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GhostMiner

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  1. August 19 2002 Conor and I headed into town this morning. We went to the Sheriff’s office and asked if anyone knew how Bill was doing. They said they didn't, so they let us use their phone to call the hospital. After waiting on hold for a good ten minutes I was finally able to talk with a nurse who worked on the floor where Bill was located. She said he had a punctured lung, broken left arm, a broken leg, a concussion, and multiple bruises. He had been stabilized and was going into surgery. She said his condition was very serious. I got the direct number to call about him and told her I'll check back tomorrow. The deputy on duty said he was lucky to be alive after a fall like that. I agreed and Conor and I stopped by the store to pick up some supplies and headed back to camp. Nobody really felt much like working but we finally got back to washing gravel. Conor worked with us. He was taking a liking to operating the skid steer and doing pretty good. By the end of the day we had processed 150 yards of pay gravel. Jacob said we should run one more day before pulling the sluice mats for a cleanup. It was near 7:00 PM when we finished eating supper and a deputy came walking into camp. It was the same one from yesterday who had come to the mine with the rescue crew. By the look on his face I knew it wasn’t good news. He came over to us and said he was very sorry to tell us that Bill didn’t make it. We were all stunned. Conor completely fell apart. I even saw a tear in Jacob’s eye. The deputy said they had contact information for one of Bill’s relatives and he would be taken care of. He said if we needed to know anything more we should come into the Sheriff’s department tomorrow afternoon. I thanked him and felt a wave of sorrow and also a creepy feeling come over me. I remembered Bill talking about the graveyard train sitting in the ravine near the upper drift mine. Bill had joined the miner who had also died out there. I asked myself how many more miners would die out here on this cursed property. It had claimed the lives of many good men. I didn’t want to be one of them. I felt like packing up and going home while I still had the chance. TO BE CONTINUED ...............
  2. Have been unable to log on to this site since last night. Finally got back on. Cheers.
  3. August 18 2002 Part Two It seemed like an eternity and finally after about an hour my walkie talkie came to life. Conor was bringing a rescue team up the mountain with medical personnel as well. He said they had an ambulance waiting at camp to transport to the nearest hospital which was at least an hour and a half away. I had been trying to comfort Bill as much as I could and was talking about all the gold we would get before Winter set in. It helped pass the time and take his mind off his injuries. Just as the rescue people arrived Bill started going into shock. I got out of their way and they went to work on him. Conor came over and was real concerned. They had started to become pretty good friends. I just shook my head and told him Bill was in good hands now. They fastened him on a litter and ran a line up to the top of the ravine. Then four men helped slide the litter up the side of the cliff with the help of some people up at the top pulling the rope along. It was a delicate operation and the team was being as gentle as they could. When they got him to the top they carried him all the way back to camp and placed him in the ambulance. Then they were off. A Sheriff deputy wanted a statement from us on the details of the accident so I told him what Bill had told me. It seems he had been swinging the detector just below the rim of the ravine and was moving laterally when he tripped over a skinny pine tree root that was just above the ground. It must have acted like a tripwire and Bill said he went tumbling down the steep wall of gravel and rock ending up all the way at the bottom. Bill said he had smacked hard into a boulder about half way down. The deputy wrote down what I was saying and headed back to town. Jacob was pretty upset and said we were done working for the day. We had washed 15 yards of gravel. None of us felt much like eating but Jacob heated up some canned stew and we all ate supper around 6:00 PM. I told Conor we should go into town and call the hospital tomorrow to see what was what. It was a bad day on the mine and we were reminded about how quickly tragedy could strike. TO BE CONTINUED ..................
