Wednesday afternoon the convoy entered Coeur d’Alene and exited I-90 and turned onto US-95 north. Cassie used her cell phone to reach out and touch Tiny. “Tiny, how about grabbing an early supper; there don’t appear to be many places north of here to select from?”
“Great minds and all that Cassie, even here there are few places that all of us can get into.”
He clicked off the phone. A minute later the CB announced.
“Start looking guys, we going to grab a bite here before continuing north on US95.”
“The ‘Rockin Robin’ is still serving Tiny.”
“Then someone get in there to keep it open. The rest of you find us some parking.”
Cassie and Ted walked into the restaurant. Wesley and his partner were already inside and standing near a group of waitresses arranging tables.
The food stop did not take all that long as they were basically the last customers before the restaurant closed for the day.
“Ted, excuse us, but I need to talk to Tiny in private.”
“No problem Cassie.” He got up and moved over to an open table.
“Okay, Tiny how do we stand? I noticed you on the phone.”
“Yeah, too bad we don’t live in the good old days when all we had to do was find the ‘gold’, stake a claim and fight off the claim jumpers. Now we have to have lawyers in Washington, Boise, and the county in which the ‘gold’ is found. Then you have to prove that you can take on the big boys.”
“I mean it’s one thing to actually take on one of the big mining companies but they want you to prove you can before you have to. That is crazy, and then of course there are the politicians with their hands out. I talked to your Dad and he’s putting out the word that we are not a fly by night outfit.”
“Anyway, we have, or are about to have, all the permits we are going to need. All we have to do now is find the gold, build our claim monument and stake the claim. I don’t doubt your ability to find gold, but we can’t really count our chickens until we have seen the eggs, so to speak. We are set up to make a lode claim, a tunnel claim, a mill claim, in fact two of them, and about 38 placer claims. Those Placer Claims will be in the crewmen’s names and organized into five associations. We have set up an employee trust and put five percent of our stock in it. That, along with those placer claims, is going to make our men pretty well off.”
“Your Dad has looked over our business plans. He wants in for ten percent. He is willing to put up two million dollars to help get us started. Oh, we placed ten percent in a non-profit trust for reclamation of the land. The legal fees are going to be tremendous.”
“No, Tiny, tell Dad he can have five percent for that two million dollars and only that much because we might need it for immediate legal fees.”
“Your Dad said that a couple of the big boys got word of what we were doing and, after investigating, they are laughing their heads off. They know we have not done any exploration or prospecting anywhere near where we are headed.”
“Well Tiny what do we do next?”
“We go up there and place our monuments, stake claims, and then give our position to our lawyers in the county seat, Boise, and Washington. Then we do the prospect holes and work the placer claims. As soon as we have some proof of profitable minerals we start building a mill.”
“The hard rock permits should be finalized within seven days of our claim being filed. From what you said, we can rip that high grade out in about four days. The mill will not be ready yet so we will do the milling by hand. That’s simple, just crush the quartz up and sort the gold out of the waste. At the percentage you have mention; within 20 days of arriving we should have over 60 million dollars worth at which point we are going to have to have a lot of security.”
“Tiny, how do you mill by hand?”
“The easiest and simplest way is get an anvil and a big hammer. You lay the ore on the anvil and beat the crap out of it. You are shattering the quartz and other rocks that surround the gold. Then you pick out all the easily recognized gold, gather up any sizeable pieces of ore that are left and repeat. By hand you can guarantee there is still a lot of gold in the dust and small pieces of ore.”
“A mill is just a building with lots of big hammers crushing the ore that then go through a sorting process and rerun the ore until it is as fine as the hammers can make. You can then do chemical wash to remove other impurities. One of the causes of toxic waste is the acids used for the wash.”
“From the mills, the gold goes to a smelter where it’s melted down. That increases the purity of the gold.”
“What we are going to do is basic milling then sell our milled ore to a refinery and let them worry about the rest.”
