Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Prospector

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It had been a relief to escape the monotony of her working world and now as she lay with her lunch in the Edinburgh gardens, the warm rays of the sun gently kissed her bare arms and penetrated her being. Before her eyes the branches of the elms spread to form a canopy and it seemed to her that diamonds of light glistened like stars in the night sky amid the tapestry of branches and leaves. The words 'know thyself' pirouetted amid the imaginal theatre, words, which recurred in her dreams and during these quiet moments of daydreaming when she permitted herself to enter the temple of Apollo for respite. Like a hospes this sanctuary comforts pilgrims and traveller's who seek it protection. Like a hospes the temple of Apollo is a place for healing. It is a place where people can express both grief and joy, celebrate life and death and find meaning. Today it provided a place for her to remember and gain strength from childhood memories.

Carefully she unpacked the small 'medicine bag', her companion on these excursions. Silently she stopped to look at the bag contents, gently fingering them as she laid them alongside her. Today the small bottle of golden specks caught her attention. A remnant from her childhood this bottle contained golden slithers that she had painstakingly scraped from the gold pan and bottled over forty years ago. The specks seemed brighter today, flickering and flashing in the sunlight as winged memories swarmed about her. The word prospector came, seemingly from nowhere, as if searching for someone to remember its meaning. “Prospectors look out for gold and explore regions” she wrote in the small notebook that was her constant companion. “Prospectors mine experimentally”.

Archie Hair was a prospector who loved the bush. She remembered that he had filled his days wandering through the Australian bush, placing small signs, clues for the treasure hunts he took people on. When she followed him along secret bush trails she had learned about prospecting. They were always on the look out. "Bob low. Look up" his quaint markers guided them. Every turn bought promise. From the ridge they had an extensive view across the landscape. Only a tiny trail of smoke dotted the spot where 'The Arches' lay. Mr. Hair always bought them back safely. He knew to carefully mark his trail. He knew every branch and gully. His prospecting gave her another view of life. Through him she learned to search and to be optimistic. He filled her heart with trust and a sense of adventure".

As she turned the old bottle over and over, looking for a fresh perspective a mental landscape spread out before her. Calmed by a sudden sense of Mr. Hair's presence she lay quietly in the curve of the old tree trunk, permitting herself to drift off and be with him once more. She remembered his treasure hunts affectionately and considered that the fairy mail slot in the adjacent tree was the perfect spot to leave a message. Archie would have taken advantage of a spot like this to hide one of his trinkets. With this thought she believed that she heard Archie's laughter tinkling in the distance but perhaps it was just wind chimes or, more likely the sounds of happy children drifting from the nearby school yard. Childhood memories had come uninvited, drifting towards her, a host of golden words surrounded her and, deftly snatching them she wrote with vigor for such luminous memories did not come every day.

“Archie Hair built the Arches alongside the Freestone Creek just out from Briagalong. He had retired from active farming to enjoy solitude and squander his days roaming through the bush. The quaint cottage that he built near the Blue Pool became known, affectionately, as 'The Arches' to the streams of people, from all walks of life, who came to spend a few restorative hours with the old couple” she wrote, but stopped.

This is hopeless she thought, wearily pouring the steaming contents of her thermos into her Bodem. It did neither Archie nor Edna justice to write a traditional narrative but she knew she had to introduce them. They had meant so much to her, been the grandparents she had never known. She wanted to capture their essence but the right words eluded her for the moment. So she wrote a new heading on her page.

‘The Prospector’

To gain inspiration she quietly she took a deep red stone from her bag and ever so gently caressed the facial features, the eyes, mouth, eroded by waters tumbling constantly over it. She was searching to find a fresh perspective and a new approach. She would be happy to be a stone and explore the cool, quiet corridors. Could an old spirit be trapped inside this stone that she found lying in the stony creek near Flowerdale? Could the spirit of this stone guide her?

Her mind was leaping from one idea to another, much as she had leapt with agility across the stepping stones in the Freestone Creek all those years ago. There was no point going back to the actual creek bed, as it no longer looked anything like the place she had once loved. No traces of the old people could be found anywhere. A picnic ground had long replaced the old house. There was no sign of the banksia roses that wound their way through the arch that once marked the entrance. She gently turned the stone over and over, fingering its chaffed body and as she did so she thought she saw a vapor rising.

