I mentioned a week ago that we went to visit my grandma. When we got there, she was a bit frustrated because “some kids came into her apartment and broke her TV”. It’s probably true that someone came into her room, because that happens in assisted living facilities. It may have been to pick up the laundry or run the vacuum or…whatever, but she was right about the TV…it certainly wouldn’t turn on.
I pretty much can’t fix anything, but I volunteered to check it out. So I messed with it a bit and, wonder of wonders(!), I got it working good as new. She was pretty happy to have it back and I, for a moment anyway, played the part of hero.
We turned the TV on and there was this guy in a wetsuit in the middle-of-nowhere Alaska. He had a dual-engined sluicebox and was looking for gold. It was awkwardly fascinating to watch him sucking up material with a giant hose into his sluicebox where the good stuff would be captured. He ended up finding quite a bit, at which point grandma asked me if I had ever panned for gold. Boy, you accidently fix a TV and people think you can do anything. I would likely be drowned by that sluice contraption long before I found enough gold to pay for my funeral.
But it actually did bring to mind the events surrounding the founding of Helena, Montana…no, seriously, it did. My frantic mind works that way. I remember in grade school reading about a guy (or maybe it was some guys…but no girls, because in second grade, girls didn’t do cool stuff like pan for gold) who discovered gold in a place called Last Chance Gulch. I don’t know why it was called “Last Chance Gulch” (maybe they were about to give up the search)…wait, let’s take a minute and list the things that I don’t know so far…
- How to fix much of anything
- How to fix a TV, except by accident
- How to pan for gold and survive to tell the tale
- Who (or how many) found gold in Last Chance Gulch
- Why the place is called “Last Chance Gulch”
I don’t think I’m going to pass the test.
So anyways, a guy (or some guys) found gold in this place in the summer of 1864. And like all gold strikes, word got around and, pretty soon, there were a bunch of people there, hoping to make their fortune. At some point, the prospectors decided that “Last Chance Gulch” wasn’t a good name for the place (again, I don’t really know why, but 3-word towns take up a lot of space on an envelope when you’re writing to your grandma, so that’s probably it).
On October 30, 1864, the men met to decide on a new name. After some deliberation, they settled on Helena and a new town was born. And I do know that Helena remains, that it’s the capital city of Montana, and probably has one of the smallest populations of any capital in the country (less than 30,000 people).
I also know that if my story has got you interested in doing a little gold-digging on your own, you won’t be able to pan in Last Chance Gulch. I learned (in second grade) that Helena’s main street runs right over Last Chance Gulch. Panning for gold there now requires a jackhammer and (most likely) some kind of permit…and those barricade things with the lights on them.