Miner Problems ©
Knucks Mahoneigh and I tried not to look too bored as our friend Blizzard Bob (B.B.) launched into yet another of his long-winded lectures about gold mining. We hadn’t had a meeting of the NORSMen (NORSMen: North Road Supportive Men— a benevolent society dedicated to the fuller appreciation of cheap beer, cigars of dubious origin, and recreational mining issues) since May that hadn’t been spent with B.B. trying to drag us into active participation in his mining efforts. So far, B.B.’s efforts had been wasted. Maybe, just maybe, Knucks and I might have been more inclined over the months to heed B.B.’s golden siren call, if we hadn’t seen the man in action.
B.B. has been pursuing the El Dorado of the north, off and on, for years. His gold production doesn’t noticeably decline during the off periods. The only real difference between his down time and those times he is in the heat of his prospecting endeavors, is the amount of trouble he gets into.
His efforts have not always gone unrewarded. Once, B.B. actually found some nuggets. In fact, he found a respectable amount. Unfortunately, he struck it rich on a claim owned by someone with a less than congenial attitude toward gold-seeking strangers.
More recently, B.B. decided to move up into suction dredging. He bought an antiquated setup that included not only the suction dredge, but also a dry suit large enough for simultaneous wear by B.B. and several of his closest friends. The extra length of the suit had a habit of drifting up the suction hose of the dredge, dragging B.B. right along. Plugged into the dredge, there was little he could do but flop around in the creek like a snagged salmon. This happened with enough regularity that Knucks and I were enlisted to serve as his lifeguards. While B.B. vacuumed the bottom of the creek, we amused ourselves with a sluice box nearby. When B.B. gave the signal— a gurgled “AUGH!” followed by much splashing— one of us would wade out and shut off the engine on the dredge.
With all that in mind, it’s little wonder Knucks and I resisted B.B.’s constant offers to become “bona fide partners.” We felt safe as B.B. launched into what would undoubtedly prove to be another partnership pitch; the mining season was over. We would remain noncommittal for the winter months to avoid hurting his feelings. Maybe he’d give up on recruiting us by May.
B.B. droned on. Knucks and I alternated the duty of providing grunts at regular intervals to give B.B. the impression he wasn’t talking entirely to himself. It was Knucks’ turn to grunt, so I allowed myself the luxury of contemplating the El Stinko cigar I held. As I tried to decide whether the El Stinko was truly a fine combination of selected blends and filler material, or a combination of stable sweepings wrapped in old newspaper, I heard Knucks say, “Say B.B., that sounds like a good idea.”
I hadn’t actually heard what B.B. had said, but his intonation was one that required, at the very most, a grunted, “We’ll see.” That response was such a shock, I actually inhaled some of the noxious vapors emanating from the cigar. The resultant coughing spasm pitched me to the floor.
“You gonna make it there, A.E.?”
“Yeah,” I wheezed, crawling around on all fours, “just looking for my right lung... coughed it up somewhere in this vicinity.”
“Well,” B.B. said, “if you’re all right, I’ll go get that map.”
When B.B. slipped out of his garage into the house, I turned to Knucks. “What good idea? What map?”
“B.B. found a spot where we can stake an actual gold mining claim. He wants us to be his partners.”
“Are you NUTS!”
Before we could take the debate any further, B.B. returned with his map. He unfolded it on a workbench, and started in on a sales pitch that would have made any Florida swamp-bottom peddler proud.
“You guys remember that creek by the campground we worked in July?”
“Yeah,” I offered, “the one where if we’d have dug there long enough, we might have found enough gold to buy the glasses we’d need to see the gold flakes we found.”
B.B. continued, “We worked the bottom section of that creek, because the upper sections were claimed... or so I thought. Guys, have I got a deal for you! Look at these little squiggly lines. See how close together they are? That means there’s a deep cut right there. All the gold is settling out in that stretch... and best of all: it’s open for staking.”
I scrutinized the map while B.B. explained how he had gone to Anchorage to look over recorded mining claims and learn how to file a claim. His gold fever was contagious. Knucks’ eyes were starting to glow. Fast action was required.
“B.B., point out exactly where you want to stake the claim.” He pointed to a spot along a deep, narrow canyon. “Okay... that’s what, about a mile beyond the end of the two mile trail to the canyon?”
“You know how accurate those maps are. That trail could go right on up the canyon.”
“Yeah,” Knucks agreed, “can’t hurt to have a look.”
I caved in to peer pressure, trusting that Knucks’ ardor would cool over the course of the winter. However, B.B. and Knucks decided that since the warmer weather had melted most of the snow that fell in October, the following weekend would be a good time to go.
“I dunno guys... might be dangerous.”
“No sweat,” Knucks assured me, “B.B. won’t take the dredge.”
To be continued......