I love history as much as anyone, but there are some who live and breathe it. I am thinking of a fellow vampire aficionado who has the most unusual backstory. I had the good fortune of meeting him recently. He had his tale to tell. Vampires are known to “live” for a very long time. It may be for centuries or a thousand years. You’ve seen them in movies wearing assorted attire of an era. During this time, they claim to have witnessed actual historical events, being right there in the middle of the action. His story was intriguing. It wasn’t about the Middle Ages as many vampires report. It wasn’t about the 18th century when everyone wore lace collars and powdered wigs. This is quite colorful. Instead, he said that he had made a fortune using a gold sluice during the California Gold Rush. Maybe he knew James Marshall at Sutter’s Mill, the beginning of the frenzy. It was literally mass hysteria.
Not knowing what such a device is, I asked him to give me some details. I remembered a little about the gold mania in the Sacramento Valley early in 1848 and he said he had been there. Wow. He went in search of those precious gold nuggets like everyone else from around the world at the time. He came all the way from Hungary. He blended right into the miner population and no one suspected him of blood sucking—he kept it very quiet. Ha! He stayed until 1852 at which time he was satisfied with his total haul. People had mortgaged their homes and sold everything they owned to come. Some left dejected. Not him. His riches were deep. It was time to move on. Vampires are restless and like to roam.
He told me about the wooden prospecting box called a sluice. He didn’t enjoy backbreaking work trying to extract gold from a mountain side. They were everywhere out west. You could “pan” for gold or go for it whole hog with this nifty sifting object. It would sort sediment and rocks from the good stuff. You saw them everywhere, he explained. They were so used that they literally wore out and had to be replaced. It was the method of the moment. The maker of the sluice was probably a rich carpenter given the demand. The store that sold picks and shovels did equally well. It was boomtown time. California’s population soared. This old-timer vampire was witness to the excitement.
“You were one of the ‘49ers,” I asked. He nodded. I said, “so cool.” Imagine this modern denizen of the digital era way back then wearing a floppy hat and escorting a pack mule complete with saddle bags. He probably frequented the many miner bars and wanted to suck the life out of the saloon gals. “Don’t ask too much,” crooned this creature of the darkness.” But I absolutely wanted to know more.