Chapter 41

This entry is part 42 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Forty-One — Gold!

Several days later martial law was lifted and everyone in town could come and go as they pleased. At last we were ready to start getting the machinery unloaded and transported to the mine.

I told Chuck and Jock, “All right, fellows, our vacation is over. We are going to forget about girls. We came here to mine gold and that’s what we’re going to do.”

It seemed good to be back to work and there were lots of preparations to be attended to. I made a deal with Ricky for the tractor and Chuck drove it from Talpaneca to the highway where it was loaded on a lowboy trailer to be hauled to Santo Domingo.

When we were within about twenty miles of our destination, the truck pulling the lowboy could go no farther. The roads were too crooked and steep. Bill had divided the dredge into two sections, each mounted on rubber tires; a clever job. When the machine reached its destination, the wheels would be taken off, it would be mounted on big logs and floated on the lake.

We worked furiously and got the dredge transported to where we had left the tractor. From here on we would use the tractor to pull the dredge. Weeks went by as we moved the equipment the last few miles, but at last the equipment was at “Rainbow’s End” — the name we had given our mine.

At the edge of the mud lake, Chuck was clearing away the jungle with the tractor to make a place for our camp. We hired a large crew of natives to help us. They felled the trees, cut them in sections to make lumber for our buildings. It was amazing how much lumber they could produce in a day.

Soon we had several buildings under construction. My shack of whipsawed boards was about thirty feet square and its roof was made of poles covered with grass. There was another shack going up for Chuck and one also for Jock. Down the trail a short distance we built three small cabins for native women we would hire to do our cooking and other chores. The dredge was being put together, so everything was going fine.

After another month had gone by the buildings were completed and the dredge was operating. We had mounted it on a big log raft. We had laid the raft holding the machinery on the mud at the edge of the lake. I told Chuck and Jock when to start the suction pumps, pumping mud up to the big sluice box on the side of the hill. We pumped first from under the raft to float it. When we finished we hoped to have a big lake, not of mud, but of water.

Our mud lake was in a valley high in the mountains. The creek running through it traveled very slowly, but as it escaped over the rocky cliff it was steep and the water went churning down the canyon and out to the sea. It was a perfect setup. The sluice box emptied into the fast water carrying away all the mud.

Our moment arrived at last.

The big diesel engine on the dredge was sweet music. The mud was going up the flexible pipeline to the sluice box and from there into the creek. The creek ran a dirty brown. A big hole appeared under the dredge, and water and mud kept rushing in, then the thing was finally afloat! Everything was working perfectly and the lake of water began to form. In about a week we had a lake about one hundred feet square and ten feet deep. We ran the dredge day and night, taking turns sleeping and never shutting it off.

Finally when we did stop the big engine, I said, “Okay fellows, we’ve run a lot of mud through that sluice so let’s go and see what we have. Maybe we’ve caught some gold up there.”

Chuck and Jock really got excited.

“I’ll bet there’s a hundred pounds of gold up there!” cried Chuck. “I’ll bet there’s more than that,” chimed in Jock.

We removed the first section of the riffles — as if there was gold this is where most of it would be. We cleaned out several hundred pounds of heavy material, mostly black sand and iron. This we took to the creek and began cleaning it up by panning it. A little gold settled at the bottom of each pan. Not much, but a little. In the final cleanup there was about five ounces.

Chuck and Jock were the two most disappointed boys I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t bear to look at them.

“Wipe that forlorn look off your faces fellows. I can plainly see that neither of you know much about mining gold.”

“What do you mean?” asked Chuck, a little sullenly.

I grinned at them. “This looks great fellows! Here is about one hundred and fifty dollars worth and we haven’t even started to mine for gold. We’ll go down to my cabin. I have a bottle of Flor de CaƱa and we’ll celebrate! Tomorrow, I’ll show you what I mean.”

The next day the dredge was anchored with cables so it couldn’t move around. The cables were attached to trees on the bank then each cable to a small windlass anchored to the dredge. By operating these we could guide the dredge up and down the pond, giving us perfect control of it. On the bottom of the suction pipe we attached a big rubber suction cup.

“You boys hold this cup on the bottom of the pond. It works like a vacuum cleaner. Be sure to cover every inch and keep moving it back and forth. Don’t miss a spot! Cover that bottom several times. I’ll operate the dredge.”

Very slowly I moved the dredge over and back across the pond, each time moving it a little farther out. I had the engine running wide open. We were not mining for mud now, we were mining for gold. All day long we kept going, and in the evening we switched on the lights and ran the operation all night.

We had found three women to do our cooking and washing, and they had moved into the three little cabins. Now and then they brought us platters of food and hot coffee. We kept going and by daylight the next morning we had covered the bottom of the entire pond.

“Shall we get a few hours sleep then go up to see what we have or shall we take a look now?” I asked. I knew what the answer would be. Chuck’s big hand dipped into the sluice box taking out a handful of concentrate. All we could see was black sand. He placed this in a gold pan and we walked down to the creek. He dipped the pan in the water, gave it a good shaking then started to twirl the water around and around. A yellow tail began to appear at the back. Around and around went the water and the tail was getting longer. Our eyes were getting bigger and we could stand it no longer. Chuck dropped the pan to the ground.

“Gold!” he yelled. “Gold!”

Jock and I joined in, and now all of us were yelling at the top of our voices, “Gold, gold, gold!”

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