In a cavern (in a canyon), excavating for a mine, lived a miner. A “forty-niner.” He had no daughter cooking his meals for him though, for with the scant dust that he’d scraped over the past dozen years, he’d barely been able to keep his accustomed one pair of pants in patches let alone support a family. His darling daughter, along with his wife, had packed it in and moved back to Nantucket where they were doing fairly well for themselves running a bed and breakfast called “Clementine’s,” named after the horse they rode in on. By 1860 he packed it in too and disappeared into the foothills of history, never making a penny of royalties on the songs that were later written about him.
In the twelve years he spent prospecting, the miner had gone through roughly 23 pairs of cotton trousers, 7 canvas dungarees, 16 hemp overalls, one silk bear costume (don’t ask), and 4,273 spools of thread sewing back the seams torn along the crotches and pockets during his daily digging. By the time he’d quit, he’d resorted to simply roaming through the hills au naturel. They left that part out of the song.
On May 20th, 1873, exactly thirteen years after the miner wandered away (a typically unlucky thirteen for him but thirteen Indian-head-up-lucky-penny-type years for the miners who’d kept their patched pants on and stuck around), the cries of Tarnation! and Darned-Blast-It! and even the occasional @#$%^&*!!! gradually began to fade as fewer and fewer button-flies ripped at the seams. For on that day, Levi Loeb, the San Francisco dry-goods dealer and Jacob Davis, a Reno tailor, received word that their joint patent for adding metal rivets to strengthen denim “waist overalls” had been approved. Blue Jeans had arrived for the working man.