Hard Times By: Athena Kontos “GOLD IN CALIFORNIA! JAMES W. MARSHALL WORKING AT SAW MILL IN COLOMA CALIFORNIA HAS STRUCK GOLD! “ My father screamed as he ran into the kitchen. He worked at a farm with a lot of other men. He didn't make a lot of money so my father is very interested in the "Gold Rush." He thinks about leaving to find gold but I doubt it'll happen. My friend Elizabeth's dad found out a couple days ago and he left yesterday. Elizabeth, her mother, and I were standing outside of the house, waving good-bye to Elizabeth’s father. It was a windy, rainy day which made it much worse for her and her mother. "I'm going to miss my dad. I won't see him for a while because it takes a week for him to get there. Well, I heard that anyway. And plus Momma said it's going to be difficult because we don’t have a lot of money and no help with the chores," Elizabeth said with tears in her eyes. "It's okay Elizabeth. I'll come and help you with your chores. And it'll probably be hard but we'll get through it. Together," I said with a smile. "Thank you Mary-Alice," Elizabeth said with a smile. “I am really going to miss him. I've never spent more than one day away from him. I'm so upset." "Don't worry. I'll be here to help," I said hugging Elizabeth. “Oh, it's supper time. See you tomorrow Elizabeth. 4:00?" "4:00! Don't forget." Elizabeth said. We meet every day at 4:00 p.m. to talk and hang out. Elizabeth is my best friend and my neighbor. We lived by each other since we were about 4. I've hung out with her every day at 4:00 after all of our chores are finished. When we do our chores, usually we clean dishes and work outside in the fields. Sometimes it's dirty out there so the kids wear ragged clothes and hats. ** ** ** ** "Momma!" I yelled. "I'm home! Is supper ready?" "Yes it's ready. Come sit down in the kitchen!" she yelled back. "Momma, did you know Elizabeth’s father went to go find gold?" "Yes. I saw him leave. Poor family, they must be having trouble being without the support of their father," she said. "It would be hard not having the support of your father," my mother said eating potatoes and corn. “But I know little Nicholas would be there to take my place won't you?" Nicholas was my 8 year-old brother. He's three years younger than me. "Ha-ha. Nicholas can't even lift a box. He would be helpless with these chores," I said. "Now Mary-Alice, you be nice to your brother. One day he'll be big and strong! Right Nicholas?" My dad said with a smirk. "YEA!" Nicholas screamed with corn in his mouth. ** ** ** ** It's 9:00 now. My father is putting me into bed. "Father?" "Yes Mary-Alice?" "Are you going to leave to find gold like Elizabeth’s dad did?" I said wondering. "I'm not sure sweetheart but I do know if I do I will come back as soon and I can." he said kissing me on the forehead. "Alright. Good night!" I said. "Goodnight Mary-Alice." When my father walked out of the room, i thought of how it would be like if he did
leave. I imagined that it was the same. I would still be doing the same job and so would my mom. Nothing would be different. ** ** ** ** 4:00 "Hey Elizabeth. How was your day?" I said. "It was terrible. I worked so hard i don't think i worked harder a day in my life! Oh, and do you want to walk to the lake?" she said. "Yes sure. Was your day that bad?" I said. "Yeah. It was so hard. I had two times the work and i was sweating like a hog!" she said frowning. "Awe. I hope it gets better through time. But remember, your dad will be back soon enough. But I think if my dad left, it would still be the same thing. I mean it's not anything different if he's here or not." I said not knowing what it would lead to. "Mary-Alice, living without my dad is hard work! You have to do twice as many chores and you have to do some nasty and hard things. The easiest thing I did all day was clean 20 plates, 18 bowls, and hundreds of spoons and forks at my dad's farm. They all eat lunch together and it wasn’t pleasant..."Elizabeth said. "Elizabeth, doing a little bit more chores won't hurt you. And it's probably easy as pie you just don't want to do the work, "I said getting myself in trouble. "It's very hard Mary-Alice. Why are you saying that stuff? You don't even know what it's like." "I'm sorry," I said sarcastically." And it's not hard to see that a little hard work won't do you any harm. I could probably do your job in a snap! No problems, no worries, no complaining!" I screamed in her face. "YOU KNOW WHAT? IT'S DONE. I'M DONE. I'M GOING HOME. GO AHEAD AND YELL AT YOURSELF BECAUSE I SURE AS WON'T BE THERE! "she said with tears in her eyes. Mary-Alice whispered, "I'm sorry." ** ** ** ** It has been at least six days since Elizabeth and I last talked. I've seen her around the street but she doesn't look at me. We stay away from each other and I feel bad, I miss her so much. "Momma?" I screamed," Are you in your room?" "Yes! I'm in my room. Come in if you'd like." "Okay." I walk upstairs. "Momma? You know how I got in a fight with Elizabeth? Do you think I was wrong about what happened?" I said eager for the answer. "Now, you know there are two sides to every story. But this story there's only one side I believe. I mean she's living this and going through with it. You’re not. How would you know what it would be like?" "I don't know. I was just saying what I was thinking and I guess I was thinking wrong..." "Don't worry sweetheart. Why don't you just go and apologize?" "But momma, she yelled at me first. Shouldn’t SHE go and apologize?” "If you say so..." I started to think about what my mother said. I started to realize i was being really mean to Elizabeth and I needed to change how I was acting. ** ** ** **