Like a puppet she began to write. Words slipped silently on to the crisp white page and a story began to form.

‘A vapor rose out of the stone, rising slowly, speaking of things that were and are and will be. The stone remembered the Hair's, the old couple who lived by the Freestone Creek. "I will take you back there" the stone offered.

They stepped into the parallel world together, into the creek bed, cool water trickling over the multitude of stones, the sunlight twinkling on the water, lighting the stones, and highlighting their multicolored backs. Stepping carefully from stone to stone they made their way along the creek bed, edged by Eucalyptus and ferns.

In the distance a child was panning for gold. Intent with her search for golden specks she did not look up. Just ahead, in the Blue Pools her brothers were splashing happily. On they wandered. Further along the creek they found the path that led to the back of the house where Archie stood cutting strips of meat. A Kookaburra sat by his side, watching every movement its head cocked on one side, expectancy glistening in its eyes. But Archie did not speak. He seemed not to have noticed their arrival.

Beyond the distant hills a thin wisp of smoke zigzagged across the sky and drifted slowly southwards. A hush fell over the bush. Leaves hung motionless on the huge gum trees. The intense heat of the summer's sun had dried and shriveled them and young leaves drooped lifelessly in the heat. A small wallaby stopped briefly, head cocked. It was listening to the wind, its nostrils turned northwards. The smell of bushfire bought fear. If the north wind whipped up the fire could turn into a terrifying firestorm that would destroy everything in its path.

"The fire had started quietly after a lightening strike" the stone explained." The fire leapt playfully at first, zigzagging through a fern gully, slowed only by the dampness of the tree ferns. But then it ran up a Eucalyptus and joyfully scampered and crackled, exploding across its dried, crisp branches. No longer playful, the fire leapt triumphantly from tree to tree like a Roman candle. Then it ran down again to the tinder dry undergrowth further down the gully. The fire transformed. It noisily cracked, spat and hissed. Out of control and fanned by a gusty north wind it sent smoke mushrooming into the sky and burning ash across the bush. As the fire marched over the hills the heat took away the air and it sounded as though a hundred fiery, fighting dragons surrounded 'The Arches'. A wall of flames appeared on the ridge, belching high in the sky. The Arches were destroyed. The hills and gullies were shrouded in an eerie orange light and where the countryside had been green all was black. Mr. Hair had to be taken to the safety of his son's property when the fire came. He never returned to see the charred remains of the Arches, the trees stripped of their foliage and reduced to glowing stumps. He never saw the embers that glittered in the ashes of the ruined cottage...’

Briefly she paused to re-read the words, in awe of the stone's narrative that so explicitly revealed why there really was no point going in search of the Arches. Stones like this one have borne witness to all the important events she thought. We live chronologically, experiencing our lives as a succession of events, but it is not until we look back that we see the picture forming and begin to write our narrative. In the first instance we rehearse living through reading stories, using these stories to extend our experiences and to experiment. Stories give us categories that help us to evaluate our daily experiences. It seemed that the stone was guiding her pen. Her thoughts and words seemed to come from the stone itself.

Subdued by remembering the destruction of that simple cottage she sipped the coffee and sat slowly savoring a Yo-yo, the closest thing to a Kiss that she had been ever able to find. Mrs. Hair made the most beautiful Kisses. Her father had loved them. The sun caught hold of the bottle and the pureness of the old gold caught her eye. She tried to remember and capture the happy hours she spent with the Hairs yearning to give them the immortality they deserved. They had been such significant figures in her life. She wrote

"The child bent to pick up the small slimy rock. Turning it over, inspecting the yellow tinge she turns, excited, and calls out to the old man working nearby. He turned to examine the yellowing stone. "It is only lichen Heather". Disappointed she dropped it and continued her search for 'golden nuggets'. As she dipped in her fingers in the cool stream water fresh young words came flowing towards her.”

The Arches were magical she decided. In this sanctuary she felt completely safe. Within these walls she could tell her story. “Narrative helps us to make sense of our lives by telling our story either to other people or to ourselves” she thought. When something happens to us it is a normal impulse to tell someone about it. Framing events as a story helps us get things in perspective. If we cannot tell someone else, we tell it to ourselves, sometimes compulsively over and over, trying to make sense of it all. Story heals and palliates our pain. It is a part of the process of development.

