Thank you for the warm welcome to Petticoats and Pistols! It’s an honor to be invited as a regular blogger and to share the same space with these stellar writers. I’m looking forward to chatting with all of you. As some already know, my stories are set in both the American and Canadian West. I’m currently writing about the Mounties.
Have you ever wondered what it was like, panning for gold? On my trip to the Yukon to research the Klondike Gold Rush, I tried my hand at it. (The photo above is one I took of the Yukon River.)
Here I am, giving it a shot. Gold is nineteen times the weight of water, so it naturally sinks to the bottom of the pan. The tricky part is washing away the gravel into smaller and smaller portions while still hanging onto the precious stuff. There’s quite a skill involved. They have a name for the proper technique: dips and shakes. Never mix these motions together or you’ll lose the gold. Dipping the pan creates waves like an ocean tide over the pebbles. A gentle shake rattles them free until all you have left are nuggets or flakes. Easier said than done!
My arms started to feel heavy after only a few minutes. Imagine standing in a river for hours, or days or weeks till you found something of value. Another thing I hadn’t counted on was the iciness of the water. In the Yukon, spring thaw occurs in May, but the rivers remain frigid. During the Gold Rush days, I’m sure fingers went numb within minutes. How about a person’s feet and legs?
These are the flakes I came home with. They’re suspended in water. Each flake is roughly worth two bucks, and I found five. Some of the nuggets the stampeders discovered in the Klondike were the size of men’s fists–the largest the world has ever seen. And they were plucking hundreds of them from the riverbeds!
I couldn’t help myself–I brought home a gold pan as a souvenir. Most Klondike stampeders did not strike gold, so the pans themselves were more often used to wash socks or to fry fish. I accidentally left mine under an open window earlier in the year. It got rained on, hence rusty. But now I feel like a real old-timer. Cost of pan: $12.95. Predicted selling price in future garage sale five years from now: 50 cents.
I try to imagine what it must have been like to strike gold big time, but the closest I come to feeling the excitement is when I watch the TV program, “Antiques Roadshow.”
Do you have any hidden ‘nuggets’ at home? If the “Antiques Roadshow” were coming to your town, what’s the one thing you’d stand in line for, to get appraised?
I’ll start. From my husband’s side of the family, I inherited this ladies antique wristwatch. I believe it’s from the late 1800s. It was brought over from Germany, but may have been made anywhere in Europe (it doesn’t have the maker’s initials, but an emblem). The cool thing is it’s actually a lady’s pocket watch that some ingenious person designed a strap for, so it can sit on the wrist if the lady didn’t want it pinned to her blouse or sitting in her pocket. It must have been the way they first came up with an idea for a wristwatch.
The watch sat on my desk the whole time I was writing my first novel, THE DOCTOR’S HOMECOMING. It became the watch my heroine, the first female doctor in town, owned. Every time I touched it, I thought of Emma. From my search on the internet, I don’t believe it’s worth a huge amount, but it’s fun to imagine it’s worth a fortune.
In honor of my first official post on Petticoats and Pistols, and in celebration of my current release now in bookstores, KLONDIKE FEVER, I’ll be randomly choosing a winner from someone who posts a comment here today. Prize: One Mountie T-shirt (black, XL, 100% cotton) along with a compact RCMP pen, perfect size for a purse.
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