Memories of “Discovering Gold!”

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A couple weekends ago, my short story reading project led me to read Jack London’s short story “All Gold Canyon.” I own an ebook of London’s complete works and added this tale to my 52-story roster for 2013 reading. I chose it because of its tantalizing title and because it was one I hadn’t read before. I was not disappointed.

***Mild Spoiler Alert*** (this story is in the public domain and may be read/found for free online in many places – like this one.)

The story begins with the protagonist, a solitary prospector, coming upon a pristine canyon in the Southwestern U.S. The canyon is singular in its unspoiled natural beauty, and London’s description of it is a real tour de force. The prospector takes out a pan and begins testing the dirt for traces of gold. As  you could imagine by the story’s title, he is not disappointed either. Things go well and eventually he finds the source of the gold deposit. Extracting the gold won’t be that easy, though, as he must deal with natural obstacles as well as a nefarious “claim-jumper” before the story ends.

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All Gold Canyon struck a chord with me because it invoked some fond memories. The story includes a pretty lengthy description of the panning for gold, maybe more than I’d ever heard or read about that practice before. At that point in the story, a recollection from childhood hit me and for several minutes I became lost in “the realm of memory“…

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When I was growing up, my family had some LP records from a series called “My First Golden Record Library” that my two brothers and I listened to often, and of these our undisputed favorite was one titled “Adventures that Built America.” (album jacket pictured above) This record sounds somewhat cheesy when listened to today (a few years ago my Mom burned a copy to CD for me), but at the time it was high, “adventure” – for lack of a better word. It contained five individual tracks where the listener would ‘actively participate’ (there were quiet spots on the record where we were supposed to respond. The breathless narrator would urge us with “Say, ’yes,’ adventurer!” – or whatever the situation called for.) There were five separate adventures on the record, starting with Christopher Columbus discovering America (“You’ve sighted land, Adventurer!”) and moving on to Paul Revere’s ride, The Pony Express, and the Wright Brothers’ first flight in Kitty Hawk. There was also one about the California Gold Rush that started with its discovery at Sutter’s Mill (pictured below) in 1848.

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The sound effects were great, and in the Gold Rush “episode” the listener is part of a wagon-riding, claim-grabbing rush. Even as I’m typing this, I can hear the water swishing as the listener is panning for gold (“You’ve discovered gold, Adventurer!”). Re-listening to this record today – some ’drive-by’ research indicates it was produced in 1962 – it sounds pretty corny and campy. Complete with its often breathless narrator, over the top songs and music, it’s a wonder I didn’t grow up and become a great patriot of some kind…

(below: panning for gold)

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Have you read any of Jack London’s shorter works?  You’re missing out if you haven’t.  Which are your favorites or which do you recommend?  Are you a member of the generation that grew up listening to records like “Adventures that Built America?” Do you enjoy it when your reading opens a portal backward in time and into your own “realm of memory?”  I’d love to hear about it…

(Below: author Jack London)

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10 Comments

  1. Dale said,

    May 14, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    As you know, Jay, I’m a fan of London, too. I still laugh thinking about Moon-Face and his novels The Sea Wolf and White Fang are among my favorites.

    From time to time, I will see something Disney-related and remember a record my grandmother had of Mickey and the Beanstalk. I think it was narrated by Dinah Shore. I listened to that over and over again when I would visit her. My grandparents had the kind of stereo console with the sliding doors on top and the record player inside. It was a rather large piece of furniture.

    -Dale

    Like

    • Jay said,

      May 14, 2013 at 1:11 pm

      Moon-Face was a classic! I might just have to go read that one again right now. It’s rare when a book or story makes me laugh out loud. That was one of the few that did.

      We had some other records too, of the story or educational variety. Not the one you mention, but I seem to recall one with a genie, or Aladdin, or maybe it was Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. I’ll have to see what I can find the next time I’m over at Mom’s house…

      My grandparents had a pretty ancient ‘stereo’ console too. I remember one time when we were visiting them, some old, thick, heavy 78s were discovered, which we listened to. What I remember about them, in addition to their heft, was that some were red instead of black like the vinyl most of us are familiar with.

      Like

  2. Brian Brown said,

    June 16, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    I really liked your article. It makes me look forward to reading All Gold Canyon myself. I was amazed that you have a digital version of that record! Like you, my brothers and I loved listening to that particular record among the many in the “library”. I especially liked the way he directly brought you into the story by talking to you, “Adventurer”. Our record set didn’t survive the years and it was disappointing that I couldn’t share those with my children. I would love to get it to share with my grandchildren if there is any way to get a copy. Please contact me to discuss the possibilities. Thanks for your article as well as your response!

    Like

  3. Jay said,

    June 17, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Hi Brian,

    Glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you do read All Gold Canyon. I’m becoming more and more of a Jack London fan the older I get.

    I’ll send you an email.

    -Jay

    Like

    • Brian Brown said,

      September 19, 2013 at 9:38 pm

      Hi Jay,

      Finally fitting this book into my schedule!

      Not sure what happened but I never received an email from you or a notification that you replied to me here. Still would love to discuss possibility of getting this. Please email me again. Thanks!

      Like

      • Jay said,

        September 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm

        Hi Brian,
        Sorry, I kind of let this slip off my radar as well. I’ll shoot you an email momemntarily.
        -Jay

        Like

        • Jabin Chartrand said,

          November 28, 2016 at 12:38 pm

          I’d be interested in getting a digital copy of this record as well. I loved listening as a kid and would like to share it with my son. “Say ‘Yes’ adventurer”

          Like

        • Jay said,

          November 28, 2016 at 12:53 pm

          Thanks for the comment. It’s been a few years. Let me see if I can track down that CD…

          Like

  4. Alyssa said,

    November 27, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    I grew up listening to those stories! Still have the songs memorized. Panning for gold was so fun…but my favorite was Paul Revere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      November 28, 2016 at 8:30 am

      Thanks for the comment and for stopping by, Alyssa. My brothers and I had those tracks memorized too. For some reason I remember one voice saying “But I ain’t ready yet!” at the start of the Gold Rush claim dash. Also riding with the Pony Express when the Indians attack. “You got one!” pow pow “You got two more! They’re droppin’ like flies!” I suppose the records kept us occupied in the way that videotapes/DVD have helped babysit for modern parents. 🙂

      Like


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