As she wrote metaphors and symbols fought to gain her attention, memories swam past in schools. It was The Arches that she really wanted to write about. But her memory of them was fragmented and blurred. Once she had known every marker on the road that led to their place. The Austin A40 knew the way along the Dargo road almost as well as she did.

Trying again, desperate to capture a sense of this place she took up her pen, writing as though she were there once more.

“Just ahead she saw a log lying across the ground. As she step up onto she spotted a piece of torn material, tied to a branch. "This is the right direction" she spoke aloud, "but where are the others? They always go on ahead and leave me behind. It's not fair. They should have to wait. Mum told Brian he had to look after me today, but he's rushed ahead."

Just ahead a figure in brown flannels sits, waiting patiently. Smiling broadly, Mr. Hair greeted her warmly. "Look Heather! I have saved some of Mrs. Hairs kisses and my ginger ale for you. Your father and the boys have gone back to 'the Arches' but I waited for you. It is getting late".

The ginger beer tasted beautiful but she ate only one kiss, leaving the others by the tree for the Joey she had seen hopping past just a few minutes ago. "We really better head back now." Archie said as he returned from leaving fresh signs for the next group of treasure hunters, coming up from Briagalong during the week.

As they walked back down the slope, past the cascading banksia roses and into his quaint cottage she held his hand more tightly than usual. She didn't ever want to forget him or his strong hands. Mrs. Hair's eyes danced brightly as they walked into the tiny sitting room. A crocheted rug lay across her knees. Edna sat by the fire in an armchair talking to her mother. They loved to talk. "Archie, make a cup of tea for Dorothy, there's a good fellow. Dot and Colin are staying for tea - bring in some kisses and ginger ale for the children." "Oh goodie" she clapped and danced. She just loved staying with Mr. and Mrs. Hair for tea. Life felt particularly good when they stayed on with them in their quaint little house. As Archie boiled the kettle she skipped up the small staircase to the attic where he had plastered the walls and ceiling with cuttings from old magazines. It was her favorite room in their house; a tiny sanctuary far removed from her every day life.”

Satisfied that today she had drawn up old memories she sighed with relief and drained the last of the coffee. Sustained by warm memories, ready to face the world of her work. Her tiny sanctuary was safe. Those fires never destroyed it any more than time has wearied the ancient muse. I can return to the bower of bliss and the muse of my childhood whenever I wish she smiled self -satisfied. It all lies safely within 'the Arches', tucked safely within a corner my memory.

Furtively she grabbed the pen, ready to record a second visit to 'the Arches' to check that she really could so easily reach her bower of bliss.

“The moon was shining brightly, throwing a silvery trail for her to follow. Without waking anyone she gathered her things and, opening the door quietly so that no one would hear, slipped out. The moonlight danced on the bluestone illuminating a path. Like a searchlight it swayed guiding her as she passed the strangely fluorescent fences. Gardens sparkled, white iceberg roses glistening as she wandered towards the gardens and her favorite circle of trees.

Sprawled under the trees she let her finger guide a path through the map of the labyrinth that she had bought with her. "If I can just get to the centre I will find the Arches and be with them all once more" she murmured. The moon's light drenched the circle and she stopped to gaze in wonder at her majesty. The glorious rays of the moon that have lit the wonders of the world since the dawn of time is focused on this spot tonight. A rustle and the play began. Woodland spirits in flowing white gowns floated by in rowdy orgiastic revelry as Wagner's music heralded the letting loose of some primeval force. Each local spirit held silvery threads and as they danced, faster and faster it seemed that a silver arch emerged and from within that arch stepped all the familiar faces.

Everyone gathered. Her childhood self came and nestled alongside her and together they watched as the theatre began. The setting was in a small cottage that perched precariously alongside the Freestone Creek. Mrs. Hair sat with a pretty crocheted rug snugly tucked over her knees. A small fire filled the quaint room with subdued light. On a small table, covered with a pretty lace tablecloth that Mrs. Hair had made sat the good cups and saucers and a sugar bowl filled with cubed sugar. A delicate set of silver tongs lay on top. The teacups clinked softly as Mrs. Hair poured tea and passed the kisses all round. Mr. Hair bought in freshly brewed Ginger beer and everyone gathered to savor the much-awaited afternoon tea. "Anyone for a treasure hunt?" asked Mr. Hair as the last of the Ginger beer was drained from the children's glasses.