A few hours later the convoy pulled off US-95 into a rest area. Tiny rotated the crew for security with four awake at all times. Early the next morning the convoy pulled into Bonners Ferry, County Seat of Boundary County.
There they stocked up on supplies for a month or so. Tiny and Cassie went to meet their local lawyer, a man named Arthur G. Washburn.
Cassie sat in the office and kept her mouth shut as the lawyer and Tiny discussed the process of filing the claims. The lawyer showed Tiny the forms he had already made out, with blank areas to be filled in as soon as Tiny could call them in.
“Excuse me.” Cassie interrupted their conversation.
“Cassie?” Tiny asked. The lawyer gave her a look that said, little girls should keep their mouth shut.
“Why don’t we take those forms with us and then we fill them out when we find the site we want. I’ve got fax machines and satellite communication. That way we can send copies immediately to this office, Washington, Boise and to my Dad in Austin. That way everybody involved will be notified at the same time and know that the others have been also.”
“That’s a good idea Cassie, let’s do it.”
From the frown she detected on the lawyer’s face, she knew she had cut into something he was planning.
“Yeah, that will give dad a chance to get his Federal Judges looking over everything. I really hope they keep their Marshals away from me.”
Tiny gave her a strange look then his eye moved over to the lawyer. “Yeah, don’t want you killing anybody else. I know, ‘misadventure’ but you did not fool those Texas Rangers. They just felt it was justified.”
By this time the lawyer was staring, wide eyed, at Cassie. Then at her cane, “Excuse me but are you blind?”
“Yes I am, for more than three years.”
“Won’t it be a little hard on you out in the wilderness?”
Tiny, started guffawing and soon was roaring with laughter.
“Mister, this is Cassandra Howly Howard. Between her and a grizzly bear I put my money on Cassie here. She is like a wolverine; you know they never give up they move so quickly and so viciously that nothing else can fight them.”
They stood up to leave and Tiny reached for the door to open it. Cassie turned to the lawyer and, in a quiet voice, said “Our family motto is ‘Give fair warning, worry not where your enemies die.’ I am now giving you fair warning, do nothing that you will regret.”
She then followed Tiny out of the office. As they were returning to where they had left the convoy Tiny spotted an equipment rental place and pulled in.
“You got a cat D6 with dozer blade? I would need a carrier for it also.” Tiny said to the person that came out of the office to greet them.
“Yes in fact we have two cats with carriers; When will you need them, and how long?”
“It should be about four to six days before we’ll need them, but I have no idea how long it will take us to finish with them.”
“Oh a long term rental I take it?”
“Should not be longer than a month, we will be clearing a trail into the mountains, and then a building site.”
“Will you be using your own operators? We would need to see their certificates.”
“Tell you what, I’ll be back tomorrow with my men and their certificates and you can get copies. Fix up the rental agreement now. Then, when we need the equipment, I will send one of them back in to town with the signed agreement to pick up the carrier.”
“How will you make payment?”
Cassie spoke up at that time. “Check, American Express or visa? Which would you prefer?”
“American Express is perfectly okay.”
“Okay then we’re ready.”
Two days later the convoy was spread out down a County Road slowly moving north. Cassie was riding shotgun in Tiny’s truck.
“The road starts turning west about a quarter of a mile ahead. It is also the closest the road and stream get to each other. I wonder why there’s no sign of any placer mining along this stream. The creek is about a mile further north of the turnoff of the County Road. That creek does not go due west but north west.”
“The stream is mainly on state land until right after the creek flows in to it. Then half a mile north west of the stream it all becomes federal land. That’s what I am seeing on the USGS map.”
“I can just see up that creek, it is a twisted little thing. That’s why there are so many placer deposits.” Cassie said.
“If I am remembering correctly, the rivulet is about five miles up that creek. There should be a lot of placer deposits on that creek. And no matter how relaxed and focused I am, I can still not reach far enough up that rivulet to see the quartz deposit.”
