Oh, My momma warned me about boys like you

November 2, 2014

An Experiment in point of view

An irascible yet lovable keyboard pal had a glimpse at my essay about Mart Taylor (1824-1894) and his popular Gold Rush song called “California Humbugs,” encouraged me to write more creatively about Mart’s world:

This California is a humbug State,

   ‘Tis out of the world, in the bushes,

Where, to meet with a poor man’s fate,

   Many a poor devil pushes.


[Chorus] Haul off the jacket, and roll up the sleeve,

   For mining is a hard kind of labor.

Haul off the jacket, and roll up the sleeve,

   For mining is a hard kind of labor I believe.


Merchants hope to accumulate a pile,

   By selling goods to the miners,

They will trust them out, and in a little while,

   “Bust up” for the want of shiners.


Haul off the jacket, &c.


Each druggist clerk, who comes from the States,

   “Sets up” in the bleeding profession,

If he kills a man, that he’s called too late,

   Is excuse for the quackish transgression.


Haul off the jacket, &c.


If you have a case to refer to the law,

   And a lawyer for you shall begin it,

Your dust will somehow slip his paw,

   And you’re broke if you happen to win it.


Haul off the jacket, &c.


The priest will preach one day in the week,

   And cause the sinners to tremble,

Read the Bible all day, and when it is dark,

   With the rogues he’s bound to assemble.


Haul off the jacket, &c.


The miner works hard with the shovel and the pick,

   Till his body is feeble and tender,

He goes into town at the end of the week,

   And spends all his dust on a bender.


Haul off the jacket, &c.


The gambler deals from the bottom all day,

   And loiters about the Diana,

He raises the devil, when he gets broke,

   He raises the stake from a miner.


Haul off the jacket, &c.


The miner lays himself down to sleep,

   The fleas are jumping around him,

Or overgrown bed bugs over him creep,

   And leave him less than they found him.


Haul off the jacket, &c.


Mart lived seventy years old. What to the wayfarer is a lifespan? Is it long enough to see the transformation in the American way of faring? It certainly is not long enough to draw any definitive conclusions. This is not quite a history, but conversely, it is no fiction; what follows will be an experiment half-baked and a departure from Austen into another world… that of a young America attempted from a male vantage point. To any decedents of Mart (who does not appear at first, but rather, at last as an itinerate preacher without a religion) or others – legitimate or otherwise – please do not take offense – just enjoy the imagined backstories of wayfarers and their songs.


Source: I would recommend Debby McClatchy’s interpretation found on ‘til the good times come (Trails End 098) and Mart Taylor, The Gold Digger’s Song Book containing the most popular, humorous & sentimental Songs. San Francisco: Book Club of California, 1975. Some of the figures of speech come from Taylor’s Local Lyrics and Miscellaneous Poems (San Francisco, Hutchings & Rosenfield, 1858).

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