Secrets of the Great Gold Rush of the Mystical Coast

Submitted into Contest #250 in response to: Write a story about a child overhearing something they don’t understand.... view prompt


Coming of Age Historical Fiction Kids

“Gold! …Pure gold!...river...”

Twelve-year-old Elsie’s eyes widened when she heard the words and she strained to hear around the corner.

 Gold! At the river! Was it at their river?

It was 1898 at the lighthouse on the Mystical Coast remote wilderness. A group of visitors came to shore in the surfboat from the ship acting as supplies tender.

“set up a cook fire…baking…sourdough.”

“selling sourdough pancakes to the gold miners…”

“cold water in the river…waded…gold nuggets…”

Elsie could only hear a few words here and there.

“bears…salmon…fishing…panning for gold…”

This sounds like our own river. Bears and salmon. Have they found gold here? Elsie’s thoughts raced. 

Elsie did not hear the rest of what the guests said about gold being located hundreds of miles away at the far north of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers.

Earlier, twilight was falling and she was in bed upstairs already. She smelled fresh bread, baked in the Dutch oven on the Franklin wood-burning stove. 


Elsie sneaked down the winding staircase to get a taste and she was glad she did this, because then she heard the news about gold in a river. The lighthouse keepers had a river 8 miles away. 

Through the stained glass window in the front door of the lightkeeper’s house, Elsie saw the colorful panes send rainbows of light around the room when the lighthouse beacon rotated across the sea and coast.


Elsie peeked around the corner and saw the shadowed silhouettes of the adults sitting around the warm flames from the wood-burning stove. 

Her curiosity got her into trouble sometimes. But it was worth it.

Her growing puppy, Teddybear, pressed against her side. 

“SShh…ssshhh. Quiet Teddy.” Despite her whispers Teddy yawned and made a small squeak.

“What’s that? Who’s there?” Elsie froze at the sound of her mother’s voice.

“That’s you, isn’t it Elsie. It is past your bedtime. Go back upstairs. We are talking about adult subjects.”

“Ok, Mama.” Elsie went up a few stairs noisily and then crept back down to keep eavesdropping.

Adult subjects. What could they be? Now she had to hear this!

Gold? Here? In the river?

She tried to hear more but the guests were talking too softly.

I wish I could grow up faster, she thought. I am tired of being treated like a child.

At twelve years old she bounced back and forth between childhood and adulthood.

Her parents, Jeannie and Joseph, were entertaining the guests who would stay in the bunkhouse at the bottom of the bluff near the beach.

Earlier that afternoon the surfboat brought the visitors and supplies in from the ship anchored offshore. 

The lighthouse inspector came also, making one of his unscheduled visits planned to surprise the lighthouse keepers and find any flaws. 

“Everything is ship shape.” At the inspector’s words Joseph let his breath out in a deep sigh.

“Tomorrow I’ll send the surfboat in to pick up your guests and we’ll all be on our way. When we get to the Mystical River in 8 more miles I have another load to drop off. "

Early the next morning Elsie said. "Come on, Teddybear. Let's go look for gold." She took the growing puppy down to Bear Creek. 

It wasn’t the big local river but there were bears and salmon here too. Maybe gold was found where there were bears and salmon. The shimmers from the smooth river rocks in the creek could be more than just sunbeams on the water.

The sailors who rowed the surfboat in to pick up the guests were there at the beach. Elsie wanted to feel grown up.

“Guess what I overheard.”

“Tell us, little lady.” The sailors were friendly and polite.

“Gold. In the river.”

There was silence.

“Who told you?”

“I heard it last night. From them.”

She pointed at the visitors.

The sailors stared at her, then drew close together.

“Maybe she really heard something.”

“Those gold miners from the Yukon could know something.”

Elsie and Teddybear dug and panned for gold in the creek with some spoons and pans Elsie borrowed from her mother’s kitchen. But the river seemed to only hold sunbeams, not nuggets of gold.