"EVERYONE! CHILDREN, SARAH. COME DOWN. I HAVE SOME NEWS!" my father said, “I have some pretty big news. I uhh, well, I’m leaving. I'm going to California to find some gold for the family. I know it’s across the country but I’ll be back. Sooner than you think." It was like time froze. I couldn’t hear anything. All I was focused on was what was going to happen. No one could believe their ears. My father was leaving. I mean he did do some work and it would be harder by just a little but i would still miss him dearly. He just left. Going on his own path to find us the money and gold we need. But what i was thinking, wasn’t about him finding gold. It was about my father coming home safe. The few couple of days have been easy. But each day they kind of get harder and harder. Elizabeth’s words started to make sense. Her sentences started to fit my world. I was living through her words. She was right but I didn't want to admit it. Every day after the chores are done, my shirt had been soaked in sweat and it was nasty. Just like Elizabeth said. She was right and i knew it. One day after both Elizabeth's and my chores were done we ran into each other outside of the farm doors. "Hey Elizabeth. I know you’re mad at me and I know i said some un-true things but now i know who was speaking the truth. And I am very sorry for all the screaming and yelling. It shouldn't have went like that. I was just trying to express my feelings and i didn't know at the time. I didn't live through it yet like you have." "I know you didn't mean to say those things. You didn't know how it felt or anything. But now you know right? And you're sorry, right? Oh I am sorry too. I shouldn't have been mean to you and screamed. It was rude of me." "No Elizabeth. It was alright and yes I’m sorry, i shouldn't have acted so rude and mean like that. " "No worries. Friends?" "Best." "So how’s life without your dad?" "It's been better. I don't like it I wish he would come back. Doing all these chores without him is really tough. And I really miss him a lot." "Yeah same here. "MARY-ALICE COME INSIDE!I HAVE GOOD NEWS!" my mother yelled. ** ** ** ** My mother had gotten a phone call from my father saying he will be arriving at home soon and he had a lot of gold to bring us. "Momma? Is daddy coming home?" Nicholas said. "Ha-ha, I believe so my dear, I believe so." That phone call was wonderful, Nicholas and I both got to talk to him and he told us we’ll be seeing him in a few days. And we will have money, and my relationship with Elizabeth is good as new. Everything seemed perfect.
Author’s Note My story Hard Times was based on the California Gold Rush. James W. Marshall found gold on January 24, 1848 in Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. He is an important person because he was the first person to find gold and he showed to his boss John Sutter who own Sutter’s Mill. The first people to hear of the founding of this gold were Oregon and Hawaii. This brought around 300,000 people flocking to California in late 1848 who were called 49’ers. Families usually moved to California for gold instead of just someone going there and coming back. Families had to work hard to find gold. Jobs that families had while getting gold was picking it out of the river with a pickaxe or trough. Others would work in the town to make money for their families. Women would wash clothes and cook good meals while men would work out by the river searching for gold. Some people still didn’t get any gold and they had to work for their money. Children worked too. They would work out by the river getting gold or work with one of their parents. It was hot out and their clothes didn’t help them with that situation. The men would wear long baggy shirts and pants with boots and hats while women wore dresses and hats. It was very warm out so they wore hats to keep the heat off of their heads and the sun out of their eyes. Even though many people rushed to California for gold, it was still Mexican territory. They invaded their territory and broke the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Of course they were upset but immigrants from around the world came and they were soon called the 49’ers. This caused a change in California. It became a better and more populated state after the gold rush. There was a few ghost towns from here to there but it became more popular than it was before. It was new land and they had a lot of farm land and it was work for them to keep their land in good shape but it was a new home for many new people. The Sierra Nevada Mountains, the fertile farmlands of the Central Valley, and the arid Mojave Desert of the south are some of the major geographic features of this U.S. state. I did my piece on the California Gold Rush because I was fascinated by how much has changed with California because it was nothing before 1848 and then i became popular and more and more people moved there. I think it’s cool how just one even can be the start of something new. This is an important event because this led to California becoming a much popular state and giving many people a new home. It’s a very interesting topic. -Athena
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