  4. August 18 2002 Part One Man Down Everyone was up bright and early. We were all on the same page and ready for mining gold. Also, Bill resumed metal detecting up at the Hidden Mine. Conor was helping out at the dig site by pushing tailings with the skid steer while Jacob started digging and I got the trommel and pump running. It was a beautiful morning and things were running smoothly until around 10:00 AM when my walkie talkie went off. It was Bill and he was in trouble. He said he was in a ravine on the east side of the Hidden Mine site. He had taken a bad fall and couldn’t get up. I hollered over to Conor and went over to Jacob and told him what had happened. We quickly shut down the operation and Conor and I charged up the mountain heading in Bill’s direction. Jacob stayed down at camp and waited on word from us. When we got up there we headed over to the east side of the old mine where the ground dropped off sharply. There, near the bottom about 100 feet below us was Bill. I hollered down and told him we were coming. The terrain was extremely rough and strewn with large boulders and old mine tailings. The sides of the ravine were steep. When we got down to Bill I could see it was bad. His right leg was fractured and he was also having trouble breathing. I was thinking he may have broken some ribs and punctured a lung. He was in a lot of pain and it was impossible to get him back up to the surface. I was also afraid to move him without more help and equipment. I told Conor to climb back out of here and go for help and I would stay with Bill. This was a bad situation. TO BE CONTINUED .................
  5. August 17 2002 Part Two By early afternoon Jacob wanted to get the trommel running and start washing gravels. He figured we could salvage a half day of work. To my surprise Bill and Conor asked if they could work with us. Jacob gave them one of his winks and said you guys look like you might be cut out for a mining crew. Then we walked over to the digsite. I took Conor over to the water pump and showed him how to purge the line and get it pumping. The trommel was running and Jacob was starting to feed the hopper. I showed Conor and Bill how the controls worked and how to shut it down. Then I gave each one of them a short tutorial on how to operate a skid steer. Conor started pushing tailings. Bill got in the excavator with Jacob and was watching him use the controls. Then he did a little digging. We ended up knocking off work around 6:00 PM after having processed 90 yards of gravel. Jacob said we would run a full day tomorrow and then do the cleanup. Overall, it was a fairly quiet day with no drama. The cool night air was starting to come in around 7:00 PM and we all had a good supper together. Then we all hit the sack early in preparation for a long day of mining. TO BE CONTINUED .................
  6. Yes, he's been all over the place but mostly unreliable. Can he change? Read on.
  7. Here's one for Jacob. Thinking of you tonight my old friend and mining partner.
  8. August 17 2002 Part One None of us were up until nearly 10:00 AM. When we got back last night Bill was still sitting in a chair near a campfire that was nearly out and an empty bottle of whisky was lying on the ground near him. Evidently he had passed out at some point after we went into town looking for Conor. When I got up he was still sleeping in his chair. He hadn’t moved at all. I went over to wake him and he started coming around. The first thing he did was reach for the empty bottle. I made coffee and spiked it with whisky. I had learned this from Jacob and it helped some with a bad hangover. The four of us were a sorry sight. Sitting in a circle around a propane cook stove drinking Irish Coffee and too sick to eat. Jacob seemed to be in a little better shape compared to the rest of us and started scrambling up some eggs. He was chowing down but no one else ate anything. Around noon we all started perking up just a bit and started talking about last night. Conor said he didn’t remember too much of what had happened after we got there but did apologize for heading into town like he did. He said the time had come for him to change his ways and move forward with his life. I told him that cutting back on the whisky might be a good place to start. He agreed and said he wanted to prove himself and become a real member of the crew. There was nothing left in his life to return home for. I was the first to shake his hand and told him we needed to make a fresh start. He looked me in the eye and told me how sorry he was for the way he had acted and for threatening me with a gun. I told him it was all behind us now. Jacob smiled and so did Bill. Then Jacob told everyone we just might make a mining crew yet. TO BE CONTINUED ............
