More Lost Mines and Seekers

Prose, including snippets (mini-memoirs).
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mnaz
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More Lost Mines and Seekers

Post by mnaz » August 16th, 2019, 9:57 pm

(Revised and updated-- yet again! Part of an ongoing fascination in my wandering.)

Notes: The "jumping mountains" are Nevada's fault-block type ranges; they actually "jump up" along faults between basin and range as they tilt and shift. I've written here a couple times about them. "Red's porch" refers to the old gold mine where I was caretaker for awhile.

What if you-- only you-- knew a secret place of wealth? Out past a last lost horizon at the end of a long, rough trail; at ten miles out you'd still have sixty more miles and two ridges to go. What if you knew of a mine that had just been given up too soon? . . . Like an old Nevada silver camp. It turns out the old timers were sloppy, and might've left wealthy waste lying around.
.......This legend went all the way back to the jumping mountains . . . those bare, dusky waves cresting over sage glow troughs. You could stop halfway up one to sit and watch the next one, the next wave, twelve miles away but ready to roll in like the tide, grinding and shifting ever closer for an epoch like an afternoon in rock time. The jumping mountains had been rising on their fault lines for millions of years by the time I showed up, and water had boiled up in cracks and deposited silver . . . which fractured and scattered as mountains kept jumping.
.......Then came the silver madness. Rainwater seeped into scattered silver, and sulfides changed to heavier chlorides, which collected in ledges . . . and a violent town sprouted up at each ledge found in the 1860s, with tent ghettos and ramshackle saloons where sometimes prostitutes had to shoot their customers. It was quite puzzling to local Paiutes, who knew of these silver places long before they were overwhelmed by strange obsessions until they played out, and silent sage seas reclaimed their rightful state of solitude . . . For awhile.
.......But those old timers were sloppy, and used a crude method based on mercury, and by the time a much better cyanide method reached the wild west in 1890 the silver rush was over . . . and nobody knew how much wealth might still be lying around. The biggest mines were soon cyanided to death, obviously, but the silver binge had been so big, with so many mines spread to the farthest corners of high desert oblivion, that abandoned fortune seemed a certainty . . . if you could find your own secret mine. And if you found it, could you muck tons of dirt out on a remote mountain, alone to face its storms and ghosts?
.......Other people had already done it. They'd studied old maps and journals, and Bureau of Mines reports, even satellite shots, for clues to lost wealth carelessly dumped by some ragged old west mob. And a few of these seekers, with enough work and luck, had found a site on some hopelessly remote slope with a forever view, and they'd crawled up a long, rough trail far above a radiant valley, with a truckload of cyanide and supplies. Into a time warp.
.......I imagined how it might play out. At first you'd absorb the raw earth scene, a sinister old grotesque cottonwood clinging to life on a dry creek. You'd look for square nails, the kind they used in the 1860s. And then you'd unpack and get to work. And things would be fine for awhile until a string of trials. A lack of results. Fierce winds and dust. Lightning and hail. Then in the dead stillness of a pitch-black night one of the old cottonwood's weary limbs would split from its trunk with a hair-raising shriek, its heartwood dead, and your heart would gallop. Then one frosty morning you might sit awhile and consider your mound of secret pay dirt, and wonder if your plan was going to work.

~~~~~~~~~~

.......Could you be a seeker? Only if you like being out there. Only if you believe in the endless possibility of silent mountain ranges. There’s always another mountain on the horizon, and if it doesn’t work out in one canyon there’s always the next, or maybe you go deeper into the one you’re in, because you saw something in it. That’s what powers this land. That's how it operates. I reclined on Red's porch under a tattered tarp, paperback in hand, and more lost mine legends unfolded on the printed page.
.......Not all lost mines stayed lost forever. A few were actually found again. Like Helen Cottrell’s ledge. She was a hard luck miner who heard a story told by a man named Claude about how his brother, just before he died after an ambush in Mexico, sent a bad map with faulty directions to his silver claim. Claude laughed at Helen when she asked about the map, which he handed over, but then she recruited some partners and the map led them to a silver forge . . . But no mine. They searched for months with no luck, and the partners all quit, but Helen searched for another whole year until she found that silver ledge . . . because she liked being out there. Roughing it in heat, dust, thirst, bitter cold, exhaustion and deep solitude. It all took a toll, but the hunt is what mattered most. As all the best seekers know.
.......Alice Diminy understood this too. People called her “Happy Days” and never took her seriously. She couldn't convince any men in Goldfield to work for her, so she tried to hire men with newspaper ads, most of whom quit when they found out their new boss was a woman. But one tenderfoot greenhorn signed on, and he somehow helped Happy Days locate a small gold mine . . . But for awhile she struggled, until the ghost of an old friend visited her camp one night and told her that she was "getting close." Two days later, in a lucid dream, she saw a mysterious man point up the hillside beside her camp, where she found gold nuggets a thousand feet away the next day.

saw
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Re: More Lost Mines and Seekers

Post by saw » August 19th, 2019, 11:16 am

intriguing story.... and captivating way of life.... 8) ....thanx for sharing
If you do not change your direction
you may end up where you are heading

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mnaz
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Joined: August 15th, 2004, 10:02 pm
Location: north of south

Re: More Lost Mines and Seekers

Post by mnaz » August 19th, 2019, 12:17 pm

Part of a long wander. Musins' on stories I picked up. While living at the mine, I found (some) of the mining lore fascinating. The older stuff, that is, not the conglomerate mountain-gouging behemoths. (The guy who hired me hated those monsters.) Thanks..

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