Jan 1st 1855
When I wrote you last, the weather, was for the season unusually dry and the want of the winters rains was beginning to be seriously felt throughout the mines and I was of the opinion that the rains would set in about Christmas, but no; the weather continued fine, and the sky cloudless; Christmas came and went and still no rain – the miners all wore long faces; business of all became dull; numerous bets of money were freely offered and taken that it would not rain before “new year’s day,” and as the old year drew near its close, big odds were offered, and few bets taken, against its raining, but human judgement, and even “yankee guessing” are liable to err sometimes, for yesterday morning, the last day of the year the sun rose behind thick heavy clouds, which overspread the blue sky; the wind was from the south east, the rainy quarter, and the freshening breeze, sighing and moaning among the tall pines, gave most unmistakable indications of a coming storm. At noon the wind still freshened, the long-wished for rain came pattering down, and during the afternoon and until twelve o’clock at night, alternate showers of rain, hail, and snow poured down merrily while the wind roared heavily among the bending tree tops, and though the old year was making a last effort, and striving lustily with his last breath to refute the foul slander of “no rain this year; the hands on the dial, soon told the hour of twelve, and “1854” passed out amid a perfect whirlwind of rain and hail. “1855” came in, young and strong; “a fresh hand at the bellows” and this morning found his “hard at it” bright and early, “knocking things right and left,” while the rain poured down in torrents. The storm still increased, the wind blew a furious gale, driving the sharp, cutting sleet, fiercely before it. Just after breakfast, a blast came fiercer and more furious than ever, bellowing and tearing fearfully among the tall trees, and shrieking among the pine tops as though a legion of demons were let lose; young ’55 was doing his there first; the thickening sleet, darkened the air; a large heavy pine tree was torn up by the roots and fell near our cabin, with a most tremendous crash; we could hear the trees falling on all sides, crashing down the mountain side shivering to splinters over rocky ledges; we heard more than fifty trees fall near by in the space of half an hour, making a noise resembling the report of heavy artillery. We saw one tall majestic pine, fall on a steep mountain side, and go sliding down for some hundred and fifty yards into the ravine below, the violence and ruggedness of its descent, stripping it of every limb, and leaving nothing but a long naked trunk, two hundred and sixty feet in length as I afterwards ascertained. The storm was absolutely terrific and appalling in its violence and I no longer wondered at the cause of so many enormous trees lying uprooted and decaying about this region. It reached its climax, and began to abate – “young ‘55” had “shook himself” and given us a specimen of his prowess on a first acquaintance. As evening approached the storm continued to subside. It is now night, a snowy mantle covers the earth, the elements are at peace, the winds are hushed, the bright stars twinkle in a cloudless sky, and the “lady moon” looks benignantly down upon the scene *note on next page. It will also have the effect to drive the deer, bear, and other game, down into the lower valleys for food. There they will find plenty of young and tender grass, which starts with the first fall showers, and no snow to trouble them, but there, they will also find themselves in the more thickly populated districts, and among plenty of good rifle shots – The deer are getting pretty well thinned out, to what they used to be, although they are yet numerous in some locations; the wintry snows drive them down to the plains and valleys, and in the summer as the snow melts, they retire back into the mountains, following up near the edge of the snow, and feeding upon the young grass. A young “grizzly” was killed about a mile from here a few days ago; he was a cub weighing nearly five hundred pounds. He was discovered drinking in a ravine by a squaw, belonging to a “rancheria” near by; she ran home and gave the alarm, and “bruin” soon found himself hemmed in on all sides by enemies and assailed with arrows in front and rea; he “showed fight,” but it was of no use, he stood no show at all, and in a short time he struck his colours and he surrendered overpowered by arrows and superior numbers. They took him to a town called “Indian Diggins,” some six miles below here, where the meat commanded a very ready sale. In less than an hour it was all sold, at twenty five cents per pound, for “grizzly” meat is very good eating, and being very fat, probably most of the “boys” went in for a little “hair oil” to straighten out their hair with Sundays. No more at present.
This storm will supply the very driest portion of the diggings with plenty of the long-prayed for water. The shovel and pick will ring again, wielded by willing hands, the auriferous earth will again rush bounding through the long sluices, yielding up its glittering treasure, to reward and gladden the heart of the toiling miner, and business of all kinds will receive a fresh impetus.