  9. August 16 2002 Part Four In The Midst Of A Celebrity Conor attempted to stand up but fell back into his chair. I got up quickly and jumped in between Jacob and the three men. I told Jacob to hold up and let's get this straightened out without trouble. One of the three men exclaimed that Jacob was crazy. I told them he was a living legend and part of the 1936 mining crew whose picture hung on the barroom wall. They were taken aback. Everyone in town knew that picture. I took them over to the wall and pointed out Jacob in the photo. Then they went back to Jacob who was still standing there with his buck knife in hand. They apologized and told him they had heard many stories about that crew. They said all three of them had done lots of prospecting and they seemed to be in awe of Jacob. They asked if they could pull their chairs up to our table and buy us some drinks. Jacob put the knife away. They ordered more drinks and even Conor started to pull himself together. For the next two hours they asked Jacob questions about the old days and he was more than happy to tell story after story. It went on until closing time. Everyone was pretty drunk as Conor, Jacob, and I headed for our trucks. We decided to leave Conor’s truck at the bar and I drove them back to the mine. What had started out to be a horrible night ended up being a one of a kind experience. TO BE CONTINUED .............
  10. August 16 2002 Part Three Cryin’ Time For The Lonely Jacob and I took a seat and the bartender came over and asked us for our order. Before I could say anything Jacob ordered me and him a double shot of whisky with two beer chasers. Conor still had a glass of whisky in front of him. The drinks came around and Conor tried to sit up in his chair. Jacob told him he needed to get whatever was ailing him off his chest or it would kill him. Conor was an absolute drunken mess. He blubbered on about his wife leaving him and how he couldn’t take it. Then he started on about his father who he never knew. Conor asked us if we’d seen the picture behind the bar. I said yes we had. I told him his father was a legend in these parts and he needed to get himself together so his father would be proud. Jacob agreed and told him he needed to face up to the way things were and get his life back together. Then he reached across the table and grabbed him by the front of his shirt and set him upright in his chair. He told him to buck up and if he wanted to be a part of our crew he needed to get a whole bunch tougher. Conor just broke down again and was crying like a baby. About this time there were three guys at a table next to us that had been taking notice of Conor. The jukebox was blasting out some old Country songs and they hollered over the music at us. One of them said we needed to get Conor a nurse maid. Jacob looked over at them and told them to mind their own business. One of the other ones called Jacob Gramps and told him it was past his bedtime. Jacob’s eyes looked like blue steel. Then I saw his right hand slip down to where he carried his buck knife. In my mind I was cursing myself for coming into this place and was preparing for a fight. Jacob stood up with his buck knife in his right hand and told them he was going to cut them up and hang them on the bar room wall. TO BE CONTINUED ................
  11. August 16 2002 Part Two After supper Jacob wanted to go looking for Conor who still hadn’t returned. We left Bill to watch our camp and I drove Jacob into town in my truck. We figured we might know where he was - the infamous tavern that the 1936 crew had frequented on occasion. The place where all the trouble makers in the area hung out. The old tavern had gone through several owners since then but not much had changed. It was not a place to bring a family. It was a destination for misfits and troublemakers. It was also a tie to Conor’s father Jed. Sure enough Conor’s truck was sitting in the parking lot. Jacob shook his head in disgust and said we better get him out of there. I was thinking to myself that I didn’t need all this crap but Jacob was my friend and I would back him in any situation. He needed me now and I was there for him. It was beginning to get dark outside and when we walked in through the front door it was hard to see. The place was packed with all kinds of rif raf and smoke hung heavy in the air. Jacob said the place hadn’t changed much over the years. This was the bar where they had all kinds of pictures hanging on the back wall behind the bar including one of the 1936 mining crew. Sitting all alone at a corner table was Conor. Sitting might not have been the word for it. He was slouched over a glass of whisky and drunk as all getup. Jacob and I slowly walked over to the table and took a seat. Conor kind of looked up at us and gave us a blank stare. His eyes were all bloodshot and his face was badly bruised from yesterday’s fight. He looked across the table at us and said he was no good. I couldn’t disagree with that. He’d been in here all afternoon and into the early evening and was hammered. He told Jacob that there was a picture of the old mining crew with his dad hanging on the wall behind the bar. He was slurring his words and then he started to cry. TO BE CONTINUED ......................
