[personal profile] sinnamongirl
When I was 16, after we'd moved back to Methford from Washington, dad got a gold claim. I used to mess up and call it a gold mine, and that's obviously not the same thing. Anyway, he got this gold claim outside of Merlin - far outside - or somewhere thereabouts, and was going to slowly make a fortune. You can, right now, still go out to the Rogue and the Applegate and pan for gold and find a few flakes, though you do have to watch out for the fool's gold. The way the gold claim works, best as I understand, is that you get a lease from the BLM for 99 years. You can then sublease your claim, or sell it outright, which is how dad got his. What you find is yours, of course, and you can't do much to the land itself, but this claim came with a small trailer so one could conceivably spend the night out there.

In this process dad met a few cronies, and he learned the ropes pretty quickly, the ropes being simply etiquette and safety. There's bears and cougars out here, plus the rattlesnakes (and black widows; those are relatively shy, though I'm sure the trailer was riddled with them), plus the drug dealers. In southern Oregon it's meth and weed for the most part - was true back then, is true now (though sadly heroin seems to be making a comeback). So for the animals you took a gun (in dad's case, a Russian-made SKS he later sold for a pittance of its value because he was out of booze money), and for the growers/dealers you kept an eye out for PVC pipes, what they'd use for irrigation, and avoid them.

I only went up to the claim once myself. Now, I'm biased, I think southern Oregon is one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. and definitely the most beautiful part of Oregon itself. But, still, the claim was objectively beautiful - golden grass, dark green oaks, crystal-clear creek, the dampest, loamiest dirt ever. There was a massive quartz boulder up the creek a ways, and dad was convinced this was the key to the gold (heaven forbid he just pan the creek, slowly amassing gold flakes; he had to find the mother lode a.s.a.p.). As we walked up the trail beside the creek, we hopped over a few bear or cougar scats - probably bear, as they were large and full of half-digested berries, but oddly I never tried to figure this out. I'm sure there's a Guide to Wildlife Shit, but I never did bother to study up.

We got to the quartz boulder, and part of the slope around it had washed off in a recent rainstorm, leaving a new face exposed and churning the dirt up around it. I saw a gleam in the dirt, stuck my finger out, and came away with a single gold flake. I called my parents back and they got all excited - dad hadn't found any actual gold yet, but he had the little sample bottles ready and had me carefully transfer the flake into a bottle. We walked on, encouraged, then went off the trail a ways where dad showed us a pile of PVC pipe that had recently appeared, making him a bit nervous. We saw nothing (definitely didn't smell tortillas, had a nice day, and left with our single gold flake and a new sense of hope.

Dad would go out to the claim now and then, go out with his cronies and have a few drinks, but that pile of PVC pipe was worrisome. He came back once or twice with stories about running across these guys, them giving him the evil eye and warning him off, how he and the other miners (panners?) were growing increasingly concerned. Then one day he came back and said the PVC pipe guys tried to run him off. I don't know exactly what happened, but one day dad came back from the claim, got some extra supplies, and only came back much later that night, reeking of whiskey and completely - completely - freaked out. The story was garbled, but the gist was that he'd met up with some of his gold-friends to protect his claim from the growers. There had been gunfire from both sides. There was entrenchment and ducking and weaving and shooting back and forth. He was rather afraid he'd killed someone but wouldn't say much more than that.

He didn't, though, go back. Much to my mother's relief (and my own). He claimed some paperwork saga - perhaps someone else over-filed the claim, perhaps his sublease/purchase of it wasn't legal in the first place, I don't know, and honestly I don't care. Even given dad's penchant for drama and exaggeration, I've rarely seen him as freaked out and nervous as he was that night.

For years that sample bottle with the single gold flake sat on our windowsill. Like so much else, it's lost now, but it remains the only piece of gold ever found by my family at that claim.

Bonus song:

This has been an entry for [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. Please read, enjoy, and vote for the entries you like best!

Date: 2016-03-12 04:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tonithegreat.livejournal.com
This is so perfect for the prompt! It sounds beautiful out there. I like that you found a flake of gold.

Date: 2016-03-12 05:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
Thank you! I truly do love it out here, and I'm glad there was a prompt that fit the story that was in my head!

Date: 2016-03-12 06:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dmousey.livejournal.com
I would love to visit Oregon. You guys have grizzes though and they scare me... Your Father sounds like a piece of work. (In a goos way I hpe) Thanks for sharing this write! Peace~~~D

Date: 2016-03-12 06:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
Come to Oregon!!! It's so great.

Grizzes like... grizzly bears? I actually don't think we do - last official sighting of a grizzly was in the '30s or '40s maybe? But we do have black bears, and some of them are... I think it's called "cinnamon phase," they're not black, sort of a brownish. My brother ran across one on a hike once - just sort of backed up slowly on the trail and turned around. Supposedly if you see them around a well-used trail or campsite, you just toss your backpack away from you. The more astute bears know snacks exist inside backpacks, so they're a good decoy.

"Piece of work" does describe dad. He ended up having a drug-induced psychotic break about 3 or 4 years ago, we're relatively estranged now. Some of these entries are like... an adjunct to my therapy ;)

Thanks for reading!

Date: 2016-03-12 04:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dmousey.livejournal.com
Yeah, Grizzes scare me! We have black bears here in NJ too! Everyone thinks we don't have rural areas, but New Jersey is the Garden State for a reason and we have set aside thousands of acres of pine barrens to be protected.

It's a shame about your pop! Thanks for reading! Peace~~~D

Date: 2016-03-12 09:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
Actually years ago I went to NJ a couple times, on errands for this guy I worked for. I was really blown away to get out of the industrial areas and into the neighborhoods where it looked *exactly* like Portland, Oregon. Actually a beautiful state! NJ gets a bad rap :)

Date: 2016-03-14 10:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
I think I accidentally deleted your really funny bwack comment... I'm sorry about that - I laughed, meant to reply, then came back later and it's gone.

