Hidden Mine-Hidden Trouble

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
Hiker finds hidden mine but also finds big trouble.

Submitted: June 02, 2012

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Submitted: June 02, 2012

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Hidden Mine/ Hidden Trouble by Rolf Luetcke

 

The canyon was steep and I paused again to catch my breath.

I had spent a lot of time at the top of the Pinaleno Mountains.  The trees were tall, the forest cool and the views spectacular.

There was a paved road to the top but it was one of the steepest roads in all of Arizona. The local residents like going up to camp and fish in several lakes and hike the many trails. The problems came in the form of pulling a trailer up the steep road in the summer and overheating.  Few of the canyons could be hiked all the way down since there were sheer drops and waterfalls.

I had taken a small dirt road out of Willcox that wound through the desert north of town.  The jeep had done well on the rough road but the road had ended at an old mine.

  The road was maintained by a rancher who tapped the water running from the mine.  A cement tank had been built and several miles of plastic pipe went down to water for cattle below.  The water in the tank was clear and cold.  It might be a nice place to cool down after the hike.  Not the best for drinking because it came out of an old mine.

The canyon I had found on my topographic maps was only half a mile farther up beyond the mine and I locked the jeep and took off.

The map had shown a wider spacing in the contour lines and I thought it may be a way up to the top.

As my breathing leveled off I looked out over the valley below.  I could just make out the jeep parked at the mine below.  The road wound its way into the distance.  There were no other dirt roads anywhere in the area and the mountains here were wild.

I began climbing once more and soon reached the place where the hike came to an abrupt end.  I squinted up at the sheer rock wall above. Well, I guess the map had been wrong.  A little trickle of water came down from above but the drops were blown to mist before they hit the rocks at my feet.  Early summer was dry but I could imagine the roar that could come over the falls during heavy summer rains.  The boulders at the bottom were rounded by the abrasion of water.

I looked out over the valley and was about to start down when I saw what looked like a small trail lead off along the base of the cliff.  There were some broken branches where the trail came through the bushes.

The trail was hidden by brush but I saw the few broken twigs that indicated something had passed here recently, it was probably a deer or a stray cow that wandered up this far.  It was worth a try.

The trail was passable and hugged the rock wall. I saw something that surprised me.  One of the branches had not been broken by and animal, it had definitely been cut.  It was an old cut for the wood had worn away.

Who had made this trail, a hiker, hunter, perhaps a prospector?

The trail curved around and went into another canyon.  As I carefully worked my way along I could see some rocks piled ahead.  They blocked the trail at a particularly steep spot.  There was no way around and above was something strange.

As I looked up I could see several logs bracing a definite trap above.  More logs were braced up and these were holding back a whole lot of big rocks.  Anyone who tried to move the rocks would bring the whole lot down on top of them.

Why had this trap been built?  It was obviously quite old. The logs were very rotten.It was a wonder the whole thing hadn’t come down naturally! 

I got back away from where any falling rocks would hit and picked up several fist-sized rocks.

The first one bounced off the rock wall.  My second rock hit the rotting log squarely and there was a crack as the log broke.  The noise and dust made me take more steps back, even if I was in no danger.

The rockslide was tremendous and took several seconds to subside.  The rocks did a lot of damage to the trees and bushes below.  I felt a little bad about the damage I had done.

The trail was now passable and went up at a steep angle to the next level of rock and to a corner ahead.  I edged around the corner of the canyon.

There, ahead, was a mine.

A lot of work had taken place here long ago. 

As I came closer, I tried to get the feel of the place.  What had it been like when someone had been working here?

There were piles of rock in an area that had been cleared and leveled.  I picked up a chunk of rock from the first pile and immediately noticed the weight.  The chunk of brown and white quartz was crisscrossed with veins of gold, lots of gold!

“Holy cow“ I said as I picked up another chunk, even heavier than the first.

My jaw just hung open as I looked at the dozens and dozens of piles of rich gold ore!  This didn’t seem real.

I took off my daypack ad looked around.

The place had not been visited in many years.  There was no modern trash, cans or the ever present hunter fire ring. 

There was only one way into the little canyon and that was the booby-trapped trail I had come in on.  Above were sheer cliffs and below was too steep to climb and too loose!

As I looked down I saw there was a big eyebolt in the rock below the leveled area.  It was old and rusty.  There was an old cable attached to the eye and it was so rusted that only the loop at the top was left.  I climbed down to where the eye bolt was and leaned as far over as I could to get a view of what lay below.  Clearly visible below were bleached bones.  They lay in a jumble of rock at the base of the steep slope below.There were also the remains of an old mining bucket, possibly used to lower down the ore to access below.

It made me wonder if the miner had fallen and was never able to reap his rewards.  There was no other reason for all the gold to just be laying here.  They had not used the trail with the trap.

I walked into the entrance of the old mine and waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.

About ten yards in there was a small room hacked into the side of the tunnel.  It was a small room set up for living.

Everything was dusty but I could see it had all the comforts.

Somebody had gone to a lot of work and hauled in a wooden chair, table, mattress, lanterns, food, tools and more.

The old bed was completely chewed up by rodents but it had been full of cotton at one time.  There was a trunk by the bed with a couple of old boots sitting beside it.  The trunk may have held bedding and clothing to keep it from the rodents.

