The day starts like any other. We wake up, sloth through breakfast, kick a ball around, throw a stick for the dog, and make our way to the pit to suck up some diamonds through the dredge.
Mud has begun to love the pit. Toss a rock in and he jumps into the six foot, opaque abyss and starts diving for the stone making silly sounds while barking/wimpering under the water. This routine is what takes place while I coat the dredge with the grease for the day and the others prime the pump. When the dredge starts up we begin sucking up the blue, rich clay that is the trademark of weathered kimberlite.
Deeper, we hit pockets of bright blue sand that iridesces with mica. Some of the coolest, most beautiful looking soil I have ever seen. It looks as though it should be pungent with bitumen but it just smells like dirt.
My diamond tester has begun to go on the fritz and Aren sent a message to his brother Lars and Lars’ girlfriend Echo to grab us a new one on his way out to meet us at our gypsy camp (by gypsy, I mean “white trash mess of a camp”; we are disgusting). My trailer (the Honey Badger) is ghetto enough as it is, but when covered with a torn green tarp with the bed of my truck as a makeshift kitchen and Dave’s Jeep acting as a contact point keeping the tarp suspended it looks pretty shabby. Add to this the empty beer bottles, and coke cans spilling out of recycling bins and strewn about the camp, the torn apart dog toys, the camping chairs that are usually blown over by the regular thunderstorms that make us cold and wet; we appear to be the slobbiest of refugees. The forest rangers avoid us… For we are “The Undesirables”.
By the the late afternoon, after Erik, Dave, Aren, and I call it quits in the pit we begin our afternoon routine of farting and telling jokes when Erik spots his nemesis: a chipmunk he keeps calling a “squirrel”. Erik asks Dave, “if I kill this squirrel will you gut it?”
Dave: “You bet.”
Erik: “I’ll be back in a minute without a squirrel.”
A few seconds pass and Erik shouts, “Holy shit. I just got it!” None of us really believe him, but his excitement got me curious, Sure enough there is a chipmunk on its back going through the last few twitches of life with serious head trauma. Erik has become the first man to brain a chipmunk with a rock in probably 150,000 years. Erik is now closer to our ancestors than any of us ever will be.
Dave is a squelcher. He refuses to clean the carcass so Erik and Aren begin the task with Erik doing the dirty work and Aren giving him directions using the knowledge he gained from doing the same with pigs when he was 13. Erik saws off the head using a steak knife. It does not go smoothly. The chipmunk does that dance those lipstick-clad models do in that Robert Palmer music video; rhythmically turning side to side while being very slowly decapitated.
The steak knife will not do. Erik goes back to our mining camp and retrieves the box cutter we purchased to cut away the bad sections of the pressure hose on the dredge. Next, utilizing the new sharp tool, Aren tells Erik to cut off the pelt and gut the sucker. Erik is the protégé, Aren the master. I over hear important tidbits of advice like, “now cut along the inside of each arm and peel it back. There you go!” And, “No, no. Cutaround the butthole!” When it is all done Erik puts the little bugger in a plastic bag and invents a marinade to soak it in.
This is when Lars and Echo arrive with two new shovels (we keep breaking them) and a Presidium diamond tester, just as Dave and Erik are burying the unused remains of the Chipmunk (the head and guts). The story gets recounted to our new gypsies. I liken the deceased to one of the effete chipmunks from those old Looney Tunes cartoons where they always talked about furniture and decor. I think one of them is named “Clarence”. Everyone concludes that Erik has killed Clarence.
The presidium says that everything we have found is not diamonds. Uh oh. I don’t believe it. I think the presidium needs faceted stones (cut stones, not rough like what we have) to get an accurate reading. I will get conclusive data when I am able to polish a “window” into several of the tones when I return to Seattle.
We kicked the ball around for a while, and when it got dark we built a fire. Then Erik grilled the Clarence to well-done and it was passed around. Not much meat on chipmunks, but Erik’s marinade was delicious! Everyone had a piece and strangely I bet we all wished there was more to go around. I can now say that I have eaten a chipmunk killed with a rock at 20 feet. We have become mountain men at last!
The next day (today) we awake and the wind is wild, the sky is full of lenticular clouds (the ones that look like spaceships) and we sloth through until the afternoon to begin work on the pit. The dredge (recently renamed “The Target of Opportunity) isn’t having much suction. We look at the engine, add oil, and things get a little better but not like the “old days”. Ideas are thrown about: the intake is clogged, the hoses are clogged, the depth of the pit is making it too hard to get good water flow back up the eight feet to the sluice box… I finally conclude that the impeller in the water pump is shot and we probably need to rebuild it. Thus, sucking sucks.
We should be moving six thousand pounds of Earth an hour. Instead, we are moving dozens of pounds and hour. That might be it for diamond mining on the trip as the impeller will need to be rebuilt and that will take a couple of days to find the parts and/or a shop to do the work. The afternoon thundershower moved through, Lars and Echo made delicious chili and we moved on to the Pot Belly for billiards, drinks, fried pickles and the Internet to make this post.
Tomorrow we’ll clean up the mine site and try to return it to it’s natural state as best we can. Then it will be time to bid adieu to the mountains of Colorado and push north to the Black Hills for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Our adventure is far from complete and further debauchery is assured!