Gold and Silver in the Mojave - Images of a Last Frontier

I just finished reading Nicholas Clapp's Gold and Silver in the Mojave: Images of a Last Frontier.   My interest in the desert is mostly in the natural history, but the human history is closely intertwined.  You cannot explore the desert without running into reminders and relics of the relatively recent mining boom, which involved lonely prospectors creating boom towns if they struck a significant deposit of gold, silver or copper.   There are also stories of manipulation and exploitation by corporations and frauds -- something that we still see in our deserts today. 

Other than the random story or two that I have come across in my other desert readings, or from following the adventures of Death Valley Jim, I have not really dedicated much time to learning about the mining history in the desert.  Clapp's book is a great introduction to this history, providing an overview of the histories of a handful of Mojave mining camps.  Plenty of photos bring the late 1800s and early 1900s to life, and Clapp's research puts a human face on the history. 

Clapp tells the personal stories and anecdotes of some of the miners and families that inhabited the Mojave, illuminating the different perspectives these desert rats had of their surroundings. Some of them obviously hated the desert, others struck it rich and left, but others seemed to grow a deep appreciation for the desert.

Clapp quotes the reminiscence of a miner's daughter from a mining camp near present-day Ridgecrest:
"A full moon swung like a yellow pumpkin in the sky, and sheer magic lay over the desert.  During the night the newly fallen snow turned to icy casings for the millions of desert bushes spread out in all directions.  The sun rose into a clear sky as I rode up on the hill top, and transformed the desert into a mystic garden of diamond-string shrubbery, glittering and twinkling prisms strung from every smallest branchlet. It came to me very young that perhaps I should never again witness a scene of such delicate, startling beauty."


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