  12. August 16 2002 Part One Missing In Action When I got up just before sunrise Jacob was already making breakfast and was sitting at the table where the crew sometimes ate dinner together. I walked over and poured myself some coffee and the two of us sat alone together like we used to do. He said Conor had drunk himself into a stupor last night and woke him up at 3:00 AM and was rambling on about all kinds of crazy things. He said Conor seemed to have many demons. I told Jacob I’d had enough of him and if things didn’t change I was going to throw him off the property. Son of Jed or not I was sick and tired of him. Jacob wanted some time to talk with him and try to get him straightened out first. Because we were friends and Jacob was his uncle I agreed to give Conor one more chance. I made it clear it would be his last chance and I was done putting up with his attitude. To me he was nothing more than a drunken loose cannon. Bill eventually showed up at breakfast and said he was heading up to the Hidden Mine with the detector. He never mentioned the fight. Eventually Jacob and I got to work washing gravel. When we stopped for lunch Conor was gone. His truck was not at camp but all his gear was still in the camper. Jacob didn’t think much of it and I was too busy to care. We got back to work and stayed at it until about 5:00 PM. We had processed 130 yards of gravel and moved some tailings to boot. Conor was still missing in action. TO BE CONTINUED ...................
  13. August 15 2002 Part Three Knock Down Drag Out Now I had some boxing training and quite a few gym fights and sparring sessions under my belt and I knew how to throw a good punch. With that being said, boxing and street fighting are not the same thing and there are no rules. I put my hands up and took my boxing stance. This prepared me to block a punch and counter with my own. I had been trained by retired professionals to throw punches from the shoulder and not to draw back your arm. You also turned your hip into the punch. This gave more power and the punch traveled a shorter distance and arrived faster. Conor was wild with rage and let loose with a wide right hand that he telegraphed. I slid my head to the left and it sailed past my face. He drew back his arm and tried another which I slipped and countered with a quick left followed by a right cross. Both punches connected and Conor staggered backwards. This made him even more angry and he lunged forward and tackled me. I went down hard on my back with Conor on top of me. He had his hands on my throat and was choking me. I was able to get my right hand in between his arms and I shot a series of short punches into his chin. I felt his grip on my throat loosen. I grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him to the right side of me and as he was rolling off me I let loose of his shirt and used my elbow to crack him a good shot to his nose. I heard him let out a curse as the blood streamed out. I quickly got to my feet and gave him a solid kick to the side. He grunted and started to attempt to get up. As he got to his knees I brought down a solid right hand that landed on his left eye. He kind of was just swaying while still on his knees. I stepped back and told him to get up and fight. I looked over at Jacob and he had no expression on his face. Bill was watching and shaking his head like he couldn’t believe this was happening. Conor got to his feet and started calling me a few choice names. Then Jacob stepped in and told Conor to either fight or shut his mouth. I just stood there waiting on him but he wasn’t moving. All the fight had gone out of him. I walked up on him and cracked him with one last right hand which landed solidly and square on his chin and he went down hard. He was done. Jacob and Bill helped get him up and put him in his camp chair. All Jacob said to him was that he wasn’t much of a fighter and he had better learn to keep his mouth shut. It took all I had to walk away because I wanted to hurt him even worse but enough was enough. It was over. TO BE CONTINUED ...............
  14. August 15 2002 Part Two Now Jacob was caught in the middle between his nephew and his good friend. He was the kind of man that believed in getting things settled in a fair manner. I was wearing my 9 MM semi auto handgun. It was still holstered. I looked at Conor and then over at Jacob and told him to give the 45 back to Conor and we’d shoot it out right then and there. I was beyond angry now and not thinking much clearer than Conor. Jacob shook his head no and said we needed to fight it out with our fists like they did back in the old days and get it over with once and for all. I removed my holster and handed it to Jacob who now had possession of both guns. He placed them behind his camp chair and produced a couple pairs of leather work gloves. He told us to put them on. Then he walked us down near the creek to a sandy spot. He told Bill to bring three lanterns over to the area. We weren’t too far from the campfire so between what light was getting there from the fire and the three lanterns set up in a circle we could see each other pretty good. Conor and I were standing there and facing each other at a distance of about four feet. I could see the cold sneer on his face and I was ready to knock it off him for good. Then Jacob hollered out “Fight.” TO BE CONTINUED .................