Meanwhile, the guests and sailors returned to the ship known as the Golden Klondike. With all four masts holding billowing sails they went south without needing to fire up the steam engine.

At the mouth of the river there was a smaller hybrid sailing and steam boat known as the Sunset Dunes waiting with the items to trade and ready to load up supplies from the ship.

The expedition of guests switched boats so they could continue on to the village.

“Did you hear? Gold. In the river.”

One of the sailors Elsie had spoken to said it partly as a joke, feeling he sounded clever and important, but the other deckhand hearing it did not know it was humor.

“Gold…” The listener did not want to appear foolish, unknowing or ignorant. “I know. Yes. Gold. I heard about it too."

The first sailor heard this and understood it to be a genuine confirmation.

Not wanting to appear less savvy than the other sailor he raised the stakes by saying, “A ton of gold they say.”

The river boat deckhand stared. Why was he always the last one to know things? He hid his surprise.

When the boats parted, the second sailor leaned over to another deckhand and said, “Don’t say anything, but I just heard from the Golden Klondike that gold has been found here on our river.”

“See those people from the Goldrn Klondike who just boarded our boat. I bet they are here to stake their claims before anyone else knows. It is a secret."

The sailor who promised not to say anything whispered the news about the gold to all the other sailors he could find on the Sunset Dunes boat.

It felt great to be so important. He was very pleased with himself.

Captain John Whistler’s sharp eyes under the brim of his cap spotted the suspicious behavior of his crew. There were glances, nods, hooded eyes, and secretive meetings.

“What’s up?” His voice startled a nearby group.

They stood silently. “I am not taking the boat into the river port until I find out.” His voice was firm.

A sailor waved him over.

“Its gold, Captain. Here. In the river. These new people are an expedition here to stake their claims. We heard it straight from the crew of the Golden Klondike.”

Captain Whistler had great respect for the skipper and crew of the big, ocean going Golden Klondike.

If they said so, then it must be true.

He held the man’s eyes with his gaze, then said, “We need to hurry and find the gold before the word gets out and the Gold Rush miners get here.”

The captain and crew of the Sunset Dune boat made plans. When they got to the port and tied up some of the sailors went on shore.

The crew members couldn’t help announcing to everyone they saw in important whispers, “Keep this quiet, but gold has been discovered on our river. There’s an expedition here now from the Golden Klondike ship. They said so.”

Everyone who promised not to tell hurried with the news to share the secret with the rest of the town.

At dawn the next morning the port was crowded when solemn boaters with a sparkle in their eyes set out on the river in any floating device they could find.

Boats were bumping into each other across the river.

"Get out of my way!"

"No! You get out of MY way."

The village was buzzing with theories from instant experts.

“The tides sweep the gold nuggets into the smooth river rocks in the shallows on the edges,” said one man.

“I heard currents in the estuary near the river islands have uncovered golden flakes,” said another.

The word spread and boats were passing each other up and down the river, with people hollaring.

“Find anything?”

“Maybe. Something shiny. Going to have it checked.”

“Did you hear? Thomas found something shiny.”


“Don’t know. He wouldn’t say. But he was upriver near the three trees at the bend.”

Everyone paddled their boats to the three trees at the bend.

"Thomas must have taken all the gold. I didn't find any."

Rumors grew even though there was not really any real gold. People believed there was gold because everyone was talking about it.

Word spread. The Mystical Coast Great Gold Rush began.

At the lighthouse, Joseph heard from a homesteader who returned from the village that gold had been discovered in the river. The town was so packed with miners you could barely walk through the crowds.

“Jeannie, I want to find out what is going on. Let’s get the wagon and horses ready. We can cover the 8 miles of low tide sandy beach trails and the roads tomorrow and spend the night.”

The next morning Joseph, Jeannie and Elsie set out with Flame and Blaze pulling the wood wagon.

