Years ago in college I was taking a course at school called The American Character.  One of the requirements was to write a paper about someone who came to California to live and the acculturation process they experienced.

I chose to write about Grams simply because I knew it would give me an opportunity to spend some time with her talking about her past.  Because Grams was only moving from another state and not a different country, there were only subtle differences between her old culture in Cincinnati and her new culture in California, and the paper turned out to be difficult for me write.

However, I had a fantastic time listening to her tell me stories about her past, and the following story I titled "Lost Ethel 1, 2, 3,..." is one of my favorites.  If you have never heard it, I'm sure you will enjoy it too.

Ethel and Lou trying to strike it rich in Julian
Lou and Ethel in Julian

Lost Ethel 1, 2, 3,...

Not too long after Lou and Ethel came to Los Angeles in 1933 they moved down to Julian, California for a while to try and strike it rich looking for gold in the nearby mountains.  They were somewhat forced to do this because of the difficulties of finding employment during the 'Great Depression'.  So at night they slept on cots in a tent and during the day they would search the area for rocks that looked like they might have some gold in them; Lou and Ethel did this for approximately six months.

After a day of gathering stones from various locations, they would go back to camp and break the stones up to see if they found something valuable.  If indeed they did find gold in what they had found, they would rush down and stake a claim to the area.

To keep track of the location where the rocks came from, they would put each group of rocks collected in different pockets of their outfit.   At the end of one day searching for likely rocks, Ethel and Lou came back to camp to discover that Ethel found a rock that had some positive signs of gold.  Very excited, Lou asked her from what exact location she had found this particular rock.   But it had been a long day, and grams had put rocks from various locations in all six of her pockets and she couldn't remember the exact spot.

Grams did remember all six locations where she picked up rocks that day, just not the precise one for that particular rock.   So the next morning, Lou went down and to the claims office and ended up making six claims.  The Lost Ethel 1, the Lost Ethel 2, the Lost Ethel 3, the Lost Ethel 4, the Lost Ethel 5, and yes, you guessed it, the Lost Ethel 6.
I don't know about you, but I can just imagine how frustrating, yet funny, that must have been to them.  And if you're wondering—yes, I did ask if any of the Lost Ethels ever produced any substantial amounts of gold.  I'm still hoping she is waiting to surprise me, but her answer was no.

By Kevin B Cregg

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