I managed to survive the experience of sleeping with Wilson. Since nothing happened I assumed he really had blacked out the night of the storm. If he was faking it, I was perfectly happy to go along with it.
Wilson and I were up with the first light. We drove to the cafe for breakfast. We both had a large breakfast since it was going to be our only meal till almost dark. I did stop at the convenience store for Generator gas and a box of oatmeal cookies, the kind with the creme filling, of course.
We were back at work on the prospecting by 9 AM. The generator pumped water and we began digging and washing the sediment from behind the dam. We didn’t look in the box where the gold, if there was any, would accumulate. The open part of the sluice showed us nothing. There was a chance something had collected in the sluice’s carpet, since we were using it there as well. The water was always muddy so it was hard to see anything but large flakes and we really weren’t expecting any of those.
Day two came to a close with the trench behind the dam’s foundation about two feet wide and twenty feet long. It was also about a foot deep. I wasn’t the world’s fastest trencher. Wilson had to stop the washing to help me dig now and then.
“Wilson, you are keeping those pebbles mixed with the silt aren’t you,” I asked.
“Yeah but only those that look like quarts. The granite ones get a quick look for veins then tossed on your dam to help with the water pool,” Wilson replied. He had a five gallon bucket from home depot about 1/3 full of quartz crystals.
The washing and digging were both back breaking work. I just loved it. It felt good to only be concerned with things which I could manipulate. I didn’t have to think about things over which I had no control. I was relaxed even though at the end of the first full day I was exhausted. We quit prospecting when the sun went down.
“Let’s take this mother apart,” I said to Wilson. The sluice on the tail end of the box held nothing. Wilson had learned how to pan the water from the miner’s carpet. The sluice held nothing at all. There was lots of bb sized gravel in the bottom of the shaker box.
“Take a look,” Wilson suggested. In the bottom of the pan there seemed to be a peanut sized green bead. “Don’t get your hopes up but that could be an emerald.”
“Well put it in our save bag and we can have it checked out later,” I suggested. Wilson and I went to the town 30 miles away to eat. We also wanted to go to Wal-Mart for a small radio. We were back at the Honda by 9:30 PM.
“Do you have any idea how bad you stink?” I asked. Wilson just laughed.
“Sweetie you don’t exactly smell like roses,” he replied. I laughed at that. We had only been at the site two days and already we had reverted to living only a few rungs above how the miners in Alaska lived. It was what Wilson wanted. It was also what I was enjoying. In my case I was reminded of my twentieth birthday in Afghanistan. I smelled then as well, since we had been on the fuel run for three days without seeing a shower.
At the fourth day’s clean up we found a half dozen small flakes of gold. We had run the top foot of sediment from the whole dam’s foundation. “So Wilson, do we widen our trench or go deeper?” I asked.
“We have ten more days to dig. How about we go down to six feet starting near the creek and moving toward the old river bank. We can go the full six feet at one bank or the other. Then we can work as far as we can toward the creek.”
“Okay but you know we are going to restore the land to more or less the same shape as before?” I asked.
“Yes, but we can restore it after the lease has expired. Restoration wasn’t part of the deal, so we can do it after time runs out,” Wilson said.
“We will have to talk to the owner, when the lease is up. Let’s don’t promise him anything now,” I said. If we reach the creek we need to slope it upward so that the creek doesn’t collapse the hole in on us,” I said.
“Yeah that makes sense. Let’s get to it,” Wilson said.
The third day I was so smelly I was willing to strip down in front of Wilson. We agreed to knock off early and boil some water over an open fire. We managed to wash from a plastic pan. Since the weather was still warm, it wasn’t too uncomfortable.
I figured I was 70% clean and sweet smelling so I was content. We had washed in creek water to save the bottled water for drinking. “Besides,” I told Wilson when he appeared concerned about the creek water having germs, “It’s all part of the experience.”
We had about an hour to kill before we went to the Crossroads Cafe for dinner, so we drank really good coffee while our hair dried. The water for our whore’s bath came from a too small pot so it was mixed with cold water then put more back on the fire for the next person. It was really a mess but it felt good to be clean regardless of how it came about.
Dinner that night was their homemade hamburger soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, even more than usual, because I was clean. Well not perfectly clean but I felt clean in comparison to the days before.
After dinner we went back to sleep on the foam pad I had cut before we left New Wales. It was far from comfortable, but I was able to sleep simply because I was physically exhausted.
