Sunday, November 20, 2016

Who wants a bunch of gold anyway...

I was watching a show on the gold rush the other day and quickly came to the conclusion I would have made a lousy pioneer.
I am just not a settle-the-new-world kind of guy.
The documentary told of the hardships these hardy souls endured in their quest make it to the great gold fields of the north.
They would walk for weeks, even months on end.
My first question was: what sort of bathroom facilities were located along said trail?
I am pretty sure the answer involved leaves, sticks and a very uncomfortable rash.
That alone is enough to keep me safely tucked away in some already-developed part of the world.
The documentary said many of the gold rushers had never spent time outside of a city before and had to learn as they went.
I would imagine they learned really fast what leaves to avoid when it came to personal use.
'Leaves of three let it be' was a vital piece of information. Of course the aboriginal population already knew about the 'evil leaves' because they had lived in the land since time began.
I like to think there was at least one Aboriginal jokester who convinced a plump, citified white boy that 'leaves of three are ideal for thee.'
The intrepid, but not too skilled frontiersman, would then grab a handful of poison ivy after taking care of that personal business I mentioned earlier.
It would be easy to tell what gold seekers fell for the gag – they would be the ones walking like their rear end was on fire.
Our jokester would then go back to his village with a great story to tell.
"You will not believe what I just got some white guy to do. You know that plant that makes you itch really bad? Well..."
They of course would break out in roaring laughter every time they saw a cowboy doing the poison ivy shuffle.
"Hey white guys, you know what else is a good idea - sleeping with food in your tent. Bears hate that and will avoid you like the plague."
Did any of that really happen? Probably not, but it is kind of fun to think about.
Then there was the bathing issue. Many of those intrepid pioneers would bathe once a year whether they needed it or not.
It was not an easy task to lather up in those days, and the last thing someone wanted to do was dive into an ice-cold lake or stream.
It was much easier to just smell bad, and besides there were no ladies to impress anyway so what's the point?
"Joe you smell absolutely delightful today, what have you done?"
"Well Fred, I took a quick bath in that crick over thar and then used the natural wonders of the aloe vera plant to keep me smelling like a fresh spring rain"
Of course the natives were kicking back and lounging in local hot springs.
"Do you think we should tell the white guys about this?"
"Naw, it's way more fun to watch them the way they are."
"Good point."
While they may have been adventurous, frontiersmen were a smelly lot with poor hygiene: no matter how hard you scrub, brushing your teeth with your finger does not make them clean.
So let's review: no bathroom facilities, you smell like a camel barfed into an old gym shoe, your breath could slay a dragon and you spend countless hours surrounded by other men.
As fun as that sounds, is gold really that important? I think I would just find a nice job in the city, squirrel away some savings and work on retirement.

But the lure of gold was too strong for many and they left the comfort of the city and plunged head first into the challenges only Mother Nature could provide.
And after a while I am sure even Mother Nature plugged her nose when an intrepid gold seeker went by.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

No comments: