Celebrate Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day
You Too Can Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector
Dagnabbit if it isn't almost time again for some authentic frontier gibberish. That's right, January 24th is Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day! Never heard of it, you say? Well don't sit there bein' a sidewindin', hornswaggling, bush-whacker. Read on to learn more about this fun celebration of a seminal moment in California history.
Photo courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
There's Gold in Them Thar Hills!
Many people have heard of the California Gold Rush but don't know too many of the details. It all started on January 24, 1848 when a man named James Marshall, foreman of a lumber mill being built for John Sutter, found some shiny metal near the intersection of the American and Sacramento Rivers in Northern California. He took his find to his boss, who tested it and discovered it was gold. The two men tried to keep it quiet but rumors soon spread and opened up a flood of treasure seekers to the area all hoping to strike it rich. The Gold Rush brought men from around the world to the small town, including from places as far away as Australia, China and Peru.
At first, they say, you could practically just pick up gold nuggets straight from the ground. Excavation became increasingly more difficult as more miners came to the area and, even then, the primary requirement for success seemed to be luck. The competition for gold was fierce, and the rules were few, which led to a rough and somewhat brutal society.
The forty-niners, as they were soon to be called, had a great effect on the development of California. The city of San Francisco grew from 200 residents to nearly 36,000 within three years. By 1854 more than 300,000 people had made their way to California, one of about every 90 people then living in the U.S. This great influx led to the construction of roads, schools, churches and railroads, as well as increased international shipping in the area. As a result, the Gold Rush helped California develop its reputation as a place where fortunes are made and anything can happen. It remains known as the Golden State to this day.
American Experience - The Gold Rush
Learn more about the California Gold Rush with the excellent PBS series "American Experience - The Gold Rush."
Knott's Berry Farm Pays Tribute
Starting in the 1940s, California farmer Walter Knott started building a western-themed Ghost Town as part of the development for his Buena Park berry farm. After Knott inherited his father's silver mill in Calico, CA, in 1951, he reconstructed many of the buildings and The Ghost Town grew to include a hotel, blacksmith, livery, saloon and covered wagon camp. One of the highlights was panning for gold, where visitors could take home gold they mined themselves. Moreover, Knott's made a celebration out of the California Gold Rush by holding an annual Prospector's Day parade every January 24th. This by-gone event was the inspiration for Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day.
Panning for gold remains a popular attraction at Knott's Berry Farm. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, we would sometimes take school field trips to Knott's to learn about the old west and other parts of American history. We all looked forward to the part of the day when we could swish our pans around in the trough and maybe take home a vial of gold flakes.
Grizzled Prospectors in Pop Culture
The image of the grizzled old prospector is ubiquitous in pop culture. Some fun and famous examples are:
Walter Huston in Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Jack Starrett in "Blazing Saddles"
Gabby Hayes in almost anything
Jim Backus on "The Brady Bunch"
Will Ferrell on "Saturday Night Live"
Comics character Scrooge McDuck in his younger days (how in tarnation do you think he got so rich?)
Stinky Pete from "Toy Story 2"
Yukon Cornelius from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
Of all the indelible grizzled prospectors ever put on film, the one that immediately comes to mind for me is Jack Starrett in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles." I also happen to think this is one of the funniest movies ever made. While some may find it insensitive, it is exactly that willingness to hold nothing back in its skewering of racism, ideas of femininity and western movie tropes, that make it so funny. You'd certainly be hard pressed to find anything so bold in our politically correct times. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Prospector Talk for Beginners
Get yerself ready for the big day by pickin' up some genuine Prospector Talk.
- Hornswaggler - A dirty, thieving swindler.
- Bushwhacker - One of the roughest, toughest outlaws around who just waits fer ya to pass by so's they can jump on ya.
- Californee - The best darn state in the Union.
- By cracky - Sumpthin that's awful important and needs to be done right now.
- Dadgum - What you say when you're mighty annoyed at sumphtin or someone. Makes a right nice change from Dagnabbit and Goldurn.
- Confounded - What ya say when things just don't make no sense. Also comes in handy when you stub your toe.
- Varmint - a small animal or a person you don't care for very much.
- Consarn it! - Sumpthin a real lady would never say.
- Sockdolager - What done settle the matter once and for all.
- Sidewinder - The kind of low down snake that will come on all nice like just so's he can jump your claim.
Grizzled Prospector Syndrome
Check out this clip from Mystery Science Theater when Mike becomes afflicted.
Read More about Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day
- Orange County History Roundup
Learn how Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day got started from the man who started it.
- Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day Facebook Page
Join all the fun on Facebook!
- The American Experience on PBS
Read more about the California Gold Rush from the American Experience on PBS.
- How to Swear Like an Old Prospector
Learn some colorful prospector vernacular in this informative blog post.
Remember to Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector on January 24th!