Succumbing to the disease

Succumbing to an old disease

Smart Farmer News
PAVED WITH GOLD: A Chinese colonial by-way

PAVED WITH GOLD: A Chinese colonial by-way

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A weekend bush walk up the valley saw us checking out the remains of an old road built in the 1850s along the creek, and our boundary, by gold-prospecting Chinese. It may have awakened something.

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"Within the last few weeks there have appeared in this settlement some slightly alarming symptoms of a new disease, or rather some new modifications of an old disease of a very obstinate as well as dangerous character.

"The disease has been brought here by two vessels, one from Auckland, the other from Adelaide, with several cases on board.

"The Colonial Surgeon is not sufficiently strict in enforcing quarantine regulations in the case of vessels suspected of having this disease on board."

That's Reverend Samuel Ironside in a fire-and-brimstone editorial appearing in the New Zealand Evangelist.

Do go on, Sam.

"It has been confined chiefly to males from the ages of 20 to 45.

"It has prevailed chiefly, though not solely, among the idle, the lazy, the dissipated, the discontented, and the reckless; or persons of shattered constitutions, and broken fortunes.

"The symptoms of this fever are, at first, a peculiar sensation about the heart, sometimes a slight headache, great restlessness during the day, and an inability to prosecute the ordinary business of life."

The year was 1849, and the good reverend was getting worked up about gold fever.

It was big in California at the time, and was soon to hit the shores of Australia, then New Zealand.

A century and a half later I may be infected.

A weekend bush walk up the valley saw us checking out the remains of an old road built in the 1850s along the creek, and our boundary, by gold-prospecting Chinese.

We dropped in on a neighbour who had a photo of a lamb chop-sized nugget, found by a mate a couple of kilometres up the creek and apparently worth upwards of $50000.

Later we bumped into another neighbour, a talkative old Russian bloke who has lived in the area for 40-odd years and who still finds gold. No metal detectors for him - he's perfected homemade pans, sluices and equipment that often turns up hundreds of dollars worth.

"People don't pan correctly," he confided.

"They throw out most of the gold."

He's promised to drop by and let us in on a couple of his secrets.

"There's plenty still here," he reckons.

All of which has led to some feverish symptoms surfacing at our place.

I'm not quite in the dangerous 20-45 age group, and I don't think I'm altogether 'lazy, dissipated, discontented or reckless', but I am occasionally showing some 'restlessness during the day', and I may have a certain 'inability to prosecute the ordinary business of life'.

Finding something worth $50000 or so would probably help sort that out.

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