By the Great Horn Spoon!

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By The Great Horn Spoon!
First edition
AuthorSid Fleischman
IllustratorEric von Schmidt
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's novel
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)

By The Great Horn Spoon! is a children's novel about the gold rush by Sid Fleischman, published in 1963. The story takes place in the California Gold Rush. A twelve-year-old boy named Jack, who has lived with his Aunt Arabella since his parents died, heads to [California] to search for gold after Aunt Arabella loses all her money. He is accompanied by Aunt Arabella's butler, Praiseworthy. As the novel opens, they are stowaways on a ship, The Lady Wilma, hiding in Mr. Azariah Jones' eighteen potato barrels. On the second day, Jack and Praiseworthy turn themselves in to the captain, Joshua Swain. They are put to work in the ship's coal bunkers, but they later uncover the villain on the ship, Cut-Eye Higgins, who stole their money for tickets. After they become legitimate passengers, they share a cabin with people such as Dr. Buckbee, the horse doctor with the peg leg, and Mountain Jim, a huge man who helps Jack save a pig from the cook. When they reach San Francisco, they head for the gold mines and encounter a number of friendly miners, such as Quartz Jackson, Buffalo John, Jimmie-From-Town, and Pitch-pine Billy Pierce. Along the way they encounter Cut-Eye Higgins, the villain who stole their money earlier.

A few days later, the Lady Wilma, a.k.a. Evil Woman, decides to tow a stranded square-rigger. The square-rigger's crew tells them that the Sea Raven had already gone ahead. The cook begins hunting for Good Luck to cook him, but Praiseworthy, Jack, and Mountain Jim fool him. At night, Jack stores Good Luck in a stern boat. After a stop in Rio de Janeiro, where the ship refills on coal and supplies, Dr. Buckbee finds out that his map leading to a gold mine is gone, and Cut-Eye Higgins and the stern boat in which Good Luck was hidden are also gone. As genius detectives, the passengers find out that Cut-Eye Higgins stole Dr. Buckbee's map and escaped in the stern boat. Eventually, the Lady Wilma arrives at Cape Horn and manages to make it through after a long period of weeks and days. Praiseworthy finds out that they actually cut through the Straight of Magellan, and that the Sea Raven is behind them. While they keep steaming, Jack and Praiseworthy strike a deal with Monsieur Gaunt and Azariah Jones. Azariah's potatoes were spoiling, and Gaunt's grapes were drying up. Jack tells them that Azariah's potatoes were very juicy, and that by sticking Gaunt's grapes in them the grapes would survive. So, Monsieur Gaunt buys Azariah's potatoes. Both Gaunt and Azariah promise to buy the pair the last pick and shovel they can find. However, the Sea Raven soon passes the Lady Wilma again.

The Lady Wilma stops at Callao, and Monsieur Gaunt and Azariah Jones buy Praiseworthy and Jack the last two picks and shovels they could find, along with two wash pans. The Lady Wilma takes supplies, but discovers that the Sea Raven took all the coal. Praiseworthy and Jack board the ship, with some cats joining them on the ship as well. The Lady Wilma soon passes the Sea Raven, since the Sea Raven in being weighed down by the tons of coal it took from Callao. However, the Sea Raven later passes the Lady Wilma again, since the Sea Raven has fresh coal. However, Praiseworthy reminds Captain Swain about the lumber in the ship's hold, and Captain Swain uses it as fuel. This allows the Lady Wilma to pass the Sea Raven and win the race.

After arriving in California, Praiseworthy and Jack give a miner named Quartz Jackson a haircut. Quartz Jackson teaches them how to pan for gold, and he manages to find some gold dust in his beard, which he gives to Praiseworthy, who puts the gold dust in his left glove.. Praiseworthy and Jack then start a barbering business. Later, Jack buys a horn spoon, and Praiseworthy and Jack leave to the diggings. While on a stagecoach, Jack and Praiseworthy meet unintentionally with Cut-Eye Higgins. However, road agents hold up the stagecoach. They take most of the passengers' valuables. When a road agent tries to take Aunt Arabella's picture from Praiseworthy, Praiseworthy grabs him and knocks him uphill with a punch from his left glove, which was weighted by the gold dust. Later, when Praiseworthy and Jack try to get Dr. Buckbee's map from Cut-Eye Higgins, Cut-Eye Higgins says the map was in his coat, which was taken by the road agents.