“The easiest route is close to the water banks even though it’s shorter to just go north from the County Road. But if we follow the water courses than we will have easier access to the placer claims.
Tiny pulled over where the County Road turned west. They stood on the shoulder of the road and contemplated the surrounding country. Cassie began to climb down off the roadway and into the shrubs toward the stream. “Ted, bring me a short shovel and a wash pan.”
Cassie continued toward the stream. Ted and Tiny both caught up with her as she walked up the stream a short distance until she reached where there was a sand bar in the stream which diverted the water flow into a bend in the stream.
“What are doing Cassie?” Tiny asked.
“I am proving to myself, that my dreams are real.”
She took the shovel and pan from Teddy and eased into the water. A shovel full from the downstream side of the bend went into the pan and she slowly let the water flow into it. A swish of the pan let some of the water wash out of it and the loose dirt went with it. She added more water and repeated her previous action until no more dirt floated on the water. She stood upright and began to sort the gravel still in her pan. There were three nuggets and a fine layer of flake gold in the bottom of the pan.
She stepped out of the water and held out the pan to Tiny, “God damn, that’s at least an ounce. Those nuggets are for sure, with maybe a quarter ounce of flake.
Teddy just looked at the pan then at Tiny, “Is that worth much?”
“Oh, two to four thousand dollars.”
Teddy eyes bugged out. “Two to four thousand dollars?”
“Yeah, that’s why we are here.”
Cassie spoke then, “There are little pockets of gold all along this stream and the creek further north. Most of it will be claimed in the names of the crew, as a person can only claim 20 acres. They can work them in what little spare time they will have and we can buy it from them. We’ve got a lot of plans for this area of Idaho.”
“Okay Teddy, do you think you can drive Bertha down here?”
He turned and looked back through the scrub bushes and saplings between us and the County Road “Yeah, just got to keep her straight on to it.”
Soon, Big Bertha was being driven back and forth crushing anything less than a big tree to the ground. The crew and other heavy trucks were working pushing the downed saplings and bushes to the side. It wasn’t too long until there was 1,500 square feet of fairly cleared land between the County Road and the stream. The area was covered with the trucks. A camp had been set up with portable kitchen equipment and food was cooking. A couple of men were returning from the stream carrying some fish they had caught.
“Guys, hope the game warden doesn’t come by, none of you guys got any fishing licenses.” Tiny said.
They settled in for a night’s sleep. The next morning Tiny sent a truck with three men back to Bonners Ferry to pick up the Cats D6s with the dozer blades. It was over 9 hours before they returned.
The carriers pulled into their makeshift parking lot and began to unload the cats.
Cassie spent the day instructing the crew in how to set up a placer claim and mark it. They planned to stretch out the claims to cover the banks centered on the water edge for 60 ft wide and stretching all the way up the creeks to the waterfall and then up the rivulet to near the main lode. Cassie suggested that the best and fairest way to handle the placer claims was to collect all the gold into one cache and split it evenly between all the men. That way the claims could be worked while some men were working for the company.
She had written up an agreement and had all the men sign it. She and Tiny also signed. Every signator got one share of the total and the company got one equal share. She had kept track of that days fumbling and estimated that they had taken nearly $30,000 dollars in gold out of the deposits on the stream.
Over the next week they extended the clearing into a strip half way up the creek. The hardest part was going to be getting to the top of the water fall as the ground was steep all around that area.
These men knew about working and engineering. They build a diversion around the falls and then drained the area above the falls. In a 24 hour period of time they took out more than $300,000 dollars worth of nuggets and flakes. Along the banks they had built sluice boxes and were harvesting gold like wheat.
“Tiny, we are moving pretty well, but at the rate those guys are going they will soon all be too rich to keep working. They know they have been getting a lot of gold, but to most of them it is just a game. I’ve got nearly $600,000 dollar worth of gold now stored in Big Bertha. From my ‘seeing’ I can detect almost four times more than that just in what they are working now. Tiny, this may be one of the richest gold strikes in history. And we have not even filed our claims yet!”
