We quickly got used to this new form of finding gold, and I enjoyed doing something new. We hadn’t found any veins in the two weeks we have been in here, but the ore has been getting denser with gold as we went along. We focused on the right tunnel, as it wasn’t that deep yet. We had been rotating posts every few days, And soon we were all good at our individual jobs. Walt was content with his job of emptying the buckets, as he got to see the sunshine, and was up there if he needed to tell us anything. We made steadily deeper every day and made several rooms to dump the unwanted rock instead of taking it all the way out to sort. Walt also operated the rocker boxes when the person moving the cart was getting more. We were making a good amount of gold daily, though we hadn’t smelt any of the ore yet.
I was down in the mine operating the pick while Thomas shovelled. I saw a few small veins of gold and pointed them out to Thomas. He told me to follow them because it might turn into a larger vein. We kept hewing it daily, and it continued to get large and larger until it was as thick as my arm and continued to grow. I wanted to be able to see it all in its glory, so we worked around it keeping it on the wall. We needed to lay more track because we were having to do quite a bit of shovelling to get it to where it dropped off. So we took a break from the vein and laid twenty feet of track. I then switched out for Doc, and he switched with Thomas. I helped load the cart, as it was almost done, then took it back to Walt. The bucket was lowering over my head. Once it was low enough, I tossed the ore into it, then gave it two sharp tugs, and Walt took it back up. It took around five minutes to cycle the one bucket, so we had two systems that Walt would slowly lower with his foot while pulling up the other. I filled them back and forth until there was no ore left in the cart. I rode it down the track, then off to a passing track lane. I then walked down and pushed the other cart up and passed the other. I parked it and rode the empty one back for Doc. I did this all day until six, which was when we all stopped, and took the rest of the day off. I did not want to overwork anyone, as this isn’t a heavy operation where we are trying to get enormous amounts of gold. Once all of the gold was in the barn, I locked it up and went to the fire. We had the fire pit going every night, as it was a good place to sit around, and relax for the time we had off. I was making sausages tonight, and I had a hot pan on the fire. When I dropped them in they sizzled, and spat leftover grease from the bacon for lunch all over. I jumped back as it was quite hot, but I wasn’t quite fast enough, and my hand had oil all over it. I yell and start shaking it and blowing. I search for the bucked of water that we usually have and then dip my hand in it. The relief is spectacular, but when I drew my hand out I saw a large stripe of red skin that was already starting to blister. I carried the bucket with my hand in it as it hurt like hell. Doc was at his tent, and I called him out. He asked what was the matter, and I showed him my hand.
“Oh, you have given yourself a good one this time haven’t you.”
“Splashed the hot fat onto my hand”
“Come in, I have some ointment that should help a bit”. He slathered this white ointment onto my hand. I could smell mint. He then wrapped it in bandages. We walked back together to the fire, and Walt who was right there when it happened, but said nothing, said:
“How does the hand feel?”
“Relatively cool with the salve that Doc put on”
“Good”. He turned back as he was tending the food. I had spilt severely sausages but he had picked them up and cleaned them off. My hand really ached, and I did my best to avoid touching anything because it would ache more if I did.
The next day my skin started peeling off, and it stung wildly. When Doc took off the bandages, My skin was bright red. He put more of the salve on, and that made it sting even more. Thankfully it stopped stinging and after a few minutes and cooled down. I pushed the cart all day, as I could push as it was on the back of my right hand. We made great progress on the vein, and soon we reached what we thought was the middle, as it started to decline. We were also opening up the ceiling because many thread veins were going off upwards.
After two more days, we were able to see the entirety of the vein. It was beautiful. It looked as if a fire was flowing through the rock. We started to pickaxe out around it to see how deep it went, and then after two more days, we got the larger chunk out, though we would have to blast the rest, as they were two all over the place to be able to mine out. We weighed it, and it came out around seventy-five pounds, but it would be less once we get all of the rock out, and purify it. After all of that, it would probably weigh twenty-five pounds.
It took Doc and Thomas to carry it back to the main shaft, and I climbed up to help Walt haul it out. We started to carry it to our barn, and then we all sat down and talked about it.
“I am guessing that it will be worth around two thousand dollars, once all of the veins are pulled out!” exclaimed Thomas
“A half of that would cover all of our expenses for this entire trip!” Walt said joyously “How much do you think that will smelt down to, Thomas?”
“Well this piece has a large piece of rock still attached here, and that probably weighs twenty pounds, and there will be a lot of quartz mixed in with it too, I expect, once it is in bar form, it will weigh over twenty pounds, and there is easily a few more pounds down there.” We all laughed with joy. Most men then come out here leave broke, only a few people have struck this much gold.
“Well, I think that we should get the rest of that vein, and then I think we will be done our little adventure.”
“Done?” Walt exclaimed. “Like done in California?” I nodded. “I never thought of being done, but now that you say it, I wouldn’t mind being ‘Done'”
“We have been out here for several months, and after burning my hand, I have really noticed how much I miss some comforts, though I still love the land here. I was hoping you wouldn’t mind”
We have all grown as very good friends, and we would miss Andrew
“Andrew, you have to visit often, we could show you around Boston, it is a nice place, not as beautiful as here, but there is plenty to do,” Walt said in earnest, as Doc had been very useful to him. And he felt like a life-long friend to all of us. I voiced my agreement with Walt.
“Oh of course I will visit, you have become my closest friends over these last months, and I can’t imagine I will stay out here in the west forever, so I will visit.” I saw Thomas looking very happy that this was all working out for us, and I could tell that he didn’t mind even though it would put him out of a job. It was around three o’clock, so we went back to our work. Walt was riding to town to buy food, so I was operating the pullies. And Doc was shovelling and pushing the cart. It was nice sitting up there looking around. I had to keep filling and emptying the rocker boxes while Doc was getting the next load of ore, but it was a lot more pleasant than being underground. Doc warned me on his next load, that they were going to set off a charge, so I waited until they made it up, then they set it off. I unloaded bucket after bucket of gold heavy ore. It was very interesting to see all of the bright gold veins streaking through various rocks, and I even found a whole quartz crystal, that had a vein the size of my pinky. We got the entirety of that vein, then stopped for the day. Walt got back around ten, and we all went to bed. In the morning I went to talk with Thomas.
“How would you like to buy the mine from me, I wouldn’t mind selling it for less than I bought it, because you are a friend.”
“I would like to, but I can’t afford it even at a cut-rate. And there are dozens of places where I could find work around these parts, so I will be fine.
“I would love to sell it to someone I know, and you are a good, hardworking chap. But if that is what you say it is, that is what it is”
“Thank you for the consideration though Fred. There are few men out for the gold rush that act as you do, most men will do anything to turn a profit, and won’t let kindness get in their way. And the funny thing is, that the majority of men out here leave with less money than they came with.” We walked over to our storage barn, and I saw the door swinging open.
“Did you forget to lock it last night?”
“No, I remember doing it.” We both went to examine what happened, and when we got there we saw the wood that was attached to the lock, was hanging to the frame like it had been torn off. We looked inside and saw the large vein, and some smaller ones had been stolen. Thomas swore, and ran outside to tell the others. I went to the horses to untie them, as we obviously would be going on a search.