With spring coming most of us undocumented dredgers are busy touching up the camouflage on our equipment. By most, I mean Bob Flanagan and I.
I have found a well camouflaged dredge acts in harmony with nature. I've also found you can recover more gold when you're dredge hasn't been confiscated.
When you're trying to recover gold, you follow the gold. If the gold runs into the bank, you run into the bank. If you're underwater and hit a quartz vein loaded with gold you follow that vein out of the water and you become
a hard rock miner. If the vein dives you get explosives and keep on digging. Eventually you've got a nice hole in the ground we used to call a mine. When the mine peters out, you dig somewhere else.
When they discovered shooting a giant jet of water at a bank of gravel could recover more gold, they built hydraulic monitors. When it became feasible to run bucket line dredges they built bucket line dredges.
We dredge because that's what you need to recover gold which happens to be under 20' of water.
If the State would be so kind as to remove their water from my claim I'd be happy to comply with their dredging ban. I suspect the enviros may get wrapped around the axle about that.
With the huge floods we've had its going to be a great year for gold. At least for Flanagan and I. We're the last two remaining undocumented dredgers in the county. If you're wondering the US Fish and Wildlife Service
has refused to recognize us as an endangered species.
So the past week I spent my time rebuilding the carb on the Honda, I put new seals on the pump and even bought some new hose. I'm ready when the snow melts.
I think I may have mentioned I'm somewhat flexible when it comes to following all these rules they've published. In fact I'm a virtual Gumby in my flexibility. Although the rules may be stupid - I'm not. I'm not going to put up
a sign which says "Hey, I'm dredging down here." Nor am I going to stand on the river banks shouting about my rights. No sir, I think I'll just dredge.
Bob Flanagan, the downstream claim owner of the Biscuit, tends to be a little more nervous about not following rules. Which isn't a healthy attitude when you're an undocumented dredger.
Last summer Bob and I got into the same argument we've had a number of times before over following rules. My claim is upstream from the Biscuit, consequently I have a certain interest in the gold found on Bob's claim since its
undisputed that gold had to have crossed my claim to reach his claim. That's another unresolved argument we have.
At the end of the dredging day we both end up at the same bar, which we named after the local bar - Murphy's. It does confuse people when you throw the dredge in the back of the truck and tell them you're heading to Murphy's Bar.
I always end the day first and I'll be sitting in my chair panning out when Bob invariably comes limping up the creek.
He's not lame or anything, he just has a tendancy to drop boulders on his feet. A rookie mistake.
"Three foot rule." I said as he grabbed the chair I keep reserved for him. Since we're the only two people in the canyon, and I have two chairs, it makes Bob feel good to think I have a reserved chair.
"Strip clubs." He replies.
"Your mind isn't on mining." I said.
"We're not going to argue about regulations again?" He replied as he dropped his 5 gallon bucket of concentrates next to his chair and walked to the creek to get some water for panning out.
"I just want to know where you stand on the three foot rule. You know, the one which say you can't dredge any closer than three feet form the bank."
"Is there a reason for asking?" He asked noticing a good chunk of the bar was missing.
"If you were doing a quarter ounce an hour following a streak would you follow it into the bar or not?" I asked.
"I guess that explains the missing section of the bar." He replied.
"Don't worry about that, the winter will put it back."
"I think they have that rule because they say small creatures live near the bank and you could suck them up."
I noticed Bob eyeing my pan which had about a penny weight sitting at the top. "Every pan has been like this." I told him. "You see nobody bothers to tell the gold where it ought to go, and it tends to not
follow the regulations requiring it to stay in the gut of the river. It tends to go where its pushed and it seems a whole lot of it got pushed into this bar."
"You're cutting into the bank." He replied. "Fish and Game says that could destabilize the bank."
"Unlike the winter floods? But it's not a bank, it's a bar which is temporary by nature. I decided to readjust this bank a bit. I say I'm still three foot from the bank, but I may reevalute that again tomorrow."
Bob's first pan looked a little meager for a guy who just spent 8 hours dredging and had a broken toe and a blackened fingernail to show for it. I couldn't help but ask, "You just dredging for recreation these days?"
There's no such thing as a recreational miner, we're all professionals."
"Even Glory Gulch Gary?" I asked.
"The guy who comes from Kansas every year and parks his RV for the summer on the Feather River?"
"That's the guy. I've never seen him so much as leave the shadow of his RV to go look for gold." I told him.
"According to Pickhead Pete he's still a professional."
"I don't think he can get his walker down to the river."
"Pickhead Pete says it's the worst thing we can do to even mention recreational." Bob said as I pulled another picker out of the pan and washed the black sand into the tub for sorting next winter.
"Who's Pickhead Pete." I asked.
"He's on the forums. He's a hard rock miner. He did a post which said there's no such thing as a recreational miner."
"How do you know he's a hard rock miner?" I asked.
"He said he was in the post."
"So do you think the guys from Barrick Gold are spending their days on the internet forums?" I asked him.
"What difference does it make?" He asked as he washed another lousy pan into the tub.
"My pans and your pans is the difference itmakes. You either follow the gold or you're just in it for fun. Mining means moving dirt, it's not about following some stupid rule about staying in the gut of the river. That's not mining, it's recreation.
"Yeah, Ruck a Chucky Chuck had a good post on mining rights and how they are more important than regulations."
"He's out of jail?"
"Yeah. His thirty days were up."
"Did he get his dredge back?"
"Not yet, but he did a post about how they're violating his rights by keeping it."
"How's the State feel about violating his rights?"
"So far they could care a less. But I think Ruck a Chucky will win, he really knows mining law."
"Hence the 30 days in jail."
"Bad judge according to the post."
"Well," I said, "I may not know the mining law as well as Ruck a Chucky Chuck, but I do know I'm sitting on a bar loaded with gold and I aim to rearrange this bar a bit so you may want to move your tent tomorrow before you head to your claim."
"Fine," Bob replied eyeing a few specs of gold in his pan, "Just try not to damage any riparian vegetation as you're rearranging the bank would you? We don't want the Fish and Game cops asking what happened to all the poison oak."