Although there is no longer much to see here, at one point this town was very much alive. It was active when those of neighboring counties found that this small encampment housed gold in its caves. Other towns started to rid it of its foreigners and their workingmen classes. They settled here in our once quiet, humble town.
There wasn’t so much to do around this place as they came in. Most of the adults took to the gold mines almost immediately after their arrival in hope of claiming some of the riches, unsurprisingly of course. My father came home from mining each day with the musk of alcohol and opium.
But if there was anything that I enjoyed the most in this otherwise uneventful town were the hangings that took place occasionally. It was rather difficult to explain why. There was always this strange, if not rather crude, sense of justice being done whenever it happened. It felt almost empowering.
I was a small boy during this time, not quite fully understanding why there were all these new faces around. When I became older and wiser, I have become a bit sickened by their actions. I did help my father on mining every morning and sometimes explored the area with a few friends of mine, all around my age as well. That was when we found the Chinaman.
He was a gleaner, trying to scavenge any riches that were perhaps overlooked by the busy miners. Out of all races that this town didn’t take kindly to, the Chinese were treated the roughest, and the most unfair. Naturally, my friends and I did what any other group of kids of our age and of our understanding would have done.
We went up to him and called him racial slurs. We mocked him of his nationality and of how all Asians were lazy and poor by nature. We pushed him around a lot. It was when I took out my knife he decided that he had enough. He gripped his revolver and fired it into the air in an attempt to scare us off.
It almost had worked, until the bullet hit the stone of a cliff above where he had shot. Bouncing off of the wall, the darting bullet came back down towards the earth. It found its target in my leg, grazing the side of it. I ran back into town, crying my eyes out and wailing. The miners saw and stopped whatever it was they were doing, and went towards the crick where I came from.
The Chinaman was kneeling over where we saw him last still. He appeared to be crying.
The bloodthirsty mob started to surround him. Out of the crowd, I noticed that one of them was my own father with a slipknot clutched his busy fists, glaring over. His eyes spoke unmeasurable levels of anger and hatred.
Before the mob was able to get ahold of him, the law arrived quickly at the scene from the entire ruckus. The police took the Chinaman and dragged him out before any harm could befall him. The sheriff told the crowd that he would be given a fair trial before any punishment will be dished out.
There was only one prison in the area. It was small, as usually it would only hold prisoners overnight to transfer them elsewhere – or hang them the next day, which was planned for our poor Chinaman in question. The jailhouse was a very durable one. It certainly would never go anytime soon, but neither did its occupants during its time. Only one person ever escaped it. Somehow not considered to be dangerous in any way beside the bullet entering my leg, the Chinaman wasn’t shackled to the floor.
Back home, my father was in disgust about how a “fucking chink” would dare shoot his son. How he wished a violent death upon the man and his loved ones. Being young and full of guilt for what happened that day, I said nothing to him. I couldn’t find my voice of reason. My father got drunk that evening, his rambling becoming slurred and threatening towards the Chinese.
My father left the house a few hours later, stumbling out the door and carrying something in his hand. I followed him without his knowing. After he gathered his equally drunken friends, they walked towards the jail.
The first thing the group did was tie the guards that were in the jail first, although there was nothing done to them physically beside very small struggles. It was obvious that the prison guards were not their target. It took several minutes for the pack of predators to find their prey. Concealing the rope behind his back, my father lied to him smoothly and revealed to him leaves of tobacco. The man, trusting this as a token of apology, reached out his hand in between the bars.
With sudden surprise, the crowd yanked the man’s hand and pulled him closer to the prison bars. My father’s noose was quickly wrapped and collared around his neck. With bestial rave, the horde tugged and pulled on the rope with combined strength as the Chinaman struggled and began to asphyxiate, trying to pull the knot off around his neck futilely.
The back of his head started to crack open and erupt from the pressure before blood and brain viscera flew onto the back wall. Horrified, and with a morbid sense of justice, the group started to break up. After some time of looking at the broken man’s body, an image that would be forever burned into my head, I slowly started to follow them back into town.
Gold started to vanish soon after the incident in the jail. The wealth of the land was quickly swept away along with the gold rush. The only thing that remained from it was the blood on that wall. It never dried up; the cell wall was still painted a dark crimson color to this day.
My father would come home every day after a long drink at the bar. He was never trialed for murder, but every day I could sense the guilt in his eyes. Eventually, his health deteriorated. He eventually was swallowed into his alcoholism. No tears came to my eyes when he passed. The only thing I could hope for is that he could be forgiven.
With the soil hard in the summer afternoon, I had no choice but to bury my father in a plot of rocks behind the St. Catherine church. It was back-breaking work; I never had any help in doing so. With the gold dispersed, almost everybody in the entire town had gone with it. Yet I stayed to dwell here still. Every day I pray. Not for the Chinaman. Not for my father. Instead, I prayed for myself. That someone would come, and bury me here when I finally passed in this town slowly fading into nothing, and me along with it.
The soil here is hard in summer
so I buried my father in a tomb of rocks,
a plot behind St. Catherine’s church
to lay rest the gilded dreams of pitiable men.
With gold found to the North,
Quartzburg drove out its whores, its foreigners and roughnecks.
They settled this camp.
Pa left every day to mine.
I’d follow him to the gulch,
my pan and shovel in hand,
a child devoted to riches.
The Mexicans often staged
bull and bear fights near the bar.
They kept a boy entertained
when there were no hangings to enjoy.
The Cantonese flooded the quarries,
working for less than the Whites.
My father would curse the Orientals,
yet came home reeking of opium.
A group of my friends and I
left to explore the creek.
The Chinaman kneeled there,
gleaning for gold.
We mocked him, and pushed him,
I prodded him with my knife.
He gripped his revolver
and fired in the air.
The errant bullet
ricocheted off of a stone
and grazed my leg.
I ran back bawling
to the town.
the crying Chinaman,
Father clutching the noose.
The sheriff demanded
that he be jailed and properly tried.
late at night
outside the jail.
rope in hand,
prey in his cell.
reached his arm
through the bars.
The lynch mob swiftly grabbed
the gleaner’s exposed hand.
Father wrapped the collar
around his neck.
The horde yanked on the rope,
Chinaman dragged and choked,
his brains dashed upon the wall.
Soon all the gold mines dried
but that blood never did.
Red still stains the jail cell wall.
Father was never tried,
none mourn a foreigner,
but I saw guilt in his eyes.
With all the riches spent,
the people left the town
yet I stayed to dwell here still.
When Father died of drink
I did not weep for him.
I pray the grave unburdens his sins.
I pray that someone will remain to bury me.
I pray that someone will remain.
Written by FlakyPorcupine