Rocky Stone, who owns the bar in Hardrock, California, probably wasn't cut out to be a bartender. He lacks, shall we say, a certain amount of discretion his profession requires.
Having bought the place off eBay, and then having no luck reselling it at a profit on eBay, or at least not at a huge loss, he's settled into his role of serving beer and dispensing advice.
Now me, personally, wouldn't be the sort to take advice from a guy who bought a bar off eBay in a town with a population of 21. You can do the quick math on that and figure every man, woman and child in Hardrock would need to buy 3 beers a day for him to just break even.
Unfortunately, the town of Hardrock breaks down into those who drink a lot more than 3 beers a day, and those who drink no beer. So Rocky has been busy sprucing the place up trying to attract people who are passing through Hardrock from the valley up to the lake.
It seems to me trying to sell beer to folks who just loaded up at Sams Club with everything needed to support a platoon for a week may be a questionable business model. Being a miner, however, and relying on a business model which is based on random chance, I may not be the best person to critique Rocky's approach.
So it was surprising when Rocky asked my mining buddy Bob Flanagan what we were doing to make dredging legal again. Well, he didn't phrase it quite that way, as I recall the exact words may have been, "So you guys still running illegal?"
Now me, I have a pretty good poker face and can give the "Who me?" look with professional level of expertise. Bob would be lousy at poker as he sputtered out some beer, wiped his hand across his mouth and said "What do you mean?"
Rocky said, "It's pretty well known you guys are running dredges up on Starvation Creek, even the Petersons know it."
The Petersons are Hardrock's only eco-Nazis. They are the self-appointed stewards of the environment and believe everyone should follow each and every regulation ever designed to save the environment, stop global warming or elect Hillary Clinton. Maggie Peterson still has the 2008 Hillary sticker on the bumper of her car. She never took it off saving the environment while supporting Hillary at the same time.
I pondered these new facts and said, "That would explain the increase in Fish and Game patrols in the area I suppose." Knowing full well the Petersons wouldn't think twice about diming out a couple of miners.
The Petersons, however, refused to support any business in Hardrock which didn't agree with their convictions, which meant no business in Hardrock. I asked Rocky, "If the Petersons have sworn to not support any business which doesn't support Agenda 21 how would you know this?"
Rocky replied, "Jim Fanghorn, who runs the general store ran into them at the post office and they said they weren't going to stand for a bunch of dumb miners destroying the environment for a few flakes of gold."
"Their backyard is a hydraulic pit." I told him.
"They said they saw some hoses sticking out from under a tarp in your truck, and they took some pictures of you filling up a 5 gallon gas can. They sent the pictures to the CalTip hotline."
The gas is for the boat, we've been doing a lot of fishing." I replied.
"You don't have a boat." Rocky said.
"We might have a boat, you can't discount the possibility."
"The lake was frozen last month."
"Yeah, it was cold."
"We've also been looking for some new mining claims just in case mining is ever legal again." Bob threw in trying to save me from coming up with some other use for a bunch of gas in the back of a pickup.
"If that's the case you may want to stay away from the Dead Mule Creek area." Rocky said. "A mining club filed a bunch of claims in there and put up some signs saying it was the Dead Mule Creek Mining District."
"That's nice, but why should we stay away?" I asked.
"The enviros saw the signs and moved in to do a frog count on the Dead Mule Creek watershed." Rocky responded.
"There's no frogs up that high." Bob added.
"There are now." Rocky replied as he wiped the counter down and set up two more beers, unordered, but he's getting to know his customers pretty well.
Rocky went on, "Apparently they were successful in finding the last population of the distinct genetic subgroup of the Dead Mule Creek segment of the genetic variant of the Sierra Mountain Yellow Legged Frog. They submitted a lawsuit last week suing the US Fish and Wildlife Service for not protecting the frog on Dead Mule Creek. Apparently there's only two of these frogs but their habitat coincides exactly with the boundaries of the Mining District. A bunch of PhD's wrote some letters agreeing with them."
"So the Mining District just became critical habitat for the frog?" Bob asked.
"From what I hear it's an exact match." Rocky replied.
"Imagine the odds of that." Bob said switching to the his new beer, which was the local beer called Old Tailings which is tastes a lot like Blatz without the bubbles.
"Yeah, apparently the DNA testing found traces of pocket lint. The scientists had never seen that before in a frog sample so they determined this was a very unique species, probably the last two of its kind." Rocky added.
"I didn't know frogs had pockets." Bob said.
"Last week some of the same bunch which did the Dead Mule Creek survey stopped in the bar asking about Starvation Creek. Apparently the Petersons told them Starvation Creek was loaded with pocket frogs." Rocky said.
"What'd you tell them?" I asked.
"I told them there hadn't been any mining up on Starvation Creek in 40 years but someone had opened a new wine bar in Downieville so they decided to go look for pocket frogs on the North Fork of the Yuba."
I may have misjudged Rocky, he's getting better at this bartending stuff after all.
Bob downed the rest of his beer and said "Well, I think we better get going. I think the fish are biting up at the lake and we need to get the boat in the water."
"The boat ramp has been closed for a month for repairs." Rocky said.
"I knew that." Bob said as he threw a twenty on the bar and headed for the truck. He turned to me and said "We need to fix that tarp."