But this time she was content to stay behind, up in the tiny attic and lie examining the pictures Archie had used to paper the wall. Silently she gazed at the gaudy, bright lipstick smeared lips that seemed to stand out on the porcelain faces of the film stars he had collected and she imagined….”

She closed her notebook and lovingly stored her book and pen in the 'medicine bag' she kept for this express purpose. Stretching like a cat she rose, gathered her supplies and strode, revitalized and content, across the park towards the clutter of golden spires and the familiar routines of work. One day she would write a story about 'the Arches' but for today she was content to have gleaned these fragments, happy to have remembered.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The "Wedding of the Rails"

Intuitive Mining

My Great-grandfather was a miner. My Great-grandfather was a GOOD miner, he was so good that he is recorded in history as a “a mining magnate.” (This is true: I found it on the Web!) He was a founder of the infamous mining town of Bodie, California. He was the owner of the rich, veined “Jump up Joe” mine. He was in attendance when the “Golden Stake” was driven in at Promontory Summit, the "Wedding of the Rails" that linked the Union Pacific to the Central Pacific rail lines. He was also a Colonel in the U.S. Army, a banker, a two-term Utah State Senator, a member of the Utah State Capitol Commission, who designed and built the Utah State Capitol Building, an advisor to statesmen, senators and a U.S. President, a renowned and magnanimous Philanthroper.

At the beginning, however, my Great-grandfather was a good miner. He knew how and where to find precious metals. More than once, he discovered long, thick, veins of gold; heavy deposits of silver. He was very bright and was trained engineer, he knew scientifically where minerals were likely to be found. However, so did plenty of other people who never found them. What he had that made the difference when it came to finding silver and gold, was: something else. They sometimes called it the “Golden Touch”, this ability to put your hands on cold, dark stone and know if there were precious minerals under the surface. What was it really? In a word: intuition.

Intuition is a loaded word, with a myriad of meanings at many different levels. Noun: instinctive knowing (without the use of rational processes.) The last part of this definition is misleading. I believe that rational process is part of intuition. How do you suspend your rational process? You don’t. When you intuit something, rational process is part of it, it just isn’t all of it. “Instinctive knowing.” What does that mean?

Instinctive. Adjective: unthinking; prompted by (or as if by) instinct. Again, the part about unthinking is misleading. Doing something instinctively doesn’t mean that you suspend the thought process. It is more that something extra is added to the thought process, and that, by definition, is instinct.

Instinct. Noun: inborn pattern of behavior often responsive to specific stimuli. This is where it gets interesting. At some point, man decided that as a superior being, above and overlord of the animals, he must be as unlike those animals as possible. Particularly in the last age, man has perceived himself as scientifically intelligent and rational and come to the conclusion that, as such, he no longer has use for his ‘instincts’ the way the ‘lower animals’ do. Rationality and intellect came to be regarded as the opposite of instinctual and intuitive. When this happened, when instinctual reactions and behavior came to be regarded as negative, man - the great adaptor - learned to turn these intuitive reactions off and they began to cease to function.

“Mankind” of course means “humankind,” though in truth, women escaped a bit from the great shut down of the intuitive processes. “Woman’s intuition” was perhaps something too strong to be that easily dismissed or terminated, tied as it is to the maternal instinct; a profound and powerful instinct, meant to protect the species. Even though “woman’s intuition” was suspect and regarded as unreliable, it continued to exist and women were somewhat exempt from the self imposed shut down of the instinctual system.

So, when my Great-grandfather was able to somehow know where a deposit of ore was located, it was termed a “Golden Touch,” and regarded as something beyond the ken of mere mortals - when in reality it was merely the ability to intuit.

Intuitive mining: a mining method well worth considering. When the metaphor is unraveled and we look at what we are mining here, it is precisely the method I use myself. My mining for words has always been instinctive, reflexive, spontaneous, intuitive. This does not mean at all that it has nothing to do with intellect or cogitation, for the concepts are not mutually exclusive. To let intuition flow, one does not begin by shutting down the thought process. Cerebration and intellectual thought work hand in hand with intuition, one builds upon the other.

