Eight hundreds of suns and moons have passed since I was uprooted to Southern California from Northern New Jersey, and I have to say every day is still a new day on the frontier home in the Wild West. Cowboys, gunslingers, and drifters looking for chances and time for winning the Wheel of Fortune in life may have gone with the dust of wind. Still, I feel like a hardscrabble but resiliently brave and adventurous frontier woman I have seen in western TV dramas and movies with the central theme of Little House on the Prairie surrounding as a leitmotif for the story of My Life So Far in the Wild West.
The great French writer and humanist George Sand once said that every place has place memories that influence the spirits of the site and people without them knowing it. Given this, the place memories of Southern California fill the domes of the spirits and palaces of the souls living in it with the characters endemic to the nature and shaped by the events artificers made based upon my empirical observations. People I have come across here are a curious mixture of friendliness and brusqueness added with a dose of saloon bravado and air of southern plantation riches under a high Californian sun.
The charade of Californian Rhapsody continues thus: people reading in public, such as public transportation or coffeeshop, is as rare as finding Nemo in a vast ocean. In such an environment, I feel awkwardly vain to read in such places as if I were a showy blue-stocking, contrary to New York City, where readers are part of the landscape under the Manhattan skyline. It brings me back to my reading of Horace Greely’s experience of an overland journey from New York City to California. Greely, the famous 19th-century journalist, the editor of the now-extinct the New York Tribune and the rival presidential candidate of Ulysses Grant, also noticed the lack of intellectual cultivation in many Californians and thus called the attention of young single, educated woman from the East Coast to go west in a proliferation of civilization from the cultured East Coast.
Part of me still longs for the convenience of city life in New York City, where people of all walks of life ride on the same bus and subway and eat at the same place. Nevertheless, what holds me to this immigrant land is its gorgeously untamed wild nature that whispers to my ear, “Tarry with me,” like a beautiful paramour. The wildflowers in the fields over the ridges are sweetness to the weary soul seeking a place for visual pleasure after being exposed to a miasma of an unpleasant office environment, even though I am still unaccustomed to the sight of palm trees with long unruly hair. Still, I like to think of myself as a 21st-century frontier woman living with an elderly ailing mother and a young tomcat in my care, trying to keep my foot on the ground and my eyes on the stars, to claim my happiness on a new land against all odds in this Wild West, Still and Ever.
I have recently read an article about California Gold Rush from my subscribed British history magazine with particular interest as it was somehow relatable to my own experience of being a recent single pioneer woman from the East to the West with new prospects for the future. Although the article was informative in unpicking the social manifest and latent dysfunctions of Gold Rush, there were also new and innovative modes of business as spearheaded by adventurously daring individuals who paved the way to the prosperity of the Wild West in years to come.
Wells, Fargo & Company, founded by Henry Wells and William G. Fargo, started and prospered the West’s all-purpose business, consisting of transportation, security, and communication agents, buying gold from prospectors and selling them paper bank drafts and delivering the valuables and mail guarded by a hired detective against outlaws. Pony Express, founded by William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell, was the first express courier service in the U.S., delivering mail from California to New York in fifteen (15) days by dedicated excellent employees on horseback day and night until the transcontinental telegraph was established. And there’s the famed Levi Strauss, the founder of the iconic Strauss & Co., who made the first blue jeans for miners, cowboys, etc.
California Gold Rush prompted a huge spike in the demand for changes in various sectors of the American society, which was an inevitable calling of the ethos, Manifest Destiny, and it also begot some of the most interesting and impressive enterprising spirits whose establishments are still among us and whose names are made into the history of the U.S.
