I like my summers hot. Valley people can snivel about 110 degree heat, but when you're working a claim above 5,000 feet in the mountains that hundred degree heat translates to about 80 degrees. This is the only time of year you can work Starvation Creek without inducing hypothermia.
Hot days also give you an excuse to break early from dredging and pack up and head to Murphy's Bar (the tavern, not the mining site) to grab a cold beer. Of course I've used the same rationale on cold days, but cold beer seems to go better with the hot days. If you're wondering whisky seems to go better with cold days, but of course you already knew that.
So it was with this excuse Bob Flanagan and I found ourselves at Murphy's Bar ordering up a couple of Old Tailings IPAs.
On most days, and by most days I mean days where there are no other customers in the bar, Rocky Stone, the bartender, is happy to see us. Or at least happy to see our open wallets. We've noticed during summer tourist season there is a subtle change in his reaction as we walk in the door, which usually consists of cringing and offering us a free beer if we sit at the table furthest from the bar.
Apparently Bob and I hold certain opinions which aren't always popular amongst the summer people who drive up to The Lake on the weekend. Invariably pulling huge boats, trailers, and four wheelers with bumper stickers asking you to save something or asking you to coexist with someone you don't particularly want to.
When you reach a certain age, which is my age, you don't care what some kid in his twenties has to say about anything. The fact is whatever his opinion, he's wrong. There is the slight chance he could agree with my opinion on a topic, and be right, but this doesn't happen very often.
On this day Rocky had a scattering of Lake customers sipping more expensive brands than Old Tailings, but we refused the offer of a free beer to sit at the back table and instead sat at our usual spots at the bar. You're not going to find Bob and I talking about the merits of gay marriage, or gay anything; saving whales; hiking; biking; paddle boarding or really anything not mining related, so our conversations are normally just between the two of us.
Rocky seems to feel we're not good for weekend business and we've picked up some of his non-verbal cues such as placing our beers at the furthest end of the bar hoping we'd move away from the two kids sitting at the bar next to us.
Rocky winced as Bob and I turned to look at the kid with a scruffy beard only a twenty year old would have.
"So, you're a miner?" I asked.
"A what?" The kid replies with the stunned mullet look.
"A miner. You said you come up to here to punish yourself, not relax, so you must be either a miner or logger."
The kid responds, "Dude, I meant I'm going to take my Razer on a fifteen mile trip down across the Yuba, then over to Downieville and get some pizza, then I'll come all the way back, it's going to be epic."
Bob looked the skinny kid up and down and says, "So where's the 'punishment' part? You got a girlfriend into leather and whips?"
Ahh, here we go I think watching Rocky bury his face in his hands.
"Epic?" Bob asks. "Try losing your footing on the side of a cliff and sliding 50 yards through poison oak. That's epic."
"You want torture and pain?" Bob says hitting his stride. "Try crushing your figertips under a 200 pound boulder which just fell on top of the boulder you were using for a hand rest while you're three feet under water."
The kid stares at Bob, then at Rocky, then over to me. If he's looking for help he's not finding it here. He looks at Bob's arms which are covered in an ugly blistered rash of poison oak, and fingertips which are blackened with fingernails already sloughed off.
The kid says, "Old dude, you are certifiably insane." As he pulled out a few bills and threw them on the bar. The two kids get up and leave.
"Rocky," I say, "You suppose you can move those beers down here before they get warm?"
Rocky just stood there staring at Bob. With a sigh he says, "What'd you have to go and do that for? Those two were actually spending money."
"On the way in I accidently backed over his four-wheeler and I figured it would be easier for him to think me insane than get into some lengthy, boring discussion on insurance."
"You don't have insurance."
"Exactly, you see my point how awkward that conversation could be. It wasn't going to end well."
Rocky just stared, "You ran over the kids Razor?"
"Only a little bit, those things are little. I'm sure it will still work for his epic adventure."
"Do you suppose someday you two idiots could let me make some money?"
"Now c'mon Rocky, it's not your fault your bar is full of herbivores." Bob said with a grin, "Say, who's the guy over there in the fly fishing vest?"