My eyes were well adjusted to the dim light and I walked over to the trunk and opened the lid. I saw the remains of several old newspapers.  They were so old that the paper crumbled.  I took out my pocketknife and peeled the layers away carefully.  It was a newspaper from Tombstone Arizona and I found a date and nearly passed out, it was from 1898! As I dug through the contents of the trunk I was stopped in my tracks when I came across an old revolver in a holster and gun belt.  The gun looked amazingly clean and the leather looked pliable.I picked up the belt with gun and put them around my waist.Wow, now I really was feeling like part of the old west.  I took out the revolver and saw it was a Colt 45, one of my favorite old guns.

I was completely amazed as I looked at some of the old tins on a dusty shelf, flour, coffee, salt, sugar and molasses.  There were dozens of cans and bottles with the labels still on them.  Some of the bottles still had liquid in them.

I had nearly forgotten the gold with all the historic things in the small room. 

In the corner there were a couple of dusty rifles.On the shelf near the rifles were boxes of cartridges. 

What an incredible find!  There was a box in the corner and it was full of old candle mine lamps of several designs.  There were old tools and coils of rope, old boxes of carbide, still in the original containers.

The stuff in here could fill a museum room and it was all in excellent condition.  At this point I wasn’t sure which was worth more, the gold or all the antiques!

I picked up one of the old candles and pulled my lighter out.  The candle lit right away.  I stuck it in the candleholder I had picked up and walked back in the mine.

A few yards in were boxes of old dynamite and I stopped dead in my tracks.  The slightest movement and the whole mountain could blow up.  Old dynamite was very unstable.  I didn’t even dare open any of the lids to have a look.

I shone the candle and saw I could walk around without getting near the old explosives.

A little farther in there was an old wooden wheelbarrow, in perfect condition.  Shovels stood against the wall and a couple of picks.  There were few mine timbers. The tunnel went into solid rock.

The tunnel took a turn following the vein.  When I looked into the final room it made me stop in my tracks.  Ahead was a body.

As I looked carefully at the body I saw what had happened.

There must have been a couple of men working the mine and there had been a fight.  Now it made sense why the bones had been outside the mine.  The man in the mine had used his gun. He must have wounded the partner. The partner must have had a gun as well and he had killed this fellow.

The body was well preserved in the dry mine.  Behind the body is where the vein was.  A rich vein, a couple of inches wide went from just above the floor to just below the ceiling.  It was an incredible sight to see the quartz vein cut across the rock, where it had sat for nearly a hundred years!

I picked up the gun from the dust and clicked open the barrel.  Sure enough, one shot had been fired.

The gun was in very good condition and I dusted it off.  I clicked the barrel back into position and hefted the gun in my hand.  It was quite heavy.

I felt like I was back in the old west and enjoyed letting my imagination run wild.  I stuck the gun in the belt with the old Colt and pretended I was back in the 1898 mine.I had a mock argument with my partner and started having fun in play acting.  I stuck the candleholder in a soft spot in the wall. 

I stood in a loose gunfighter stance and pretended someone was coming at me.

I pulled the gun from the holster and pretended to blast an unseen enemy.  Much too slow, I thought and tried again.

I imagined a line of men and wondered if a gunfighter would be able to get them all.  It took me back to when I was a kid and I was having a ball.  When I was small, I had the whole outfit, the hat the boots, the two six shooters and I had fought the bad guys and the Indians and always won.

I was really into this pretense and that turned into a big mistake!  On my final draw, the feelings got the best of me and I pulled the trigger.

The roar was deafening.  A second later and the second roar threw me against the wall and everything went black.

When I came to, my head hurt like hell and I couldn’t breathe.  What was going on?  It was completely dark and with every breath I got a lung full of dust.

Then I remembered! 

I reached in my pocket and found the lighter.  The air was filled with dust and I held my shirt over my face and could finally breathe without choking.

I found the candle and lit it.

There was rock debris all over the floor!  The old wheelbarrow lay shattered against the wall.  The shovels lay broken on the ground.What in heck had--.

I remembered the old dynamite.  The bullet I’d fired must have accidently hit the dynamite.  I had never thought the old bullets could still fire.  I had been wrong, dead wrong!

Around the corner and I could see the tunnel completely filled with rock.

I was trapped by the rubble and didn’t think I could move that much rock before I ran out of air. 

I wouldn’t have long.  The air was already making me light-headed.  I would run out of air long before anyone could even get to the site, let alone dig me out.  My brother knew I had gone out to the mountains today but I hadn’t told him where.  With the miles of open country and no people, someone may have heard the boom but would not have had any idea where it had come from.I was truly trapped and it had not been the trap at the bottom of the trail.  This was a trap I had made.

I checked out the blocked tunnel and it was certain I would never be able to dig out.  I started coughing and it made me very tired.

I was thinking of all the incredible stuff that had been in the old mine.  The antiques, the gold, the guns, it was all gone now.

It was getting hard to breathe and my breath came in shallow gasps. 

I sat down and saw the gun lying in the dirt.  I picked it up and set it on my lap.  God, what a mess I had gotten myself into and there was no way out. 

Well, actually, there was one way out and I held it in my hand.  The gun had one more job to do and my last thought was if anyone would ever find the lost mine again.

 

Copyright Rolf Luetcke

 

 

 

 


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