Later, Jack and Praiseworthy arrive in Hangtown and meet Pitch-pine Billy, a miner who gives Jack coffee and teaches them how to get gold as an apology for shooting one of their washpans, since he thought it was his. Pitch-pine Billy also gives them permission to squat on his claim. Later in the day, when Praiseworthy and Jack enter Hangtown, they discover that the miners in Hangtown heard about Praiseworthy punching the road agent and knocking him uphill. The miners then give Praiseworthy a nickname — "Bullwhip". Later, Jack finds a nugget, but accidentally is forced to use half of it to buy a bushel of neckties from the Cheap John auction. Jimmie-from-Town admits it was his fault and offers to pay back the money to Jack, but Praiseworthy politely declines the offer, telling Jack that he has made an exceptional purchase. Later, a challenge to Praiseworthy arrives from the Mountain Ox, a brawler who says he wants to fight Praiseworthy in boxing. Quartz Jackson and his new wife arrive in Hangtown, and Jack and Praiseworthy earn money by selling the neckties to miners who want to look neat and clean to see Quartz's wife. Praiseworthy and Jack then use the money to buy a burro and a squirrel gun. Later, while exploring, Jack encounters a grizzly bear during a hunting trip. Jack falls down a coyote hole by accident and is rescued by a former road agent wearing Cut-Eye Higgins' coat. Jack takes the coat from the road agent and rips it open with Praiseworthy, but finds out that the map isn't there. They then agree that Cut-Eye Higgins must have the map somewhere else.

They start walking and find a miner who has a toothache, who tells them there is a dentist at Shirt-Tail Camp. The miner also tells Jack and Praiseworthy the dentist's name is Doc Higgins, who is really Cut-Eye Higgins. They quickly head to Shirt-Tail Camp, and arrive just in time for Cut-Eye's hanging for stealing a horse. Praiseworthy quickly comes up with a plan to get the map and releasing Cut-Eye Higgins by pretending Jack has a toothache. The Justice of the Peace of Shirt-tail Camp negotiates to build a jail for Higgins, and lets him extract teeth, but once another dentist comes along he would be hanged. The Justice then orders Jack and Praiseworthy to dig Higgins a grave that is six feet deep. They pick a beautiful spot, but then, as they hit bedrock, Jack and Praiseworthy find gold and strike it rich! They work for a couple of weeks, digging for gold. Afterwards, they sell their burro Stubb to the Justice of the Peace and turn in their mining tools. They then set off for Hangtown for Praiseworthy's fight with the Mountain Ox. There is a big crowd waiting for them. The Mountain Ox is big and strong, but Praiseworthy keeps dodging his punches and in the end wins with a big punch. The next day they almost drown as the captain of the ship they were on, going to San Francisco was rushing and the boiler explodes! They lose all of their gold in order to survive. Praiseworthy and Jack then proceed to head for The Lady Wilma. But it has been deserted except for the cats from Callao, Peru. Mr. Azariah Jones, who is now an auctioneer, tells them that Captain Swain's crew ran off to the diggings, which led to the captain just finding a way back to Boston. He then explains that rats are trying to ruin his business, which leads to Jack and Praiseworthy giving him the cats from Callao. Soon after, Mr. Azariah Jones has a huge line of customers. By the afternoon, Jack and Praiseworthy's share of the money is over four hundred dollars. While they talk, Jack suddenly sees a girl who looks like his sister Sarah, a girl who looks like his sister Constance, and a woman who looks Aunt Arabella! It was them! At first they do not recognize Jack and Praiseworthy under the disguise of their hats and boots. But Jack and Praiseworthy call out to them, and the family is officially reunited. It is unknown what happened to the family after Aunt Arabella agreed to marry Praiseworthy, as there is no sequel. It is presumed that they dug for gold to replace the previous batch and then lived out their lives in California.

Film adaptation[edit]

This book was turned into a movie called The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1967) by Disney, which changed the name of the butler character (Praiseworthy), as well as many other components of the storyline and plot.