“I want to push hard for the next couple of days, and get that road up to the lode claim. Then we can file all the claims at once. We are covered legally aren’t we?”
“Yeah, I think our delay in filing has actually helped, everybody is sitting back and relaxing.”
“Tiny, security? $600,000 is enough to get people killed. I have not ‘seen’ any guns in the convoy. I am good but if a couple of people show up with a few hunting rifles there will be nothing I can do. You get the guns and, I will get us permits.”
“Ugh, Cassie this is Idaho, the only permit you need here is a concealed carry permit.”
“Wow, that’s great! Get us some guns and set up a training area and some training time. If you have to, hire some gun instructors to come out here to teach.”
Later she made a call to her Dad, “Dad, how are you? I hope we are not interfering with yours and moms vacation.”
“Cassie baby, nothing you do or need will ever interfere with us. Your mom is having the time of her life. You are keeping me just busy enough so I am not bored to death. What do you need dear?”
“Well Dad, you know we’re up here hunting for gold deposits. We have hit some placer claims and we are all sharing them including me, Tiny and the company. We’ve found enough that I’m worried about security. Tiny says guns are everywhere up here and we have none. So, Dad my idea is to get us licensed with federal permits to carry concealed. That way if we stumble across a border into Montana or Washington we are covered. Think you can get one of your Federal Judges to help?”
“Hum, good idea, let see what I can do. If nothing else I will get a Deputy Marshal assigned for protection.”
“Okay Dad, we have our entire employee’s record in a database that you can access so that the permits can be issued quickly, As soon as you have the permits, Fed Ex them next day. We have set up a mail drop at our first site. You can use that as the delivery point, it’s on County Road 111, Boundary County.”
That night she went to bed a lot more relaxed than she had been since the buildup of gold under her bed. She should have been perfectly safe with all the doors into her home locked tight from the inside.
Cassie fixed herself a bowl of cereal in her kitchen nook. She did not use it much because she enjoyed being with the crew as much as possible and she usually ate with them. As she ate she scanned the area around her, up and down the creek. Up the trail that the bulldozers had made, she ‘saw’ that the crew was already working as the operators pushed the debris out of the way. They were making the trail wide enough for Bertha and a second truck to travel side by side.
She was looking for a place to cross the creek with the road. It needed to be a wide ford or a swallow area. The bulldozers could smooth the bed out if the water was not too deep. She was afraid they were going to have to build some kind of bridge. Building a bridge might not be allowed under the surface use permits they had.
There! She had spotted the perfect place in an area where the creek bed was solid rock. The area was nearly a hundred feet wide and the bedrock was over fifty feet thick. The bulldozer was a mile downstream from that place.
Taking up her phone she called Tiny. “Cassie?”
“Yes, it’s me. I found us a crossing where the bed of the stream is a hundred foot wide bedrock and the water has smoothed the surface completely flat. The water depth is only about two feet. Of course, in early spring it has to be deeper with runoff from up the mountains. It’s about a mile further upstream from where the bulldozers are right now.”
“That’s great Cassie! I was worried about that. I was afraid we might need to build a bridge.”
“I’m going to the end of the trail to see if I can find that lode on the rivulet.”
“You think that’s necessary?”
“I want to get our claims filed. We’ve got the stream and creek covered in placer claims we have prepared. If someone comes along they will see them and if they check they will see that we have not filed any claims. We could lose all of them.”
“Okay. Oh Cassie I’ve got some hunting weapons coming in this after noon. Think you could learn to use a shotgun?”
“Oh that is so funny. I have wanted to try shooting for ages; if for no other reason, than to find out if my sight will work for that.
Hanging up her phone, Cassie made her way to the front of Bertha. She scanned but could find none of the interns nearby. She popped the driver door open, and leaned out as Wesley started past the vehicle. “Wesley, do you see any of my drivers around?”
