Chapter 15

This entry is part 16 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Fifteen — Gold And Kisses

The next morning Jock and I flew back to Managua. We looked up Chase, bought supplies and provisions, and packed for another expedition. Then the three of us headed for Santo Domingo.

We drove out the highway past Tipitapa and on to the Rama road. President Roosevelt had tried to help build the Rama Road by getting a loan for the country, but the road was never completed. It runs from the west to the east and although nothing but a graveled surface, what there is of it is good to travel on. We drove for miles and miles until we came to a smaller road leading left into the jungle, and at last arrived at the town of Libertad.

Libertad is an abandoned town. The houses are built of whipsawed lumber and tin roofs like those in Siuna. The streets are paved with cobblestone, and many vacant homes are scattered about the area. We went on another ten miles and came to Santo Domingo, also a run down locale with many vacant buildings.

We stopped at what looked like a hotel but there was no name on it. It was built on the bank of a creek, with the front part of it on the street level, and the rear built out over the creek on long poles. It had two bedrooms, a kitchen, a combination lobby and dining room. One bedroom was occupied by the widow who operated the place, and the other was for her guests.

By this time we three men were really hungry, so Jock asked the lady to cook us some food. There was a table in the main room with benches beside it. Under the table lay a big black-and-white pig. We sat down on the benches, laughed and planted our feet on the hog’s back while waiting for dinner to be served. The lady spread a clean white cloth on the table and set down a pitcher of water which she said she had boiled especially for the “North Americano.”

I had been scratching the hog’s back with the toe of my boot and he was grunting contentedly. Shortly in walked a big brown-and-white spotted hound. He halted as if looking over the situation. The contented grunting of the hog seemed to annoy the hound, and the expression in his big brown eyes implied that he alone belonged under that table with his back being scratched.

With a fierce growl he attacked. He grabbed the hog by the rump and the hog leapt up squealing. The dog made another leap for him and all hell broke loose! The pitcher of water crashed to the floor and over went the table, benches and all three of us. We were laughing our heads off when we got up and could watch the fight.

The hog, not ready to leave without a struggle, backed into a corner. The bristles on his back stood straight up. The dog crouched low, waiting, snarling and showing his teeth. This was too much for the hog, so he attacked head-on. The hound sidestepped and bit the hog’s rump again. Mister hog squealed and took off. He’d had enough.

We straightened up the table and benches and sat down again. The dog crawled under the table, so we put our feet on his back and rubbed gently and he seemed content. The food was excellent, consisting mainly of fish caught from the nearby creek.

It was soon time for us to get some sleep so we took advantage of the luxury of a creek bath before going to our cots.

The news spreads fast that a North Americano was in town inquiring about gold and the next day several men came to see us saying they had mines they would like us to work. I explained that I would like to find some placer mining property if there was any in this area.

One older fellow said there was land over the hill back of Santo Domingo, but it could not be mined. “It’s a lake of mud,” he said. “The gold is all settled to the bottom many feet down. It caved in when we tried to dig holes in it to pan for gold. The mud keeps caving in on us. It is very bad.” This sounded interesting, so Jock and I went up over the hill with the old man guiding us.

There was the big mud lake just as he had said, with a stream of water running through the middle. We hired some natives to whipsaw some boards and we built a box. We sank it down through the mud and had a hell of a time all right. The mud kept coming in. Down about ten feet we hit bed rock.

Using my fingers I scooped up a pan full of the heavy silt. I sloshed it around a few times spilling the dirt and light sand over the edge. I rinsed it with some fresh water then repeated the process several times. I whirled the remains around the outside of the pan a few times; first fast, then slowly letting the remains separate by density into a rainbow of colors. At the leading edge was red sand, then a sparkling mixture of gold and silver. This was iron pyrite — fools gold. Next a bead of dense black sand and at the end of that, yellow-a ribbon of pure yellow gold! Yes! The end of the rainbow! My hands were shaking like a leaf.

We spent about a week digging more holes. Meanwhile, we had found out that a fellow by the name of Price, in Managua, owned the property, and we would have to see him about leasing it.

“How will you get the gold out?” inquired Jock.

I explained to him that in the country where I came from, we have big suction dredges. In Florida and other low areas huge housing projects are built by pumping sand out of the ocean to construct islands and bayous. “All we need here,” I said, “is a suction dredge to pump up this mud and water, then run it through the sluice box and we will have our gold.”

We returned to Managua. I placed a long distance telephone call to Bill. I couldn’t keep the excitement from my voice. It sure was good to talk to him. “Bill, we’ve got it-acres of it.” I told him about the mud lake. “I’ve made an agreement with Mister Price, the owner, and as soon as the papers are drawn up, I’ll grab a plane and come back. Don’t tell Maria that I’m coming home.”

I took the few ounces of gold I had to a jeweler up the street and asked him to make a set of earrings, and a ring in the form of a rosebud with a hollowed out place in the center for a diamond I would get for Maria when I got back to Reno.

When the papers were finally in order, I boarded a big plane and headed toward home. I arrived in Reno the second evening, rented a car and drove out to Maria’s apartment.

There was no one there, so I asked the girl who lived next door where she thought Maria might be. She said that she had heard her mention something about Honeymoon Lodge. Oh yes, bless her dear little heart, she would be there.

That thirty miles to the lodge seemed a long way, but finally I got there. I parked by the path and walked down toward the house. The little parcel was in my hand. As I came nearer I saw that the front door curtains were slightly parted and I decided to peep inside. Maria would certainly be happy and surprised to see me. My heart was in my throat. She was there all right, curled up on the davenport and Lynn, my friend, was curled up with her. He was giving her fervent kisses and she was returning them passionately.

I felt sick inside and stumbled blindly back up the trail. I tossed the package into a bush and with it went my love for Maria.

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