So in better spirits the two companions kept on their way.
ON THE YUBA RIVER
On the following day Joe and his comrade fell in with a party of men who, like themselves, were on their way to the Yuba River. They were permitted to join them, and made an arrangement for a share of the provisions. This removed all anxiety and insured their reaching their destination without further adventure.
The banks of the Yuba presented a busy and picturesque appearance. On the banks was a line of men roughly clad, earnestly engaged in scooping out gravel and pouring it into a rough cradle, called a rocker. This was rocked from side to side until the particles of gold, if there were any, settled at the bottom and were picked out and gathered into bags. At the present time there are improved methods of separating gold from the earth, but the rocker is still employed by Chinese miners.
In the background were tents and rude cabins, and there was the unfailing accessory of a large mining camp, the gambling tent, where the banker, like a wily spider, lay in wait to appropriate the hard-earned dust of the successful miner.
Joe and his friend took their station a few rods from the river and gazed at the scene before them.
“Well, Mr. Bickford,” said Joe, “the time has come when we are to try our luck.”
“Yes,” said Joshua. “Looks curious, doesn’t it? If I didn’t know, I’d think them chaps fools, stoopin’ over there and siftin’ mud. It ’minds me of when I was a boy and used to make dirt pies.”
“Suppose we take a day and look round a little. Then we can find out about how things are done, and work to better advantage.”
“Just as you say, Joe, I must go to work soon, for I hain’t nary red.”
“I’ll stand by you, Mr. Bickford.”
“You’re a fust-rate feller, Joe. You seem to know just what to do.”
“It isn’t so long since I was a greenhorn and allowed myself to be taken in by Hogan.”
“You’ve cut your eye-teeth since then.”
“I have had some experience of the world, but I may get taken in again.”
Joe and his friend found the miners social and very ready to give them information.
“How much do I make a day?” said one in answer to a question from Joshua. “Well, it varies. Sometimes I make ten dollars, and from that all the way up to twenty-five. Once I found a piece worth fifty dollars. I was in luck then.”
“I should say you were,” said Mr. Bickford. “The idea of findin’ fifty dollars in the river. It looks kind of strange, don’t it, Joe?”
“Are any larger pieces ever found here?” asked Joe.
“I have seen larger nuggets on exhibition in San Francisco, worth several hundred dollars. Are any such to be found here?”
“Generally they come from the dry diggings. We don’t often find such specimens in the river washings. But these are more reliable.”