Murphy's Bar

The Starvation Creek Mining District

The boys hatch a new plan

bar sign

"Well, how's the sanctuary claim working out?" Rocky, the bartender at Murphy's bar asked as Bob and I grabbed our usual seats.

"Not so well. Who can keep up with politics these days?" My buddy Bob Flanagan replied. "We just get ourselves set up as a sanctuary and we've got a new president who decides he's not going to support the idea anymore. It's just not fair."

"Yeah," I added, "Just because we're undocumented dredgers doesn't mean we should be arrested as illegals."

"Well, that's the winds of politics. One day you're the windshield, one day you're the bug." Rocky replied as he opened the tap on a new keg of Old Tailings without bothering to ask what we wanted. Had he asked we might have wanted something with a little more beer taste to it.

"At least our governor has stepped up to protect us undocumented dredgers, so that's something at least." Bob replied.

"I think the protection only extends to undocumented aliends, not dredgers." Rocky told him as he slid two beers across the bar.

"The sanctuary claim was our last hope." Bob told him eyeing the top of his beer. Most beer you worry about the bottom of the keg. With Old Tailings you worry about what floated to the top.

"The good news is you won't have to worry about paying taxes anymore." Rocky told us.

"Huh?" I asked, this bit of news had slid right by me.

"Yeah, Governor Brown, in addition to refusing to hand over illegal aliens who've committed crimes is also saying he's not going to pay the federal government taxes which are due. I guess he'll show them."

"I wish I would have known taxes are voluntary." I replied.

"Yeah, it seems the liberals are now on the bandwagon of state's rights. So now Brown's claiming he doesn't have to pay taxes if he doesn't like the policies of the federal government."

"Boy, that puts a whole new light on paying taxes. There's a whole bunch of state policies I don't like so I think I'll just not pay taxes on the ones I don't like, which is all of them." I said.

"Sure, hope is on the way, let me know how that works out for you." Rocky replied.

"The sanctuary claim was a good idea all the same." Bob added, downing half the glass of Old Tailings.

"So your plan to have yourselves listed as endangered species didn't work out?" Rocky asked.

"Not so good." I replied. "We filled out the petition and provided a lot of proof that the habitat we needed to survive had been wiped out. We also told them we were the last two dredgers in existence in California."

"Sounds like a compelling argument."

"Yeah, you'd think being the last two of a species would count for something wouldn't you?"


"As it turns out we dredgers are actually classified as a nuisance species."


"You're telling me. Apparently the State sent in a counter petition to ours claiming we weren't a valuable species. More like bed bugs than humans with rights was the way they put it."

"Tough to get support to save bed bugs I guess." Rocky said refilling the two empty glasses.

"I suppose, but we've got some new plans." I told him.

Bob glanced sideways at me and asked "I hadn't heard about any new plans."

"I'm still finalizing them and wasn't going to trouble you with the details until I had it all worked out."

I saw Rocky give Bob one of those quick glances which usually meant I was trying to skip out on a bar tab.

Rocky says "So what's the angle this time?"

"No angle, it's perfectly legal and fool proof."

Bob gives one of those annoying sighs and says "Whenever you say something is totally legal, it usually means its illegal."

"Ahh, but that's where you're wrong my friend. You see you can't be a dredger for as long as I have without becoming an expert on the 1872 Mining Law."

"This is the first I've heard of you being an expert on anything law related. As I recall you and the Forest Service have had a few scraps over your interpretation of federal laws and you keep coming out on the wrong side of it."

"That's only because I keep getting bad judges."

"Four bad judges in a row seems a little coincidental, but let's say I accept you know something about the 1872 Mining Law, what are you scheming now?"

"We're going to form a mining district on Starvation Creek." I reply proudly.

Rocky looks at Bob and rolls his eyes. I'm not sure what's going on with those two but there's a degree of skeptism on some of my ideas which is totally uncalled for.

Bob grabs his glass and says "Didn't Ruck a Chucky Chuck try that on the American? He told the Fish and Game cops he was a mining district and they were trespassing."

"Ruck a Chucky Chuck isn't the brightest bulb on the river." I replied.

"Fish and Game didn't think so either, they threw him in jail." Bob said.

"The problem with Fish and Game is they don't know the mining law. A mining district is going to solve all our problems."

"And this mining district scheme somehow involves me?" Bob asked with just a litte more attitude than was required.

"I wouldn't set up a mining district and not be thinking about your rights. Once we're up and running we'll be making our own laws." I told him.

"I don't think you can make your own laws." Bob replied with a touch of sarcasm which I thought was unwarranted.

"You see, there's the problem. You rookie dredgers don't know the mining laws. The 1872 Mining Law says a mining district is federally recognized and can make their own laws."

"It doesn't say that." Bob responded.

"I hate to tell you, Bob, but you're wrong again, I can quote it from memory and it says "The mining districts can make their own rules and regulations subject to the customs of the mining district president."

"Actually," Bob tells me, "What it says is mining districts can make rules and regulations governing mining claims, but only so long as they don't interfere with any federal, state or local laws."

"So now you're going to quote mining law to me? What would be the point of telling mining districts to go out and make their own laws if they couldn't make laws which override bad laws?"

"Last I checked only the legislature or Congress can actually make laws. The mining districts can make rules like any club could, but not laws."

"Right, well there's a start. So the first rule will be one which forbids Fish and Game cops from trespassing in the mining district."

"You're forgetting that part again about not making any rules which conflict with state or local laws. The Supreme Court says a state can enforce their laws on federal land."

"Not in my district they won't." I told him as I pulled out my draft of the Starvation Creek Mining District bylaws. "I've got it all pretty much worked out. I just need your signature at the bottom of page 5 and we're off and running."

"Let me see that," Bob said as he grabbed the bylaws out of my hand. "So Article 1 says all claim holders with the exception of the mining district president are limited to a maximum of 40' x 40' claim."

"Hey, I didn't make that up, that's from the original bylaws passed in 1852."

"But I see you didn't bother to update it and what about Article 2 which says is any member, except for the president, fails to work his claim for 90 consecutive days, leaves his claim for more than 12 hours, then the claim is forfeited for the period of time the claim holder is gone?"

"I'm still working on that section, but it's in the spirit of the original bylaws, I didn't just make it up."

"So in other words you wrote bylaws which allow you to high grade me when I'm not on the claim?"

"Technically it's a temporary forfeiture, but you can always appeal the decision to the mining district board of arbitration."

"Which Article 3 says consists of the mining district president and any other such officers as he may designate."

"I'd be impartial in the proceedings."

"So how exactly does this mining district scheme help me out versus helping you out?" Bob asked.

"I'd be looking out for your rights." I told him.

"Which according to Article 4 I have to give up 10% of my gold take each year for."

"It's a bargain when you think what a lawyer would cost you."

"But a lawyer can actually practice law, you can't."

"That will change because we'll pass a law which lets us practice law in the mining district."

"Which Article 5 says only requires a simple majority vote whereby each member is entitled to one vote and officers of the district are entitled to two votes each."

"There's a lot of responsibility with being an officer of the district, I think two votes is fair when you consider the burden."

"But there's just the two of us."

"Just sign the paper would you, you're just getting hung up on the details." I told him.

"The last time you told me to sign a paper without looking at the details it was a Quit Claim deed."

"You know, if this mining district thing is going to ever work you need to show a little more trust in those who know the Mining Law."

"Rocky, serve my friend here up another beer, I think he needs some more convincing."

"You know," Rocky replied, "A contract made while drunk is unenforceable."

"So now everybody's an expert on the law huh?"