He stopped and looked up and down the creek, “No Miss Cassie, I don’t see any of them. Anything I can do?”
“I need to get to the end of the trail. Can you drive me up there?”
He looked around nervously. Then he looked again.
“Well, Miss, I guess I can do that. He came over and climbed into the driving compartment. Cassie picked up the CB mike. “Hey guys, if anybody sees one of my drivers, let them know that I am headed up the creek to the end of trial. Oh, I’m taking Wesley to drive me.”
She put the mike back in its holder. Setting back she started her habitual scan of the area around her. “What are you going to do with your money Wesley?”
“Money Miss? Same as I always do. I’ll send most of it home for my wife and kids. I got a nice place now. Not like when I grew up.”
“That’s good, but I did not mean your wages. I meant the money you guys are making with the gold panning.”
“That is nice of you all to do that for us, but that’s just playing around.”
“Wesley, that is not just playing around. You guys have dumped over $600,000 dollars worth of gold on me since we started building this road.
Every hour you guys pan adds to it. That’s already almost $15,000 each.”
The vehicle swerved for a minute then Wesley had control once more. “You are kidding right Miss Cassie?”
“No I’m not; all of you guys are going to walk away from this job with real big paydays. When those sluice boxes and the dredge at the top of the old falls get going that is going to become a really big deal. This road is important to the company. We are going to make ours when we reach the location we marked out. The placers can be worked by one man with a shovel and pan, but where we are going it takes machinery. Our pay day will be bigger, but it takes money, men, equipment and lots of lawyers for us to make our money. We just thought instead of being greedy we’d let you guys reap some rewards.”
“With money like that I’ll be able to send my kids to college.”
“Yeah, you will.”
It took about 40 minutes for Big Bertha to catch up with the bulldozers. Cassie noticed right away why the road was taking so long. The operators were making sure to do an A-1 job on the trail which was still two vehicles wide.
As they stopped, she prepared to exit Bertha. Wesley stepped in front of her. “Wait one moment miss. Tiny would knock my head right off my shoulder if I let you go first.”
He opened the doors and climbed down then he turned and held his hand out to her to help her down. The operator of the closest dozer stopped and turned the engine off when he noticed Bertha pulling up.
Leaning down from his perch he asked, “Yes ma’am?”
“We found a crossing over the creek, so first let’s cut back to one vehicle wide for now and use one Dozer to move this trail a little faster. It is about a mile further up the creek. Back the dozers up and let me pass you with Bertha.”
“Give me some trail markers to drop.”
He reached down and pulled a handful of markers out and handed them down to her.
She remounted Bertha and sat down in her seat. “Wesley, they’re going to back up and let you pass, then you will be making the trail for awhile.” He started Bertha up and as soon as the dozers were out of the way moved past them. Almost immediately Bertha was pushing her way through bushes and small saplings.
“Stop!” By now there was not a man in the crew that would question her when she said stop. “There is a rock outcropping right behind this stand of scrubs so pull to the right until we get around it.”
Wesley turned the vehicle to the right and then slowly advanced. After about ten feet Wesley looked to his left and spotted the outcropping. It might not have affected the armored bottom but it could have torn up even Bertha’s suspension.
“I think even the dozer will have trouble with that.”
“I’m sure you are right Wesley.”
It took Big Bertha an hour to push her way a mile up the creek. Thankfully there was a clear area at that point around the entrance to the ford. Cassie looked closely and saw that the earth was very shallow leading up to the bedrock bottom of the creek. Nothing big could grow in this shallow soil.
Wesley followed her directions and slowly drove Bertha into the creek. They had no problem as they crossed at the ford and up onto land on the other side of the creek.
Cassie directed Wesley to turn and continue up the creek. This side of the creek was rockier so she scanned so they could circle the larger rocks and cross over the smaller ones. Every so often she would spot a broken off piece of quartz with ribbons of high grade running through it. It was getting dark as Big Bertha pulled up near the split quartz out cropping where the vein peaked.
