which they set on fire, roasting them all alive, "doing them brown," and cooking them all "just right," for a lot of fine, fat grasshoppers roasted in this manner, is a dainty morsel to the Indians. No more at present - hear from me again by and by, so with many considerations, &c.