Sheriff Porter 115
I awoke at 6 AM very well rested. I had forgotten my depression for a while. By the time I fell asleep, it hadn’t caught up with me. It was however back that Saturday morning clutching me like a too tight sweater. I hated the feeling of choking on my grief. I had felt it before. It had been a while since someone I knew and loved had died. I hated that feeling of overwhelming grief and depression.
I was in the shower, when I heard Wilson outside the shower starting the coffee. The problem was I had only brought a tee shirt and panties up to the shower. I had not expected him to be moving around so early in the morning. I thought I had time to do all my morning things before I woke him. I could just as easily have brought up a pair of cutoffs, I really didn’t even consider Wilson might be around.
He kept his back turned while I passed behind him headed into the bedroom area of the barge. After I was dressed and my hair was combed, I went back to the kitchen area to drink a cup of the coffee. He had the big thermos loaded and ready to go. Wilson was dressed and all clean smelling. It was time to put the Honda on the road.
“Sylvia you okay?” he asked. “You have been awfully quiet since you got back. Did something happen?”
“Yeah Wilson, a friend got killed,” I finally admitted to an outsider.
“Oh crap, I’m so sorry. Those guys in black made a huge impression on everyone in Warren County. Was he one of the guys at the school?” Wilson asked.
“Yeah, he was the leader of that mission as well as the one he died on. The bad guys threw his body overboard in the Gulf of Mexico, so we didn’t even have a body.”
“Oh Sylvia I’m so sorry,” he said.
“Yeah well we are going to keep moving forward Wilson. It’s all I know how to do,” I said.
We had to stop once for gas and we got a couple of convenience store hot dogs with cokes for lunch. We got more coffee for the road.
By 2 PM we found the owner of the land we wanted to prospect upon. “Mr. Powell my name is Sylvia Porter. I came to see you about your new land on the Blue Knife Creek.”
“It used to be Blue Knife River till the environmentalist took all the dams down,” he said. We got the site where the first dam had been. This is where it changed from a steam to a river.”
“That’s is what we want to talk to you about. Mr. Wilson here is a computer nerd and I’m kind of an investigator. We would like to test the earth from behind the damn for minerals. We would be willing to pay you for the privilege,” I suggested.
“What you mean?” he asked.
“Well we will do a little digging. Just what we can dig by hand, nothing really big and we won’t harm the land. When we finish we can tell you what you have out there. All we want is what we dig up in those two weeks. If it is nothing then so be it. We will be the only ones who lose. If we find anything, you can have the information to do with what you will. We won’t hold it against you, if you tell us to leave, because you want to process the site yourself.”
“Well Sylvia that sounds fair to me. When you going to start?” he asked.
“It will be one day next week, I promise. And the time for our investigation will run two week from the day we arrive with our equipment. Don’t worry there won’t be any heavy equipment,” I repeated.
“Okay then,” Marshall said extending his hand. I had him hand write me a note of permission just in case somebody wanted to challenge us. What he didn’t know was I planned to use it as a contract if the need arose.
Wilson and I were back on the road by 5 PM but we didn’t go home. We looked for a place to stay. There was nothing even close, so it looked like we had some improvising to do.
“You know Wilson when we get back you start getting all the parts you need for your machine. We can load them into the back of the truck for the drive up here. Let’s drive the Honda up as well. I would rather sleep in the back of it than on the ground. We can leave the back seat in the barge while we are gone,” I suggested.
I waited while Wilson finished designing the small wash station. “We should have gone down and dug a bucket of that dirt to see what the rock content was,” he said.
“Yeah we probably should have,” I said.
“Oh well it’s all or nothing,” Wilson said. He was like me there was almost no investment. If we found any gold it would be so damn cool. If not there wouldn’t be any real loss. Our real business was still moving right along.
“Okay we will make a shaker box out of plastic storage boxes. Then run the dirt that makes it through the shaker down the sluice trays. Finally we will pan it if there is anything to pan,” Wilson said.
“When are you going to have all this shit ready to go?” I asked.
“Couple of days. I’m going to build all this shit myself,” Wilson said.
“I tell you what Wilson I have some experience with pumps. I will build the water supply. First thing we are going to need is a Generator. I’ll drive to Ellisboro and find a small generator and a couple of pumps,” I said.
I bought the kiddie swimming pool to catch the wash water run off so that we could reuse it along with the fresh water we could get from a pump in the creek. I also bought a hand truck to carry the crap from the road to the site. As was always the case, work was the best therapy for depression. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.