  15. August 15 2002 Part One Whisky, Guns, & Gold - The Showdown Bill went up the mountain with his detector this morning while Jacob, Conor, and I did the gold cleanup. It took us all morning and part of the afternoon. Around 4:00 PM we were ready to weigh it up. Bill had also come back down to camp to see what we got. There was 12.8 ounces. Conor was excited as all getup and could hardly control himself. He was going on about how much gold was still buried in the mountain and how he was going to make a million dollars out here. I didn’t say much and Jacob told me we had indeed hit some nice virgin ground the old timers had missed. It was good to see some nice gold in the jar from our hard work. The crew ate a good supper together and made a little campfire as the dusk settled in and the heat of the day was replaced by the cool dry night air. As soon as the sun set the temperature had dropped to a comfortable 70 degrees and was rapidly cooling towards its usual bottom of about 50 degrees by early morning. As the dark settled in the crew was having a few cold beers which always tasted good after a long and hot day. Sure enough Conor broke out a bottle of Jack and started drinking shots with beer chasers. This was like lubrication to his mouth and he quickly started in on me. Now I have seen gold fever and know first hand what it can do to a normal person. However, I did not consider Conor normal. On the contrary, he was a nasty, cocky, sob at times. He knew I didn’t like him and Jacob was caught in the middle. By 10:00 PM Conor was getting pretty well primed up. Then he decided to pull his revolver and start shooting at only he knew what. After he reloaded and fired off more rounds I told him to put the gun away. I said he had done enough shooting and might be drawing unwanted attention to the crew if anyone was camping or prospecting on the mountain. He told me to mind my own business and then said he was thinking of top filing over my claims out here. He said he could trace his rights of ownership back to his father. I just laughed and told him it would never hold up in court. He refused to put the gun away even though Jacob had also ordered him to. Once again I let him know he was not thinking of the crew and only himself. I also stated once again that he might be drawing unwanted attention to our project. He was wild with gold fever and it was fueled by whisky. Then he did the unthinkable. He pointed his 45 at me. Jacob hollered for him to drop it but he was not listening. He just went on and on about how he was going to take the mine from me. I kept talking to him telling him to put the gun away as Jacob slowly walked over from the back side of him. Bill was just sitting in his camp chair and looked to be frozen with fear. Without making a sound, Jacob grabbed the gun barrel and gave it a sharp twist and the revolver came out of Conor’s hand. Jacob shifted the gun to his left hand as he backhanded Conor right across the face. He told him he was ashamed of him and his father would have been as well. Then Jacob walked back to the campfire with the gun. I thought this would be the end of it but Conor was far from finished. He started name calling Jacob and I. He called me a low down crook. That did it. I’d had all I could take from him. TO BE CONTINUED .............
  16. Well, I've come to the post in the journal where the dust gets kicked up. My wife remembers all of this from a phone conversation I had with her back then. I wasn't sure I wanted to post it and had a long talk with her about that night. She said that I've come this far and I might as well continue without leaving out anything. So tonight I will be posting what I called "The Showdown." It was a night I will never forget.
  17. You may wonder what I thought of Jacob and what he was really like. He was a great guy and kept his word. He was also generous. He became my closest friend over the course of the 2002 mining season and I knew I could always count on him. He was quite a character and I could only imagine what he was like when he was on that 1936/1937 crew. It must have been something. The closest way to describe him was to compare him to John Wayne in a western movie but Jacob was real and not some Hollywood character. On the other hand there was Conor. Jed's son. I didn't get along with him when he showed up on the mine with his brash and cocky attitude. At this point in the journal things were getting worse between us and about to come to a head. Sometimes it takes a good fight to clear the air.
  18. This is a picture of a picture of a portrait of Jacob. He was somewhere in his mid 70's at the time of the painting.
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