She stood there letting her sight scan the immediate area, and then she reached further and deeper. The vein moved away from the outcropping at a 33 degree angle toward Canada. By the time the vein had traveled a mile it was 3,100 feet deep into the ground and it was basically a solid ribbon of gold for that whole mile with little ribbons running off at angles like limbs of a tree.
The easiest way to approach the vein was about a hundred feet from the rivulet. The surface flattened out a little and they could get excavators and other equipment closer to the vein. That is where they would build their discovery monument. They could run the center line from there and the vein would be inside their claim for as far as they could legally make their claims. Again they would have to have multiple claims. These claims would take years to be mined.
She returned to Big Bertha and got out her portable GPS with the audio readout and her recorders. Wesley was looking the place over, trying to determine the safest place to park Bertha for the night. Cassie returned to the point that she thought would be the best place to enter the ground. From there she moved ten feet north.
Cassie dropped a trail marker. Pushing the button on her GPS machine it stated her longitude and latitude. The recorder caught the position. The centerline of their claim had to go through this position. She scanned the area and then moved until she found the first corner position SE of the outcropping of the quartz. Once again she got the GPS reading. “This is the SE corner of the claim.” She said into the recorder and she dropped a trail marker.
Then she move to the approximate SW corner and took another GPS reading and to the recorder she stated,”This is the SW corner of the lode claim”. Cassie pulled another trail marker from her pocket and lay in at that position.
The first two markers were barely visible at this distance but the color flags were still noticeable. That one to the north was the monument and that one over to SE was that corner. She did some calculations trying to determine the GPS positions for the NE and NW corners.
Cassie, felt invigorated at what they had done. She knew from her Dad that money was just a number on a score card, but she had just got one heck of a score. Even better, she had spread it around. From Wesley she knew that what she was accomplishing out here in this wilderness would see children have better educational opportunity, better health care and better lives.
“Wesley let’s call it a night. I can fix us something to eat.”
They walked back to Bertha, “Miss, are you really blind?”
“Yes Wesley, I’ve been blind since my 10th birthday.”
“But, I mean how do you get around like you do? You see more than most people who are not blind. You brought us right to this place.”
“Wesley, when I started being able to do what I do now it freaked me out completely. But I found out very recently that it’s a psychological phenomenon call blind sight. It’s been seen in other people who have gone blind. Naturally blind people, those who are born that way, do not seem to have it. But we can sense objects around us and can move so as not to walk into them or allow them to hit us. I just happen to have super blind sight.”
They entered Bertha and the first thing she did was contact Tiny. “Tiny, we’re closing up for the night. I am setting almost on top of our lode claim. Get some workers up here, with a hauler and a rock crusher. I think for now ten men would be enough, Oh security also.”
“I found that our instructor is coming up tomorrow and he is a licensed security consultant. I will send him up the trail to evaluate our situation.”
“Is he trustworthy?”
“Your dad vetted him.”
“Is it as good as you thought?”
“Tiny, it will take years to work this place. The ribbon flows northwest to within about 5 miles of the Canadian border. When this becomes known, I’m betting that the Canadian border gets real busy. I followed it for almost three miles. It never broke but it does branch out in to multiple smaller ribbons. Tiny, I think this discovery is so big that it will actually bring the price of gold down. “
“Well don’t worry about that. Our job is just to find it and sell it.”
After cleaning up the kitchen area she found Wesley a couple of sleeping bags to sleep on.
“Sorry I don’t have a spare bedroom.”
He laughed “Don’t worry; at least in here I’m not fighting the bugs.”
“Okay, hope your sleep is as good as mine going to be.”
My thanks to Grumpybear for his editing and proofing help. But the final results are mine and all criticism should be loaded onto my shoulders.
© Virgil Lee Fuqua III and ‘vlfouquet.wordpress’, 2008-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vlfouquet and Virgil Lee Fuqua III with appropriate and specific direction to the original contents