It does mean that one has to learn NOT to shut down the intuitive process, however. For me, this means that if I try to mine using a method based solely on intellect or knowledge, what I find are bare, blank walls without the glint of a vein of gold or the sparkle of silver dustings. If I try to find precious gems in words already written, or someone else’s thought, I find nothing but carbon. I can only mine by opening to something that is supposed to be lost, by accessing a part of myself that I can’t explain, I can only feel. It isn’t strange, however, or unusual or singular. It is perfectly natural and completely organic; a questing that makes me glad, a flowing that makes me whole.

©Edwina Peterson Cross

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Chinese Mining Methods on Australian Goldfields

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In 1861, Chinese immigrants made up 3.3 per cent of the Australian population, the greatest it has ever been. These Chinese were nearly all men (38,337 men and only eleven women!) and most were under contract to Chinese and foreign businessmen. In exchange for their passage money, they worked on the goldfields until their debt was paid off. Most then returned to China. Between 1852 and 1889, there were 40,721 arrivals and 36,049 departures.

The Chinese, like so many others, came to Australia to dig for gold because there were problems in their own land. Drought and famine and a downturn in trade had caused poverty in China. By 1854, there were 4000 Chinese on the Australian goldfields.

The Chinese miners used different mining methods to the Europeans. They are said to have seldom tackled new ground, preferring to go over ground abandoned by the Europeans. It is thought that they found much gold which had been missed by European miners in their haste. On those occasions when the Chinese did dig for gold, it is commonly believed that they constructed round shafts rather than square or rectangular ones. This is both sound engineering and a likely deference to the superstition that evil spirits would hide in corners.

It also angered some diggers that the Chinese were successful in finding gold. They would work very carefully, for long hours, to get just a little gold. They would take up a claim that the European diggers had given up, and would find gold there. It was easy for some rowdy and hot-headed diggers to convince their disappointed mates that the Chinese were their enemies. The Victorian government became worried about the numbers of Chinese arriving, and tried to stop them. The captain of a ship arriving in Melbourne had to pay the government ten pounds in tax for every Chinese passenger. The captains avoided this by landing the Chinese in South Australia, which had no gold rushes. The Chinese diggers then walked hundreds of miles across country to the Victorian goldfields.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Balfour Memorial Mining Method

You will need:

1) A large amount of chewing gum
2) Cheap slippers
3) One extra large Baggie
4) Miner’s hat with built in flashlight
5) Tweezers
6) Magnet
7) Brother
8) Guile

Start with six large packs of Doublemint gum. No, better make it twelve. Doublemint is the gum of choice because it’s chewed consistency is perfect. It is also my favorite. Begin chewing, two sticks at a time. Chew until the gum starts to taste of repetition and you find yourself snapping it; gum that snaps has lost the excess sugar and reached the correct stage of stickiness. As soon as the pieces in your mouth are appropriately desugared, take them out and park them, then start in on two more. If you happen to be a lawyer, Mick Jagger or Stephen Tyler, you can probably handle more than two sticks at a time and thus speed up the process considerably.

Once you have all the gum suitably desugared and softened, take off your shoes and begin to spread the parked gum across the bottom of your soles. You want to press down enough that the gum isn’t going to fall off the shoe, but still leave quite a bit of loose gum. It is an art, at which you will grow more proficient with practice.

This is where the cheap slippers come in. You will need to wear them until you reach the floor of the mine where you will be working. Once the bottoms of your shoes are quite covered with gum, you are ready to go. Wearing slippers, carrying shoes, descend into the mine and go directly toward a site that someone else is actively mining.

Just before arriving at the claim, switch your slippers for your shoes, stash the slippers in some deep dark crack and proceed into the claim area.

There are several, obvious, advantages to this method of mining. The most obvious and most important is that you don’t need to discover gold by yourself. You don’t need to make guesses at where that gold might be, mine false leads or empty rock. You don’t need to stake a claim or hammer rock or chisel stone or shovel slag. All you need to do is wear your miner’s hat, with the built in flashlight, and wander around a site where someone else has already been mining. Pretend to be interested in their work. Make appropriate noises and say positive things.

“This was one tough vein! You must be in great shape to have been able to move this amount of rock!”
“It must have taken a lot of muscles to get that all that gold out of the mountain and then out of the mine!”
“How did you EVER know to drill right here? You are completely brilliant!”

Miners are far less likely question what you are doing if you are giving them compliments all the while. It’s the way miners are. It’s the way everyone is.

