Listen to author Michael Maser reading from Gold Mad:
Gold Mad – Prologue
Gold Mad – Gold Discovery
Gold Mad – Gold Rush
Gold Mad – Cape Beulah
Text of Audio Excerpts
Audio excerpt 1 – Prologue
Dank air mixed with blasting powder tickled Pat Parrot’s nostrils. Bathed in flickering light thrown from a torch jutting from the mine wall, he hoisted a scaling slick and gouged a fist-sized chunk of quartz vein from the rock face in front of him. He paused to wipe a dirty broadcloth over his dripping forehead.
Except for his breathing, the air was still and the darkness mute as he studied the rock. His grimy, callused fingers traced over rough-formed blebs of gold.
A cut torn open on Parrot’s knuckle leaked blood that trickled down his thumb. “Flesh, stone, eternity,” he muttered before licking his thumb then tossing the rock toward an ore cart parked in a curtain of shadow. He continued to stare down the dark mine tunnel, listening. A splashing noise in the distance preceded two
men who emerged from the darkness, walking toward him.
“You’re still here,” one of the men grunted. “Your shift ended more than an hour ago.”
“I like it fine when nobody’s around,” Parrot said. “How come you’re late?”
“Big boss man’s hanging around, asking all kinds of questions about the vein.”
“I bet he’s planning to tunnel in from the north creek,” the other man said. “Hoping to find some new ore.”
“More likely he’s thinking about shuttin’ down,” Parrot said. “There’s too many faults and splits here. Not enough mineral.”
“Well, I don’t know about that,” the man continued. “I seen lots of color in the rock I’ve been bustin’ up.”
“You don’t know piss,” Parrot told him, handing him his pick. “I’ve been chasin’ veins for nine years and I know when a streak is playing out.”
Audio excerpt 2 – Gold Discovery
Carmack stumbled a few steps to a bar in the middle of the stream where he scooped out a pan of sand, then crouched to wash it in the current. Each time he dipped the pan into the water he would rock it from side to side, working with gravity and the energy of the stream to sort and wash away the lightest particles, usually mud and clay. The heavier particles, including any gold flakes or nuggets, would sink to the bottom of the pan.
At first, the pan of sand the white man washed down on this site was no different than the thousands of pans that had preceded it. Initially, the composition was fine gravel, sand, clay and water. Then came a moment when what was left in the pan represented a small fraction of the initial scoop, the true concentrate. With a deft flick of the pan, the white man swirled the concentrate into an arc for analysis and final judgment.
Of all the judgments the white man had pronounced on all the panloads of sand and gravel he had rocked back and forth into concentrate, only a few revealed enough gold to suggest he might turn a profit by working the main stream bed with a sluice box or other placer mining gear. Even fewer were the times he’d seen a tail of gold flakes painted on the bottom of the pan.
This time, when he turned his pan towards the sun, what he saw in the residue was not so much a tail of gold as a ribbon, wide and long as his thumb. Textured with fine flakes and nuggets the size of baby’s teeth. A richer sight than he had ever dreamed.
Audio excerpt 3 – Gold Rush
During the winter of 1896-97, the mining claims of the Klondike yielded flakes clumped together in layers thick as saddle leather and nuggets scattered in the creek gravels like birdseed. With gold valued at sixteen dollars an ounce, some miners cleaned up four dollars of gold from a pan of gravel, some found forty. Some found four thousand dollars worth in a single day. Sweat and blood were traded silently for gold through the early autumn blizzards and under the frozen grip of endless Arctic winter darkness. Fingers and toes throbbed with pain or froze solid and still the hunger pumped strong.
With empty stomachs and aching muscles, somber men shook gravel and pawed into muck until their eyes burned with fatigue. Beside the light of flickering candles or moving amphibiously through ice fog, the living resembled the dead, only the dead were thought to be more comfortable. Time was marked by sleep or a semi-conscious period when men ignored the most urgent instincts, subsisting instead on one reward – the slow accumulation of gold as it trickled over numb fingers onto rusted scales and into cotton socks, tin cans, glass jars.
Audio excerpt 4 – Cape Beulah
Pat Parrot lay with his legs pulled up toward his chest, a thin blanket shrouding his scrawny body. His eyes were closed though his jaw moved involuntarily and his arms twitched. A scraggly beard grew on his face that was otherwise defined by red blotches and chalk-white skin.
Parrot’s body shivered and he kicked out a bony bare foot from beneath the blanket. “My maps,” he blurted out. “They’re ruined.” His eyes flashed open then shut again. He moaned and clawed at the side of the bed.
A woman sitting nearby leaned over and daubed at his face with a damp cloth. “Rest easy sir,” she said, with a thick British accent, attempting to comfort him. She turned to a child standing nearby and instructed him. “Run and fetch Cyrus. Tell him the man is waking up.”
The child ran from the room. Parrot continued to thrash about in the bed for several minutes before resting again. Then his eyes flicked open and he struggled to focus his vision. He slowly rotated his head and looked about the room.
The woman reached over to wipe at his forehead and Parrot drew back nervously.
He groaned loudly and retracted.
“You have nothing to fear,” the woman said.
At that moment a door opened and three men with long beards and farmer’s clothing entered the room and approached the bed where Parrot lay. Again Parrot drew back in his bed and stared at the faces gazing at him.
“Who the hell are you?” Parrot rasped. “Where am I?”
“Welcome to Cape Beulah, my friend,” said an older man whose beard was streaked with gray. “You washed up on our shore almost four weeks ago.
Parrot swallowed hard and his adam’s apple expanded and contracted like a bullfrog’s. “Well, that’s a story and a half,” he rasped slowly. “When the hell is the next boat stopping by?”
The men exchanged glances.
“Boats do not stop by here, my friend,” Cyrus told him. “Our village is isolated far beyond shipping traffic.”