Heirs to History’s Gold
California! Paved with gold,
Loose nuggets for collecting,
Brought thousands to the western lands,
A few got rich and most did not.
The way to mining heaven
Was own the general store, saloon,
Or invent jeans from denim.
The surest way to make a strike
Was be first to arrive,
So Colorado’s gold rush came
In eighteen fifty nine.
Next came Wyoming,
And as the nineteen hundreds loomed,
Alaska raised its banner.
They followed placer gold streams
Into the highest mountains.
Digging for the veins of wealth
Tapped into toxic fountains.
Central City, Breckenridge,
South Park and Leadville.
Red Mountain, Cripple Creek,
Telluride, and Summitville.
The magic of the era,
Our romantic Wild West,
America’s foundation myth
Has left us quite a mess.
Four thousand mines leak acid waste
From Colorado’s peaks.
Gold Kings are gone, but we’re still here
Along the mountain creeks.
It was the way that things were done,
It built the lives we lead,
But, damn, I wish they had known more
Before they did the deed.
Billions clean-ups cost us,
We heirs to history,
So we can ski and hike and fish,
Drink water hazard-free.
Boneheaded errors at an abandoned mine clean up contaminated miles of Colorado’s Animas River, all the way to New Mexico. It’s not likely to be the last disaster as America deals with the legacy of our Wild West and early 20th century. But we still find the era fascinating and alluring.
“On average, half the gold-seekers made a modest profit, after taking all expenses into account. Most, however, especially those arriving later, made little or wound up losing money…
“Recent scholarship confirms that merchants made far more money than miners during the Gold Rush… [but] many unlucky merchants set up in settlements which disappeared…
“Boardinghouses, food preparation, sewing, and laundry were highly profitable businesses often run by women who realized men would pay well for a service done by a woman. Brothels also brought in large profits.”
Mining not only built the American West, it accelerated the conquest and demise of Native Americans. wikipedia California Gold Rush and wikipedia Gold mining in Colorado
“A spill at a mine that turned a Colorado river orange and sent toxic waste barreling downstream 100 miles has many people wondering if the mining site in their town could be next. The answer from experts: Yes. Last week’s spill of three million gallons of acidic mining waste from the historic Gold King mine into the Animas River north of Durango ‘was an accident waiting to happen.'” nationalgeographic toxic pollution
Here’s the link to the Gold Rush TV series.