When they got to the village at nightfall they left the horses at the livery stable, booked a room at the hotel and went down to the wharf. After dark the streets lit by kerosene lamps were still busy.When the family went to the wharf the next day, Joseph asked questions and tried to determine where the gold was and how it was discovered. 

“We first got word about it from the crew of the Golden Klondike,” said someone.

Elsie’s ears pricked up when she heard that.

“How did they know?” Joseph’s face was puzzled.

“Someone who knew told them, and they told the crew of the Sunset Dunes.”

Then Elsie felt a little flutter inside her.

She heard someone else say “I know some people have found gold because my friends told me about it.”

Elsie wondered whthither person heard this.

Joseph found a newspaper someone brought from the big city down south. Gigantic half page size headlines read “Gold Rush – Ton of Gold Found– at the Mystical Coast.”

Scanning the men and women sailing and paddling all kinds of boats and rafts out to the head down the river, Elsie’s face felt like dropping, but she kept a mask of wide eyed curiosity to hide her feelings.

She knew where the word of the Gold Rush on the river at Mystical Coast came from.

Elsie turned to her father, “Are they sure? Maybe someone misunderstood.”

Joseph looked at his twelve year old daughter.

“Honey, this Gold Rush is an adult subject. Someday I’ll explain more about it to you.”

Across the seas the papers in London, Paris, and Europe had headlines saying "Tons of Gold on the Mystical Coast."

Writers of next year’s Almanac added articles such as "Secrets to Finding Gold from Expert at Mystical Coast."

In Australia, Africa and South America artists sketched big piles of gold nuggets for the front pages - "Mystical Coast Gold."

If there had been people and newspapers on the moon and other planets the word would have spread there too.

Songs, poems and theater plays were written about it.

Everyone seemed eager to tell about other miners bringing home huge bags of gold nuggets.

"Guess I am not of the lucky ones, but maybe tomorrow I'll find it."

 The stories of it became part of the history and local lore. 

The small village of 300 people was proud of their Gold Rush.

Despite the fact no one ever actually found any gold, there were so many stories and rumors about someone who found gold that people believed the gold was truly there.

“People came from all across the country and over the seas. It is said some did strike it rich."

A local writer wrote a book about it that was for sale in all the businesses. It sold well.

But gradually over time the miners drifted away.

“I heard this other guy found a huge load of gold. But I just was not lucky,” they would say.

Decades later the town museum had an exhibit about it.

Joseph, Jeannie and Elsie continued their lives at the remote lighthouse 8 miles from town. Elsie learned how to feed the sourdough yeast that the people on the expedition had brought them and to bake the special Klondike bread.

Elsie no longer remembered the few seconds of four words she said to the sailor about gold being found on the river.

Over time she heard the stories so often that she forgot it had started when she sneaked downstairs after her bedtime, and misunderstood a few words of conversation from the next room.

"Let me tell you about the Gold Rush we had here," she would say to visitors. "It was incredible. So much gold. Although not all the miners found gold."

She felt a strange fluttering inside sometimes, but she was busy enjoying life watching summer sun on the ocean waves and sunbeams on the creek below the lighthouse.

She loved to knead, pound and bake the Klondike dough brought by the visitors with its special sourdough starter. It smelled so good wafting through the house along with the salty scent of the sea and the fragrance of the fir trees on their mountain bluff above the beach.

Elsie loved the chewy bread with its crisp crust, topped with local huckleberry jam. She called it Gold Rush Bread.

Years later, when Elsie had children of her own, she baked the bread for them. and told them stories about the miners finding a ton of gold at the local river.

For many generations later, her children and their children and so on repeated proudly the tales of their village's Great Gold Rush.

Then the enthralled listeners embellished and elaborated on the Gold Rush of the little village. Children in school were required to memorize the facts for exams and write essays about it.

No one ever knew it all started with one twelve year old little girl from the lighthouse in 1898 eavesdropping and misunderstanding something she overheard.