Date: 2016-03-12 06:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] favoritebean.livejournal.com
Oh man! My uncle lives near Grants Pass, and he pans for gold quite a bit. Reading this gives me insight to what he's been doing the past two years. I had no idea about the PVC though. Weird.

And yeah, it's sad that heroin has made such a comeback, especially given that it's cut with terrible stuff that will kill you.

Date: 2016-03-12 10:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
Gold panning is fun! I hope he's gotten some good finds, though a lot of the panners I know are really in it for the soothing zen aspect as well as the potential payout.

The PVC I hope I'm remembering accurately, but it can also be used for moonshining, and also probably for legit stuff? But weirdly I'm hoping the legalization of marijuana will stop at least some of the covert activities.

Date: 2016-03-12 04:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rayaso.livejournal.com
Great use of the prompt! I love entries like these. I agree, Southern Oregon is very beautiful. One gold flake isn't a lot, but it makes for a great story.

Date: 2016-03-12 10:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
Thank you! And thanks for agreeing S.O. is beautiful :) I love it here, and hate the reputation it has (somewhat deservedly, I will admit).

Date: 2016-03-12 06:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] murielle.livejournal.com
Fascinating! Sans the drug dealers it would have been like a corner of paradise with possible profits. Such an adventure!

Date: 2016-03-12 10:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading! I'm hoping the drug dealers tend to drift away as the legalization of marijuana is supposed to help with at least some of that - though it's possible the harder drugs will rear their heads. But I really hope not.

Date: 2016-03-13 11:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alycewilson.livejournal.com
What a scary experience for him! From my understanding, a lot of claims yielded similarly disappointing results.

Date: 2016-03-13 11:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
Yeah, they're more for fun than anything. Dad's always been a "get rich quick" kind of guy, though... never worked out for him, but bless him for trying.

Date: 2016-03-14 07:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] halfshellvenus.livejournal.com
I didn't realize you were living in Southern Oregon. I'm from the Northern part, and partial to that, myself. :)

I've seen the occasional imbedded contraption in some rivers here in California, but I hadn't thought anyone would still be pursuing gold claims much of anywhere else! Or, barely pursuing-- though I don't blame your dad for backing away from whatever was going on in his area.

That forest service blurb you linked is one of the most ridiculous statements by a government entity I've heard in a long time. It's as if someone pranked them, and they took it seriously!

Date: 2016-03-14 06:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
Yup, southern Oregon! Moved back down almost a year ago exactly, after living in Portland and Salem for far too long.

I've always debated how much personal information to give out here, like location, but also just figure fuck it. Besides the fact that some of my posts need the location to make sense, I can always go back and lock them after the votes and such if I need to.

Sometimes I run across dredges here, while rafting or just dinking around on the river, and I always wonder how much they actually pick up. I *think* but am not sure that dad was considering a dredge for his claim but, of course, never did.

And, yeah, that link is so ridiculous. And of course I heard people repeating it over and over again. RUN AWAY IF YOU SMELL TORTILLAS! I'd die laughing if it weren't so stupidly racist and, well, stupid.

Date: 2016-03-14 02:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] adoptedwriter.livejournal.com
I didn't know that people still panned for gold. Cool experience!


Date: 2016-03-14 06:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
We do! Mom still has a gold pan in her trunk so she never forgets it when we go to the river. Thanks for reading :)

Date: 2016-03-14 07:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whipchick.livejournal.com
Wow - what a crazy family history! And it sounds like a truly, truly beautiful place.

Date: 2016-03-14 10:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
It is - I almost put up a bunch of pictures though wasn't sure they'd do the place justice.

Date: 2016-03-14 08:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] swirlsofblue.livejournal.com
Eep, never knew panning for gold could turn scary.

Fascinating piece, love the description of the little things here, lots I didn't know about the world of panning for gold.

Date: 2016-03-14 10:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
Thank you for the comment! Usually it's not scary; usually it's just fun, a relaxing way to pass some time at the river. Thanks for reading!

Date: 2016-03-14 08:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] prog-schlock.livejournal.com
(Excellent Stone Roses choice, by the way).

I do wonder if there's a book titled something like 'Colonel Defrens' Field Guide To Critter Scat' or some such. Not kidding, I feel there must be some resource like that out there.

While I'm not usually a huge fan of calling the police (because evidence seems to suggest you only do that if you want to risk somebody getting killed), I wonder why they didn't get the police involved with the meth people? Not because of the drug production, per se, but because they were an obvious threat to the safety of the people out there legally. Some sort of frontier code (and I say that with no irony)?

I'm trying to avoid sharing gold songs this week, so here's a song about looking for clues that also seems sort of thematically related to your piece. If you stretch the meaning a little. Heh.

Date: 2016-03-14 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
Hahaha, great song!

And, yes, calling the police would be a logical, practical, and responsible thing to do.

None of those words describe my dad ;) Plus add in a healthy dose of paranoia, distrust of authorities, and sheer egotistical narcissism, and in his world, the logical conclusion was "shoot out."

Honestly, it's shocking he's not dead yet. I'm starting to suspect he's like Twinkies, cockroaches, and Keith Richards... able to survive forever.

Date: 2016-03-14 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] uselesstinrelic.livejournal.com
Interesting and unexpected how that worked out. You said gold claim and I immediately figured it would be a historical story! Nice one.

Date: 2016-03-14 10:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
Thank you :)

I'd like to be writing more fiction actually, but lately all the prompts lead me to think of personal stuff, so no historical pieces yet.

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