by Bret Harte | Grades 9-12
In 1870, the young San Francisco-based writer and editor Bret Harte (1836-1902) first compiled a single-volume edition of his rousing stories of life in the Wild West. Entitled The Luck of Roaring Camp, and Other Sketches, the book propelled him almost overnight from local celebrity to American literary lion.
"The Luck of Roaring Camp" takes place in a small struggling mining town located in the foothills of the California mountains at the time of the gold rush. The camp is suffering from a long string of bad luck. With only one woman in their midst, it seems as though the miners have no future. However, the tide turns when a small boy is born. "Thomas Luck" is the first newborn the camp has seen in ages; things are looking up. The miners become cheerful, foliage begins to grow, and there is talk of building a hotel to attract outsiders. Unfortunately, the hope is wiped out by the sudden death of Luck in a flood. Water brought gold to the gulches, giving miners their first glimmer of hope. And water takes away what seems their last glimmer—Luck.