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The book “Ox In The Culvert” by Gerald Brence is a historical fiction about the great California Gold Rush and how it affected the people living in the Wild West. How will Texas Ranger Ray Andrews navigate a society clamoring for instant success?

In the middle of the significant Western expansion, people felt so stoked about the gold rush happening in California. Rangers left and right has been talking about the gold that could grant them instantaneous wealth. The California gold rush in Brence’s book was an example of the effect of that desire for instant success. The book deals with particular issues of the Wild West and highlights each character’s journey and how they carved their path.

 “Ox in The Culvert” and how it uncovers the Wild West

The story may not have entirely revolved around the California Gold Rush, but it reveals the lives of Texas Ranger Ray Andrews. His friend and fellow Ranger Tom Jenkins wouldn’t stop nagging him about the gold discovered in the Western part of California.

Jenkins’ excitement went uncontrollable and insufferable to wanting to move there to see if he could get some gold and live a wealthy life.

What happened during the California Gold Rush?

Approximately 173 years ago, on the 24th of January 1848, James W. Marshall discovered bits of gold near a river in Coloma, California. At first, no one believed him as his status as a mere carpenter might have contributed to people not taking him seriously at the time.

It was until then President James Polk declared the golden discovery on December 1848 that men rushed to dig that gold. The historical occurrence was called the “Great California Gold Rush.”

If you find it hard to comprehend such frenzy, there was an insane influx of men seeking fortune out of sheer desire and maybe greed, but we could only suspect that it was masked as excitement. People sold their real estate properties and borrowed insane amounts of money to have the means to go all the way to California and migrate to the West.

The golden opportunity brought by the gold rush

The Gold Rush in California became a golden opportunity for certain capitalists to earn their keep. An example would be the famous Levi’s brand by businessman Levi Strauss, who patented the signature blue jeans and became the widely chosen garment by men during the golden craze.

Even though the pair of jeans looked rugged, they were durable. They could withstand the extensive labor. After the pants were patented, millions of working persons in the U.S. owned at least a pair of Levi’s.

By 1849, almost all surface gold ran out before more people came in. that meant that late-comers had to mine the other gold if they wanted all that wealth. Prospectors gathered $90 million worth of gold – that’s around billions in today’s currency.

They might have struck gold with that one.

The gold rush reached its peak in 1852, amassing 750,000 pounds of gold in total. However, this madness wasn’t the first in American history. The first occurred in North Carolina, where a 17-pound gold nugget was unearthed fifty years before the California gold rush.

What life was like in the Wild West

Daily life in the Wild West during the 1850s was not so easy. It was a lawless land where they used guns to rule, and violence was the only answer. Life in the West was taxing and demanding, contrary to the romanticized version we see in the media. The gold rush led to the lawlessness of the Wild West, where everything was free for the taking – no formal systems for taxes, fundamental rights, etc.

Illegal activities like gambling, brawling, and prostitution were rampant during those times. The local saloon was where men unleashed their wildest sides without caring about others. To them, women were commodities, seen only as a one-night thing or as wives.

Despite that occurrence, the West wasn’t as “wild” as popular culture deemed it, although certain areas posed a literal danger and frequent violence. Cattle herding was the predominant source of livelihood around that time, and the vast expanse of terrain in the West became an open ranch, and cattle could graze wherever they wanted.

The violent and lawless portrayal of the West contributes to its modern-day stereotypes. It was also due to the lack of a centralized governmental structure at the time, like America back then was a state of anarchy.

All about Gerald Brence

Gerald Brence is the author of three books. One is nonfiction centered around high school football. “Ox In The Culvert” is a historical fiction highlighting the chilling domino effect of the California gold rush. His other work, “Agent 49,” is another historical fiction about the Cold War.

The author was also an English teacher at a high school for nine years, and he mainly taught classic American novels. He then became a head coach for the football team for 16 years and won a championship in 1994. Brence is currently the District Athletic Director for the Plano Independent School District. 

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