Every day after that fourth day we found more interesting pieces of what we thought was quarts and more flakes of gold. The gold was tiny but it was gold. It probably wasn’t commercially viable, but it was certainly hobby viable. It was an inexpensive vacation which had the potential of breaking even after two weeks.
At the beginning of our second week Wilson and I hit the rock layer that had been at the bottom of the dam’s foundation. The silt layer was only four and a half feet deep. That being the case I began to dig toward the stream. We increased our production of gold by skipping the top 6 inches of dirt on the second side of the creek and moving right to the bottom layers.
Why there was more gold at the bottom was unexplainable to me, unless there had been hard rock mining along the stream sometime many years ago and the gold washed down from that operation. Regardless we got the best results from one to four feet down. Even then it wasn’t all that much.
“Let’s dig and wash until dark. Tomorrow we can clean up the sluice and fill in the pit,” Wilson suggested.
“Sounds like a plan,” I agreed so that is pretty much what we did. We worked till dark then drove to the Crossroad Cafe. I was so tired and happy that the vacation was over, I didn’t even remember what I ordered. The plate full of french fries with salsa and chili surprised me. “Wilson is this what I ordered?” I asked.
“Chili fries and diet coke, yeah it is,” he said with a smile.
“Shit they look awful,” I said.
On the drive home Wilson asked, “So how were those potatoes?”
“They were actually pretty good, but I think I’m going to have heartburn,” I said.
I drove us back to the site and noticed an older black pickup truck parked on the shoulder of the road. When I pulled in the truck pulled down the road behind me.
We had been in a different environment for the last two weeks, but I still carried the derringer in my wallet. “Who the fuck is that?” Wilson asked.
“I have no idea. Makes you wish that we were more redneck and had a gun rack with a shotgun, don’t it?” I asked.
“It sure does,” Wilson agreed.
I had the derringer out before we stopped the truck beside the Honda. I recognized Mrs. Powell as she came from the black pickup. “Well hello there Mrs. Powell,” I said.
“I couldn’t contain myself any longer, so what did you find,” she asked.
“I am sure the excitement is hard to handle,” I said with a laugh. “To be honest we aren’t sure what we found. As Wilson here predicted there was some gold but probably not enough to make mining feasible. The trenches we dug were about six feet wide four feet deep and fifteen feet long. The sediment had some gravel in it. Some of the gravel was quarts. At least we think it is but it might be something else. We are going to stop by a gem expert as soon as we clean and restore the site. We want to clean our equipment and fill in the trenches we dug.
“Would you consider leaving the trenches open and leaving your equipment as well?” she asked.
“To be honest I really want to keep the equipment, but if you want we can leave the trench open. Wilson can even show your husband how to build the sluice setup,” I suggested.
“Would you sell the equipment to us?” she asked.
“There is probably five hundred dollars in equipment here. That is at cost,” I said.
“I think we will buy it from you, but I need to talk to my husband. His father wanted to prospect the area more extensively,” she said.
“That’s fine but we do need to clean up the equipment,” I said.
“We expect you to be gone at midnight, if we come back with a check,” she said suddenly being a hard ass.
“That gives us two hours to pick up our last days work. But we can do that,” I said. There actually were three days of material in the sluice. Wilson and I had to work till midnight to get the mats washed. We didn’t have time to do a proper clean out. There was the majority of the wet mud and minerals in a five gallon bucket loaded into the back of my truck by 11:30 PM.
We locked it up then made our way into the Honda to sleep. We were awakened by the sound of a truck pulling up. A pretty old gray haired man stepped out of the truck.
“I got this here check for you,” he said.
It was for five hundred dollars. “Well that pretty much puts you in the prospecting business,” I said. “Would you like for us to hang around to help you get the knack of the equipment.”
“That would really be nice of you,” he said.
“Well you probably want someone to dig for you, so you can run the wash. I’ll be your digger today,” I said.
With that I helped the old man down the rope first and then Wilson followed me down. Wilson gave him tips on how to run the sluice and I dug dirt for him. I also threw the dirt we had already processed back into the pit, when I had a chance.
We worked pretty hard till after lunch without a break. “We haven’t eaten all day so if you think you have it, we should go eat,” Wilson said.
“Sure and I sure want to thank you two,” the old man said. He was a hell-of-a lot nicer than his wife. “I’ll get the grandkids out to mine for gold on weekends.”
Edited by Walt