Now all you have to do is hand out compliments and stroll around. After a fair amount of time, definitely before the miner starts to wonder what they heck you are doing, say good-bye and head topside. Switch back into your slippers and put your shoes in the extra large Baggie which you are carrying in your pocket.

Now there remains only to extract the gold flakes you picked up off the floor from the gum. This can be done effectively with tweezers and a magnet. The ideal scenario is to make this a family operation and make your brother do this part.


A system very similar to this mining method was evidently carried out for years in the Balfour Jewelry plant near where I lived in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Balfour makes all kinds of jewelry, but is best know for being the world’s leading manufacturer of school rings. It seems that this method of obtaining gold was quietly going on for what amounted to generations before Balfour finally figured it out. Nowadays the employees of the Balfour plant have to strip down to nothing and change into paper suits to do their work. They wear paper slippers on their feet which they must turn in at the end of each shift. They are not allowed to chew gum.

One of the most entertaining things about this story is that when the Balfour plant finally got wise, there was, simultaneously, a substantial jump in the number of people who applied for state and county services. Under the section of the application which asked why they needed the aid, people stated that they just could not make ends meet since they had been forced to stop pilfering from Balfour. The employees were really quite miffed. One, quoted in the local newspaper, said: “It’s been a source of income for my family for three generations. We don’t know what we’ll do now, it is practically impossible to live on just the salary Balfour pays.”

©Edwina Peterson Cross

Extraction Methods

Crevice Mining

When first starting, crevice mining offers an easy and inexpensive way to get started. Gold is heavy. It finds its way into the nooks and crannies of the bedrock. Therefore, these are good places to look. To mine crevices you will need:

1) long tablespoon
2) long teaspoon
3) old flathead screwdriver with the tip bent at a ninety degree angle 2" to 3" from the end
4) tweezers - to pick out the gold flakes and nuggets
5) wide mouth plastic jar or bottle - to put gold in
6) small magnet - to separate gold from black sands
7) small shovel - I prefer a folding army style shovel which can act as a pick or shovel
8) small hand pick
9) garden trowel
10) flashlight
11) small metal bucket - to carry tools to the site, to sit on if need be, to carry rock to nearby stream
12) gold pan

Find a crevice in area you think has gold. For ideas on locations go to where the gold is. Dig out the crevice using your small shovel, trowel, and spoons. You may need to loose the dirt or enlarge the crevice with the bent screwdriver or hand pick. REMEMBER, gold is heavy and likes to gravitate to the bottom of the crevice, so don't give up too easily. Place all of the extracted material (rocks, plants, clay, etc) in your pan or bucket and carry it to the nearest stream. Now, you are ready to pan for gold!

Describe a prospecting or extraction method that you have discovered works quite well here in the word mine.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Part One

A Bodie Christmas
Edwin T. Peterson
Edwina Peterson Cross

In 1859, in a cold, lonely space of the high desert country of California, Waterman S. Body discovered gold. Soon this little corner of the high desert was no longer deserted as more and more people rushed there to “see the Elephant.” Of course there was no elephant in the California high country, “see the Elephant” was what the miners called looking for gold, and because of gold, the town of Bodie was born. There was a story that the name of the town was changed from “Body” to “Bodie” by a sign painter who didn’t know how to read and write, but the truth was that the town’s folk changed the name themselves because they didn’t want people to think their town was named “Body” as in “a dead body,” though it seemed for awhile there were plenty of those to be found in Bodie anyway.

Bodie became a Boom Town, growing rapidly, filled with sudden riches. By 1879 there were 2,000 buildings lining the streets of Bodie and 10,000 people living there. Bodie had also become famous as the most Wicked Town in the West. It was known far and wide for it’s lawlessness, wild living and badmen. There were robberies, stage holdups, and killings every day. When someone was buried, the fire bell rang once for each year of that person’s life. It seemed as though the fire bell was ringing all the time.

There are many stories told about Bodie. Some are told about the mysterious, infamous “Badman from Bodie” but no one seems to know who he really was. There is another story of a young girl whose family was moving to this wild and wicked town; it is said she wrote in her diary: "Good-bye God, I'm going to Bodie." Soon everyone in the west knew the saying.