The wind was blowing eastward in the field, and the sun was stopping in the sky amid the moving herd of clouds. The susurrus of the trees was softly caressing her ears harassed by the cacophony of reality in which she could not help but endure under the pretext of fulfilling her existential duties to earn her sustenance. Nature’s medicinal touch of her malady of heart seemed to work for the moment, and she felt cared for and loved in the arms of Mother Nature whom she likened to Mother Mary. Judy was sitting like a resting Artemis, the goddess of hunting, with her loyal canine company Nena on the crest alongside San Marcello Path in the Santa Maria Mountains. Judy and Nena were different species united in the polyphony of nature’s orchestral music and the panoply of the scenes that nature’s cinema was presenting before their very big brown beautiful eyes that seemed to look into the depths of souls and to find wonders in them no matter how diminutive they might be. It’s the moment of retreat from the world that constantly threatened Judy’s faith in humanity against the strife of existential life. Every Sunday was the time to bathe herself in the Spring of Nature, and she loved every minute of it.
A noonday haze was springing over the hill with iridescent beams of sunshine, which were a feast to the eye. Nena was yawning as a gossamer of the eastward wind becoming a sweet breeze was pleasingly teasing a tip of its nose. Smiling at the playful scene, Judy was thinking about the legend of restless ghosts of nineteenth-century outlaws still roaming in the deep region of the mountain, not knowing they were dead in search of a great escape from a forest maze to their El Dorado. Reader, you may think it’s only a fiction imbued with Hollywood-generated machismo of lawless gunslingers in the Wild West, but to Judy, the legend became factoid that couldn’t be abruptly dismissed as a preposterous ballyhoo fit for a campfire story to scare kids and gullible puerile adults. Call it superstitious or benighted, but then do people not believe in the power of the greatest man above even though they have not seen him? The difference between religion and belief is a matter of hierarchy, a structural form of rite and indoctrination. Anything else is quintessentially the same as we human beings are spiritual by nature. Thus, even the wickedest, the vilest, the cruelest convict has the tainted and perverted soul warped in a wrong modus vivendi that it chose by the will or by the play of Goddess Fortuna. In that regard, the souls of the escaped convicts, drifting gunslingers, highwaymen, or luckless lost travelers might still be roaming the paths of the mountain day and night, doing their penance on earth without awareness of it, till a sympathetic living soul hears their sorrows and waves of anger to purge them out to escape to the beyond.
As Judy was wending her way to the mountain, the images of the wild west ghosts sprang in her vista as though to be screened in a phantasmagorical display of the swashbuckling bravado of their once-proud prime days. What’s more, she wanted to validate her belief in life after death by witnessing the souls of the dead, which would quell her vexing doubts on the existence of God and ultimately, the meaning of life. Nena also seemed to give a nod to Judy’s determination to figure it all out by walking beside her into the mountain. The leaves of the trees were rustling in the wind, and the eagles were flying high above as if they were welcoming the curious duo. The rustling sound now became phantasmal susurrus of trees, reciting “Curiouser, curiouser!”
My letter to the editor of BBC History Revealed regarding “The Wild West” was printed in the September issue of the magazine – again! Today was the first day of the new issue which was downloaded on my Kindle Fire during my one-hour lunchtime at my regular Starbucks store. I have since ordered a hard copy of the magazine for a keepsake. It feels great to see my own writing published in an established periodical. Robert Waldo Emerson said: “Thinking is the function, living is the functionary.” Likewise, I want to actualize my thoughts from a deep cave of silence.
The following is my letter published in the September issue of BBCHistory Revealed.
The article about the Wild West in this month’s issue was particularly interesting, since I am a recent immigrant from the East to the West: the restive nature, the swashbuckling gunslingers, the outrageous outlaws and the ruthless vigilantes were all embroidered on the popular Hollywood-generated image of the West that became something of a factoid to people living outside the West.
Even though the U.S. Census Bureau declared in 1890 that no more western frontiers were left to conquer, I believe that the culture and ambiance of the West remains here in California. As someone who lived many years in New Jersey and the New York City before moving to Camarillo, the most distinctive characteristic of California is its unsullied beauty of nature in replacement of the skyscraper jungle as I see every day on the commuter’s railways.
Surely, there’s no more John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper, or Paul Newman with Robert Redford walking in the streets. Yet, the spirit of eternal youthfulness is still nuanced by a combination of its beautiful rusticity of nature and a diversity of people interacting with the special aura surrounding the land. For this reason, the West has not lost its charm with its continuous saga of immigrants in search of better future and the timeless beauty of nature.”