Somehow we managed to be ready for the grand experiment by late evening on the next Monday. We used Monday to finish up the equipment, load it up then shut down the barge and office for a two week vacancy. EZ promised to stop by to be sure nothing terrible happened. As a final gesture Wilson dumped our computer files.
Tuesday morning we started our drive to the Blue Knife Creek at a spot where the first dam on the Blue Knife River used to sit. So Wilson and I were in high spirits. I really needed his optimism that day. It counterbalanced my dreary outlook on life. Whenever I pulled over for coffee he pulled in behind me all filled with a really positive attitude. He had really needed to get out of the office and this was his idea.
I needed to get away from the business for a while myself. I hadn’t really committed to his idea because it was just a hobby type thing for me. Something to do while I was mentally healing.
It was afternoon when we arrived. I sat in the truck chewing on a Slim Jim while I waited for Wilson to catch up to me. I was on the road about a quarter mile from the dam sight. There was a driveway of sorts. It was kind of a grown over dirt road, which had led down to the power station part of the dam. We had the owner’s permission to drive down to the dam site but he had admonished us to re-hook the gate when we passed through it.
Once Wilson arrived, we drove down to the old damn site. There was nothing left of it. There was a pretty steep drop off down to the old river bed. Wilson slid down to the bottom of the bank and I began lowering equipment down to him. Nothing was especially heavy until I got to the generator.
The generator weight about 50 pounds. It was hard but I managed to lower it without dropping it. It was quite a feat since I only had one good hand to grip with.
Once everything was on the dry riverbed, we started to set things up. Since I was taking it on myself to supply the water needed for the sluice, I built a small damn in the creek to create a basin. We weren’t talking about mining on an Alaskan scale so we weren’t going to need huge amounts of water. I also planned for a water recovery system so we could reuse the water and lower the need for fresh water.
By three o’clock I had my part of the operation complete. I looked at Wilson’s strange contraption and it was Rube Goldberg all the way. The first of the inexpensive 12“ x 24“ storage boxes with a hole drilled in one end about an inch from the bottom. In that one inch there was a fiberglass mesh material with a metal plate like the floor plate of a fire escape.
Wilson had built a platform by hand with the shovel. On it he sat the box about a foot above the next piece of his contraption, which was a plastic sluice run. The runoff from our homemade shaker box would go down the second sluice before it ran into the kiddie pool which would act as our recovery pond. I had a small fountain pump in it to recover some of the water. Everything had a garden hose connection to the shaker box. It wasn’t really going to shake all that much but it did look like the old time shaker boxes in a way. It wasn’t going to be a high volume operation but it wasn’t meant to be anything but fun.
“Well we are all set up and we have three hours to try it out,” Wilson said.
“Here is to an interesting vacation,” I said raising my plastic bottle of water. Wilson went to dig the first five gallon bucket of silt from the first spot ten feet away. We felt that the spot had been near the dam’s foundation. I joined Wilson for the first dig. It took us about twenty minutes since the grass roots had to be removed. We tried to maintain the turf for replacement.
With the two buckets sitting at the bottom of the shaker box I started the generator and plugged the creek pump into it. The water began to flow and Wilson added the dirt. It took several minutes to run the two buckets through the shaker box. When they were done, we stopped to check the collection areas. There was absolutely nothing in the traps.
“Well Wilson, our first run is over and it can only go up from here,” I said.
“Gee I was hoping for at least one flake,” he said.
“So much for dreams, now begins the reality of it. How thick should the layer of silt be for a hundred years accumulation?” I asked.
“The pictures made it appear that there was a four or five foot difference in the river bottom. I would say we dig down five feet or until we hit the bottom of the basin. When you get to rock you will know we have gone far enough. It should be all clay or compressed silt we are running through the shaker,” Wilson said.
Well it’s 7 PM and we have the first day under our belt so let’s call it a night and go eat. We found a crossroad Country Cafe. It would probably be home base for the two weeks we were in the area. We also found a gas station convenience store. Those had replaced the country store of the generations before.
I had a beef and rice dish at the cafe and Wilson had chicken pie. When we finished I pronounced the coffee undrinkable. The cafe used the restaurant blend that I found horrid.
I insisted we drive the thirty miles to a Wal-Mart store to buy coffee and a pot. There was enough outlets attached to the generator to brew coffee and then to reheat it. We pulled the truck back into the space beside the Honda.
It was only 9 PM, but there was nothing to do but go to bed. We slept in our clothes and under the same blanket. It took me a little while to get used to that. I mean, I had once had the man’s penis in my mouth.
Edited by Walt