I am going to tell you another story about Bodie, a story that is a little West of the wild tales everyone knows of holdups and gunfights. This story tells not about the ledged of the town of Bodie, but about the people who lived there. It is wider than the wild tales, deeper than the legend, this is a story about miners who spent their days underground; and a particular kind of gold that they found together. It is a story that happens to be true.

It begins on December 23rd, two days before Christmas. It is a clear, cold day, but it is beginning to smell a little bit like snow, and snow would be just fine for Christmas day. There is a smile on the face of the handsome young miner who is riding through the mountains toward Bodie.

Ed Loose is not much older than twenty, but he has been on his own a long time, he is a quick and smart; he knows how to look out for himself and how to take care of business. He and his two older brothers William and Warren are mining a claim about two hours ride away from Bodie and they are doing well. Ed doesn’t mind the mining life, but now it is Christmas and he is heading to town to stay with his best friend Billy Metson and to celebrate. He hums pieces of old Christmas Carols as he rides. Ed is in a fine mood, after weeks in the mining camp, he is looking forward to the good food and drink that the season will bring. “And clean clothes,” thinks Ed to himself smiling, “and a hot bath!” It gets mighty dirty down in a mine and it’s cold in the high desert in December, just the thought of a hot bath and clean clothes is almost enough to sing about in and of itself! Ed laughs and decides that, actually, a hot bath does deserve a poem at least and he begins to think of rhymes as he rides.

On the outskirts of town, Ed bypasses some shanty sheds, working his way up a hill toward a small house set back against the hills. He’ll just save himself some time and pick up those clean clothes on his way to Billy Metson’s. The festive smile slowly fades from Ed’s face. He has taken his clothes to the laundry being run by Dan Davenport’s widow, to try and help her out. Dan was killed earlier in the year in a mining accident. Ed knows that the family came from the east and that they used every bit of their savings just to get to the California gold fields in the first place. Dan’s widow and her two small children couldn’t go back east if they wanted to. The laundry is hard, back breaking work and Dan’s wife has never been particularly strong, but she doesn’t have much of a choice. Ed bites his lip. “At least I’m bringing her some work,.” he thinks. Somehow, this doesn’t make him feel any better.

The little house is really only a cabin. It is built well, but it wasn’t made to be a laundry and it is crowded and cluttered. Mrs. Davenport seems embarrassed by this and she fusses about trying to tidy things up, but there is just no where to tidy them to. The two small children seem to be right in the way, they keep getting underneath her feet, but she is patient with them.
“I’m sorry the place is such a mess,” she says pushing a stray piece of hair back from her face with her wrist, “I can’t seem to ever get ahead of the work anymore.”
“It looks extremely tidy to me Mam,” Ed says solemnly, “I just came from a mining camp.”
She doesn’t laugh, but a small smile lifts the corners of her mouth for a moment.
‘Fair like she has forgotten how to laugh,’ thinks Ed to himself. ‘And it’s no wonder.’
He notices that she somehow looks smaller than she used to. She is pale and her eyes look red and tired.

“I’ll just get your things, Mr. Loose. They are all finished, here in the other room, but I’m afraid I still have to get them together. It will just take me a moment . . . if you don’t mind . . .”
“I don’t mind at all,” he says hurriedly, “I’ve done what I set out to do today. I was coming to Bodie and I’ve accomplished that.” The corners of her mouth lift briefly again, but the smile doesn’t reach her eyes. She disappears into the adjoining small room.

The little girl follows her mother, but the little boy, who is about five-years-old stays behind, shying regarding Ed from under a thick set of blonde bangs. Ed smiles at him.
“Hi there,” says Ed, trying to make his voice sound not as deep and round as it usually is.
“Ya . . . ya know what mister?” the boy blurts out.
“No,” says Ed, “but I bet you do.”
The little boy thinks about this for a moment and then bursts out laughing. It is such a sparkling sound that it makes Ed smile his Christmas smile all over again.
“So, I’ll tell you what!” the little boy says, grinning, “it’s almost Christmas! That’s what!”
“You are so right!” says Ed, “it is most definitely almost Christmas!”
“Ya wanna know what Santa Claus is going to bring me?” he asks. His eyes are blue and they are sparkling with secrets.
“I sure do,” Ed droops down on one knee so he is just about the same height as the small boy.
“Andrew!” says Mrs. Davenport suddenly, sharply, appearing at the door. “Stop bothering the gentleman.”
“Oh, he’s not bothering me Mam . . .”
She smiles tiredly at Ed and steers young Andrew into the other room where she is getting the laundry together.