One day a local person with a philosophical streak became suspicious and began asking questions about it, but the details were as misty as the fog over the ocean.

The secrets of the Great Gold Rush of the Mystical Coast, that did not include any real gold, only stories, were buried in time forever.

And those living on the Mystical Coast sat around their campfires toasting mouthwatering morsels of the Klondike sourdough bread with homemade local huckleberriey jam on it, telling stories under the stars.

May 15, 2024 08:40

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07:39 May 19, 2024

Oh, what a wonderful tall tale to have started. What a tangled web is woven when we know how much larger than life a misunderstanding has become. So in line with the prompt. Loved this story. When you get to this point in your story, 'Meanwhile, the guests and sailors returned to the ship . . ." I feel you need a break or *** or something before this to acknowledge the change in the story to a different POV. Then, by the time the story has been embellished on and it is back at the lighthouse, after, "beach trails and the roads tomorrow and ...


Kristi Gott
17:12 May 19, 2024

Thank you for your thoughtful comments and helpful suggestions, Kaitlyn!


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Giovanna Ramirez
19:35 May 23, 2024

This is nearly my same perspective on the story. Wonderfully said, Kaitlyn. The sudden point-of-view shift was slightly confusing but did not take away from the essence of the story. From what I can gather of this story and your style as a writer, Kristi, you hold the value of history very close to your heart and that is such an admirable quality to have. Possibly the best narrative choice for you was to blend that passion for history with the children's story genre. Great job!


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Philip Ebuluofor
09:24 May 22, 2024

Yeah, things spread that way. Do they not see that kind rush as illegal?


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Mike Panasitti
04:46 May 20, 2024

The setting and descriptions in this story are absolute gold! A delightful exercise in historical fiction. I hope your book is coming along and meeting your writerly expectations. Best of luck with it.


Kristi Gott
05:37 May 20, 2024

Thank you so very much, Mike!


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Martha Kowalski
00:06 May 19, 2024

I always feel like I'm "right there" in your stories, Kristi!! Your storytelling is wonderful!


Kristi Gott
00:17 May 19, 2024

Thank you so much, Martha!


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George Beasley
16:42 May 18, 2024

Loved reading this story, it had the draw right from the start and all the way to the end. It made me want to visit the Mystical Coast.


Kristi Gott
19:19 May 18, 2024

Thank you so very much, George!


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McKade Kerr
02:32 May 18, 2024

Great story Kristi, as always! It was fun watching the rumor spread across the world and then stories spread across generations. Very cute idea and very well executed!


Kristi Gott
02:38 May 18, 2024

Thank you very much, McKade!


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Martin Ross
21:52 May 16, 2024

Classical, fanciful, warming storytelling. Great work again!


Kristi Gott
23:29 May 16, 2024

Thank you very much, Martin!


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Darvico Ulmeli
10:48 May 16, 2024

It only takes one to believe, and the sky is the limit. How many stories do we know that all started the same way? Somewhere, somehow, somebody understood something wrong, and today, we have history lessons about it. Love your work.


Kristi Gott
13:26 May 16, 2024

Thank you, Darvico! Yes, so true!


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Alexis Araneta
17:30 May 15, 2024

Heartwarming ? Tick ! Beautiful imagery ? Tick ! It must be a Krisi story ! Lovely work !


Kristi Gott
17:37 May 15, 2024

Thank you so very much, Alexis! 😀


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Mary Bendickson
15:52 May 15, 2024

Sounds like a history lesson.


Kristi Gott
17:15 May 15, 2024

Thank you very much, Mary!


Mary Bendickson
02:29 May 17, 2024

Thanks for liking my Secret Secret Agent Man.


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Vid Weeks
15:27 May 15, 2024

Lovely story, and very believable.


Kristi Gott
17:15 May 15, 2024

Thank you very much, Vid!


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