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Land of Little Rain - Mary Austin

Jimville: A Bret Harte Town

The town looks to have spilled out of Squaw Gulch, and that, in fact, is the sequence of its growth. It began around the Bully Boy and Theresa group of mines midway up Squaw Gulch, spreading down to the smelter at the mouth of the ravine. The freight wagons dumped their loads as near to the mill as the slope allowed, and Jimville grew in between. Above the Gulch begins a pine wood with sparsely grown thickets of lilac, azalea, and odorous blossoming shrubs.

Squaw Gulch is a very sharp, steep, ragged-walled ravine, and that part of Jimville which is built in it has only one street, in summer paved with bone-white cobbles, in the wet months a frothy yellow flood. All between the ore dumps and solitary small cabins, pieced out with tin cans and packing cases, run footpaths drawing down to the Silver Dollar saloon. When Jimville was having the time of its life the Silver Dollar had those same coins let into the bar top for a border, but the proprietor pried them out when the glory departed. There are three hundred inhabitants in Jimville and four bars, though you are not to argue anything from that.

Hear now how Jimville came by its name. Jim Calkins discovered the Bully Boy, Jim Baker located the Theresa. When Jim Jenkins opened an eating-house in his tent he chalked up on the flap, "Best meals in Jimville, $1.00," and the name stuck.

There was more human interest in the origin of Squaw Gulch, though it tickled no humor. It was Dimmick's squaw from Aurora way. If Dimmick had been anything except New Englander he would have called her a mahala, but that would not have bettered his behavior. Dimmick made a strike, went East, and the squaw who had been to him as his wife took to drink. That was the bald way of stating it in the Aurora country. The milk of human kindness, like some wine, must not be uncorked too much in speech lest it lose savor. This is what they did. The woman would have returned to her own people, being far gone with child, but the drink worked her bane. By the river of this ravine her pains overtook her. There Jim Calkins, prospecting, found her dying with a three days' babe nozzling at her breast. Jim heartened her for the end, buried her, and walked back to Poso, eighteen miles, the child poking in the folds of his denim shirt with small mewing noises, and won support for it from the rough-handed folks of that place. Then he came back to Squaw Gulch, so named from that day, and discovered the Bully Boy. Jim humbly regarded this piece of luck as interposed for his reward, and I for one believed him. If it had been in mediaeval times you would have had a legend or a ballad. Bret Harte would have given you a tale. You see in me a mere recorder, for I know what is best for you; you shall blow out this bubble from your own breath.

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ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - glossary
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - comments

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