One night, when all non-mining family members were asleep under the moon in the pickup bed, I put the F5 on a tripod and walked to the top of a knoll. Leonard, Mike, and Bill were drywashing by lantern light and I had a perfectly framed image in my mind. The desert hills bend and twist like a snake (thankfully the only snake seen) and the crew was working within its coils.
My meter read 30 seconds at f/ 2.8 off of the desert floor. The result was an interesting view.
The hottest day of the week and we were out of ice. Leonard’s trusty thermometer measured eighty-nine degrees at 0630. That got me out of the tent. By 1000, ninety-five sizzling units. Leonard took a reading under the tarp at 1300 – a balmy 102 in the shade. I was in survival mode, no unnecessary movement. I knew the day was a wash, so I just stayed still, drank water, and stripped down to just my shorts. One of my three gallons of life-liquid went over my head, the others down my throat.
Leonard, on the other hand, perhaps suffering from brain-fry, decided to put on his high-top, black boots, and dark jeans and walk on up to the diggings. He worked the Keene 140 and VacPac for about an hour. After finding his way back to camp, I received the status report – one gold speck. His 102 degree Gatorade had apparently satisfied his thirst and his mid-day, mind-melting excursion had apparently satisfied his wish for braggin’ rights. Some prefer to swim the rapids instead of walking the bridge.
Mike and Bill showed up at about 1930 with ice and good spirits. The moon had slowed its ascent, so we enjoyed an astronomical festival including satellite tracking and shooting stars. I had successfully filled the heads of my new friends with Meteorite Madness. Gold is great, but at $500-10,000.00 per ounce, a baseball-sized meteorite will paint an ear-to-ear on a nugget-free day. Find a lunar rock and forget about Passing Go, just skip to collecting your $1000.00 per gram. Now that’s a picker!
Up early with the pink of dawn. Very excited about leaving our desert camp. Our six days out here were certainly memorable. Extreme heat generously sprinkled with exciting cleanups, the rhythmic, distant humming of water-bearing Jeeps, and many laughs and smiles courtesy of our hosting Arizona desert rats, Mike and Bill.
Alas, no tears were shed as I feverishly ripped down the tent and threw it in a box, guy lines and stakes still attached. As Leonard and Bill calmly drank their morning java, amused by my pace, I grabbed and packed into the cavernous F250 anything that was not being used. I was a man with a mission. As I hopped up on the tailgate for a moment of shade, I glanced back at the barren depression left by the geodesic tent.
And what to my wandering eyes did appear,
But a tan, little scorpion,
Five eyes all a’fear.
I had taken his shade,
His relief from the sun,
So he was moving full steam,
Eight legs on the run.
(Nice poem, eh?)
He was making a beeline for the cool shadow of the truck. I hurried over, doing my best 32 year-old Tom Sawyer-Huck Finn thing. Scooped aboard a rusty, trusty No. 2, he came over to meet the gang. Bill asked of me his name. The first word out of my mouth was "Pete". I have no idea why; perhaps it was the dry absurdity of naming a poisonous creature at all. It also took some of the "sting"(ahem..) out of this killer’s fearsomeness. Pete is a specimen of the most deadly variety, I found out later – an inch and a half of pure attitude. But what the hell, if he escapes, I can always move into a new house.
Pete is my everyday reminder of not only a week in Sand City, but that Leonard and I escaped the silent, sometimes deadly desert without a scratch.
(Footnote: Pete is presently living a life of luxury. He sleeps all day and eats a cricket every night. No enemies, no worries.)
Mike showed up with his truck and, with the last of Leonard’s elaborate kitchen packed away, we all proceeded to load Grivy’s rig with the remaining gear borrowed from The Boys. The last ten minutes were spent gathering trash and wind-blown debris from our piece of the desert. The trash we hauled out and the bag of sludge (remnants of homebrew and hotdogs) we buried. Grivy suggested dropping a couple of quarters into the bag prior to burial. We all laughed at the thought of a snowbird with his shiny, new SD2200D, anxiously digging this strong signal and subsequently rupturing a bloated gift from the netherworld.
FOR SALE: Minelab . Barely used. Coil covered with horrific
Brown fungus. Cannot remove. Cannot stop shaking. Must
Sell to pay for psychotherapy.
However, not even Pete and his brothers could have forced me to open that sun-ripened bag of colonic treasure, so the "gag" would have to wait until next year.
As Bill wandered off with his Goldmaster, Grivy led us out of the desert. It was a first; a Chevy out in front of a Ford. Next stop, the Parker Strip.
The Strip promised at least a couple of days of R&R. Or, more appropriately, S&W – Shade and Water. No sooner had we reached our new home at Casino Beach, than Grivy provided me with my first amused grin of the day. His question: ‘ Would we like to pitch the tent in his gravel driveway or rent a trailer ? ‘ An A/C-blasting, flush toilet-soft sofa-cold fridge-real beds-having trailer. Stifling a belly laugh, I expressed my desire for the latter. An hour or so and a hundred and fifty bucks ( 15 bucks per person per day) later, Leonard and I were unpacking our duffle bags with candy-store smiles. I just glared into the dark recesses of the truck bed, mocking the tent box and the cooler full of leftover weenies. Ha! I shut the tailgate defiantly and strode into the sixty-five degree, geriatric home-on-wheels.
With my brain returning to operating temperature, I made plans to visit that desert pipe-dream known as a supermarket. Leonard and I stocked up like spring bears. With real food in the fridge and an icy pillow of air all around us, we could begin to relax completely.