Ed wanders around the tiny room. Looking at the window casings that look as though they leak, the cupboards that look ready to fall down. He tries not to listen, but there isn’t much he can do, the little cabin is so small he can hear every word that is being spoken in the other room.
“I wanted to tell the Gemplman about the wooden soldiers, Mama,” says Andrew, “you know the ones all painted bright, Daddy was gonna make ‘em for me . . .”
“I know Andy,” the woman’s voice sounds thick. “But he didn’t even get them whittled from the wood, and I . . . I just can’t do it, I, can’t work the knife . . .”
“No, Mama, it’s OK!” pipes in the little girl, “you don’t have to whittle wooden soldiers or make the new dress for my baby Abigail either, ‘cause Santa Claus will bring them, just like he always does.”
“And oranges!” says Andy excitedly, “I don’t remember the last time I even saw an orange! But Santa always brings ‘em and apples and stripped sugar candy.”
“And new mittens! And a thick hat with strings that will keep my ears warm!”
“Children . . .” the woman’s voice breaks and she has to clear her throat. “We are a long way away from our house in Vermont . . . I don’t think Santa Claus will . . will know where to come way out here.”
“Of course he will Mama! Julia ‘n me’s been so good this year, haven’t we Julia? And Santa Claus always knows where good children are, Daddy said so.”
Ed is close enough that he can hear the woman’s fast breaths as if she is trying to get her breath back after running. Or trying not to cry. “That may be so in the rest of the world,” she says shortly, “but . . . this is not the rest of the world. You know there just aren’t . . . there aren’t many children out here and Santa, well he can’t remember everything. Santa, he . . . he probably doesn’t remember that Bodie is even here.”
“Oh Mama!” says Julia in a shocked tone, “That just can’t be so! How could Santa forget a whole town?”
“Because he . . . did,” she replies sharply . Ed can tell she can’t think of anything else to say. He hears her take several gulping breaths. “Now you listen to me and you listen good!” her voice is raised suddenly, it sounds distraught and a little bit frantic, “I don’t want to hear anymore about it now! No more talk about Christmas! We left Christmas behind in Vermont . . . we buried Christmas with your father . . . and Santa Claus . . . Santa has forgotten Bodie, who could blame him! and he doesn’t remember there are any children here at all. Do you hear me? Santa has forgotten Bodie.” This is followed by nothing but shocked silence.

Ed walks as far away as he can get in the small house and looks out the front window, still when she brings him his shirts carefully folded, her face is burning and she is biting her lower lip to keep from crying. She doesn’t look much older than a child herself at this moment - except for the deep dark circles underneath her eyes.

“I must apologize Mr. Loose,” she says simply, and with a lot of dignity. “This place being as small as it is, that you had to hear all of that. I just had to take care of it and not keep putting it off and letting them go on. It . . . had to be done and I . . . I just had to do it right then. I’m sorry.”
“Oh no, Mam, . . .” Ed Loose is well read, extremely intelligent and very seldom at a loss for words, but at this moment he can’t think of anything to say that won’t make things worse. “It’s no problem, Mam,” he mutters, feeling like kicking himself for being unable to offer anything else.

When he pays her for his laundry he tells her that he hasn’t got anything smaller than a twenty dollar gold piece; she’ll just have to keep the extra. Her lips press together. “I understand what you are trying to do Mr. Loose and I thank you, but I don’t take charity.”
“It isn’t charity,” he argues, “I just don’t have any smaller coins, it would be doing me a favor.”
“No, I’m sorry. And I’m sorry I haven’t the money to make change. If you haven’t anything smaller, you’ll just have to pay me next time.”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that Mam . . .”
“You can do it just as easily as you can overpay me for work I haven’t done. Again, I thank you for your thoughts, but I don’t take charity.”
Ed just nods and suddenly finds some smaller coins in the depth of his pocket.
Andrew has come out from the other room and is peering at Ed around his mother’s skirts. He is rubbing at his reddened eyes with his fist.
Ed says good bye to the widow and to the widow’s son and goes back out into the wind of December.

©Edwina Peterson Cross and Edwin T. Peterson