Grandfather Told Stories of Gold Rush Days

A great teller of stories, grandfather told of the disappearing pancakes during the Gold Rush days.

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My grandfather had crossed the plains to California with the 49ers, and was a great teller of stories of the Gold Rush days. After supper, we children used to sit on Grandpa's old buffalo hide lap robe while he spun amazing stories of the perilous trek across the plains. One of the stories he told was of the mystery of the disappearing pancakes.

Every day the wagon train was beset by Indians. Not the fighting, scalping, murdering kind – but more the "trick or treat" kind. As soon as camp was set up, these visitors would be around – poking into things, prying, begging and stealing.

One morning the cook, a big fellow, had prepared a roaring fire and was baking pancakes for the whole lot of travelers, turning out a dozen at a time. As usual, an Indian stood close to the fire. Apparently he was too proud to watch proceedings, for he kept his back turned and his blanket drawn closely about his burly frame.

Soon the puzzled cook began to miss pancakes. As he would turn to bake a batch, the ones on the platter disappeared as though into thin air. In exasperation, he stopped baking and scratched his head. He had it!

He placed the fresh-baked cakes on the platter and turned to the fire, but instead of attending to the baking, he cautiously turned back, took a firm grip on the handle of the red-hot skillet with one hand and quickly lifted the big buck's blanket from behind, making connection with bare hide.

There was a whoop that split the heavens! The Indian's arm shot up and outward, the blanket sailed through the air, and pancakes rained down in all directions on the startled 49ers.

The Indian took off across the prairie. No doubt he wore that pancake brand for the rest of his life.

Mrs. C.O. Barnes
Redlands, California

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.