Temptations Run – Part 1
Background to Temptations Run
Temptations Run is set in a small 19th century mid-western gold mining town. It tells the story of Scandinavian immigrant Tugen and his dream of finding gold, winning a running race against Jess and marrying the town’s schoolteacher, Mary Welbourne. Meanwhile, baddie Hugo Brant, a travelling con man with huge sideburns, is out to make a quick fortune.
Gold Fever! Get rich quick!
Gold was discovered in California back in 1846 and it wasn’t long before gold fever had become a national obsession. Thousands of men (and a few women- bless their brave souls) risked life and limb by travelling west in search of the new American dream. This dream involved making a huge amount of cash – at breakneck pace- and then returning home as soon as possible, spending up large and living the remainder of their lives in luxury and decadence. Sounds a good plan – if it worked.
How much money could be made if you struck lucky? Oh about $10 000 (probably the equivalent of $200 000 by today’s standards) for what might amount to less than a year’s work– definitely worth the punt.
The only equivalent to striking lucky as a 49er that I can think of, in modern terms, would be buying a ticket in the lottery and then winning first prize. Though I think it is safe to assume that it would take a lot more effort contending with dehydration and billowing dust for 4 months than just having to whip down to the corner store and buying a ticket along with the daily paper and a bag of crisps. So perhaps the comparison is irrelevant- ignore the previous paragraph.
Getting west – rush hour!
By all accounts the Oregon- California trail on a busy day was worse than rush hour on either the M1 or the Santa Monica freeway or the New Jersey turnpike. Instead of cars there were wagons – lots and lots of them filled with men sweating profusely – their skin sunbaked and leathery- they were lucky if they had a change of clothes and then all the clothes they wore were particularly ill suited to the conditions. eg incredibly annoying long woollen pants for the blokes encouraging chafing and highly inappropriate and uncomfortable long dresses for the ladies leading to hot tempers all around . Our heroes drank rancid water and got diarrhoea. There really must have been the most disgusting stench, it certainly doesn’t bear thinking about. They all had one common purpose, however- and that was what gave them that glint in their eye- the thought of gold in them there hills.
Strange but true- some men were so desperate to get rich that they decided to walk the entire 2,000 mile trail west with a loaded wheelbarrow in toe. Now I can imagine a wheelbarrow could be useful along the way. Maybe you could do a bit of weeding for instance. But surely it would have been better to pick up a cheap wheelbarrow when they got there rather than lugging it across the width of the entire continent. They must have all been stark raving mad- or very attached to their wheelbarrows.
Others travelled by ship although the quickest way was actually via the tip of South America coming into brief contact, I believe, with the Antarctic continent– not exactly the express route. What they would have done for a 747.
A wild old time
Gold towns were known as being wild places with a good slice debauchery, drunkenness and revelry. Many men were away from home and they really let their hair down. They were anonymous – no mothers or neighbours or preachers to tell them what to do and they were loving it.
Women in demand
Women were rare in many of these towns so they got lots of attention. One opportunistic groom charged 5 dollars for men from the town to come to his wedding service just so they could see his bride.
Some clever women used their scarcity to their advantage and would charge exorbitant rates for domestic chores like washing clothes and cooking meals – all things, it seems that these men were incapable of doing themselves at the time.
Opportunists and con men
There were loads of chances to make a buck at the expense of Gold crazed prospectors. One opportunist sold a special type of ointment to gullible prospectors. He told his customers that all they had to do was climb to the top of a hill, rub the ointment all over their bodies, roll down the hill and when they got to the bottom their bodies would be covered with large quantities of gold. From there it was just a matter of cleaning off the gold and collecting their fortune. I wonder if the salesman went by the name of Brant?
The Gold rush attracted immigrants from all corners of the globe. Nationalities included Chinese, Mexicans, Irish, Germans and of course Scandinavians.
Tugen is branded unintelligent by some characters- a view weakly based on the fact that he is an immigrant and because his English is a bit shoddy. Of course, he shows his intelligence and moral worth in the long run. Saying that Tugen is unintelligent because he can’t speak English is the equivalent of saying that Einstein was unintelligent because he was hopeless at racquet sports. Regretfully, these views were consistent of people at the time.