Thursday, May 29, 2008

Friends and Rock Stars in Michigan

This is the final installation, for now, of the series on the Lost Dutchman Mining Association. The third "East of the Mississippi" outing was held at the camp in Athens (Near Battle Creek) Michigan. It's a beautiful property and a beautiful state. In these times of challenging economic news, Michiganders joked that "Our leading export right now is Michiganders." With the auto industry on hard times, there is widespread unemployment in the state. But if that is dampening the spirit of the people who live here, we didn't see, hear, or feel it. Members of the local chapter (LDMA) were enthusiastic, welcoming, generous and just plain interesting people.

Lots of the LDMA members are in it for the gold. But not all! Some were at the outing to search the woods on the 80 plus or minus acre property for morel mushrooms.

Kids were interested in lots of things, especially listening to the tales (tall and otherwise) as told by Will Wilcox, the Nugget Man.

The younger ones had a full program of games- like this balloon toss.

Bring your own tray and enjoy a pot luck supper at the end of the day. They're almost ready to serve.

Watermelon, anyone?

Some come for the raffles and door prizes. The tradition of the first draw is now alive and well in Michigan. Nice hat, John!

Above and below, the team running the Honcoop high banker at the outing did a great job and produced the lion's share of the fine gold that was recovered during the two days of operation. Nice people all, we especially enjoyed the company of Don and Balinda Dodson (the two of them are to the left of the photo below), a local mail carrier and dental hygienist. Everywhere we go we seem to hit it off with someone especially well. It's nice to be developing friendships all across the country. Listening and learning from people everywhere seems to broaden our understanding of what is really going on in the country. All politics may be local, but the overall picture is harder to get, and probably that much more important.

Shown panning out concentrates for "sharing" with the participants of the common "dig" is Michigan State GPAA Director Jamie Wright. Thanks to Jaimie's undaunting efforts, this Michigan property was able to acquire all of the necessary permits for operating a recreational mining program in Michigan- the first one in the state. And thanks to Jaimie's friendship and generosity we left the state with a couple meals of the local venison- an unexpected gift from another new friend. Through his efforts and those of some colleagues, the LDMA and the associated state agencies seem to all be on the same page. In this day and age, that is borderline miraculous and we salute him not only for his efforts, but for his successes.

Wearing his State of Alaska Official State Shirt, Ken Rucker, another of the movers and shakers of the LDMA and the GPAA, keeps a watchful eye over the proceedings of the first national outing the organization has ever held in Michigan. Some 400 people spent the week in the town of Athens. That's good for the local economy in more ways than one. Speaking of the community, they were openly invited onto the property to see what was going on, and they attended (and got involved) in large numbers. The very idea of a town and a mining operation working hand in hand is hard to fathom. But thanks to the "rock stars" of the LDMA, that is exactly what is happening here in Michigan. Guys like Ken and Jaimie just make good things happen. Neither is a big power figure. Both are just hard working guys with genuinely warm personalities and in depth knowledge that gets the job done. Meeting people like them makes life on the road the wonderful experience that it is.

In Georgia (a few posts back), Marilyn and I and our common operation team ran a Honcoop highbanker. It performed well and you can read that for yourself if you like. We were assigned to the same model machine in Michigan- but with a big plus. Designer, inventor, manufacturer Don Honcoop himself was on hand for instruction and to try out his new prototype trommel. Another Rock Star for Michigan! A great guy in his own right, he taught us a lot and we enjoyed his company. Don and Belinda, shown previously above, are now the proud owners of the latest Honcoop machine. It pays to advertise. It pays to get involved. It costs not to....

The new Honcoop trommel, set up and ready to go in the meadow at Athens, Michigan.

Above, the tumbler in the Honcoop trommel. Below, Don Honcoop, third from left in the dark shirt, grins big time as one after another of the outing participants falls in love with his new machine. I liked it too! But what I really liked was learning (what we should all know but tend to overlook) that machinery is not just a hunk of metal or some other material that performs a task. It is the creation, the dream, the years of experience of its inventor. Knowing the machine is good. But putting the face and the name of the guy and his years of wisdom that brought it to life together with the machine- that is, as they say, priceless!

The biggest of the Rock Stars- TV personality and host of Gold Fever, Tom Massie was there to sign just about anything you wanted him to sign. Lots of personalities sign autographs; it's expected. But Tom takes his time with everyone. Chat a bit. Write something personal. Draw a little picture. Recite a little poetry from the old West. A star with down home charm and character and a CEO who knows everyone in the company, everything about the company, and who takes it upon himself to share what he knows- that's my kind of leader, and spending time with him at the outing was well worth the price of admission.

Marilyn "hangs out" with a small crowd waiting for a chance to meet her "Rock Star," Tom Massie. In her hand is a copy of the Gold Prospector, March/April 2008 issue, the official magazine of the GPAA and LDMA. On page 61, in an article called "Mining The Internet" there is a picture of her sitting the the middle of Chicken Creek (Chicken, AK) running her sluice box, just a lookin' for the gold. Reading the magazine article one day and realizing it was she in the picture came as a real "hoot." What better article to have an autograph on ??? And Robert and Lynn, also pictured in the article, are friends we met in Chicken as well.

Waiting for the personalized autograph..., then the official photo op....

Below, Tom chats with Dutch Myers (blue shirt and camouflage hat) and a number of others. Dutch and his wife Marjie (gotta get a picture of Marjie!!!) were the very first LDMA members we ever met. They gave us the tour of the Loud Mine property in Georgia and their generous sharing of their time and their openly outgoing and friendly representation had a great deal to do with our first impression of the organization and our eventual decision to become members. Same photo, center, in the pink shirt is Athens property caretaker June; other half of the team, her husband Bill not shown. They were excellent hosts and are widely loved by people in the organization everywhere we have been so far.

But it's not all work at an outing. The Outdoor Channel, started by Tom's dad "Buzzard" was on hand to film for an upcoming episode of Gold Fever. Here they are getting ready to film the kid's activity- the pinata...a paper mache creation stuffed with candy.

Things started out with the smallest kids- pretty normal stuff...
Tom's kids were on hand to participate with the other kids. What a treat for everyone.

Hey, that's no kid! That's Tom with the baseball bat. Everybody run!

Duck..... Hit the ground. Hey, why's he chasing me???

Going for the gold? Nope! The candy!
Chilling after the games, Tom keeps them laughing and enjoying life- what we were all there for in the first place....
I guess you had to be there. A local chapter member brings Tom the fire ring....AFTER he built and lit the fire. Huh?

For the time being, prospecting goes on the back burner. A bit of a bummer after three weeks of non-stop fun and festivities. But that just means there is something to look forward to getting back to when we can. Back to the travel and the discoveries that come with it. For now, we add Michigan to our list of states visited. What a fabulous way to start to get to know the state and the people of Michigan. A few stops for getting ready and taking care of business. Then: New England, Here we come!

Oh, one more thing. The Michiganders kept saying something about "thinking we closed that border with Ohio," every time someone showed up at the outing wearing an Ohio T-shirt or sporting an Ohio license plate. They tell me it's a gridiron thing! What do you think?


bob1951 said...

How much gold was actually found at the Athens, MI outing?

Greg said...

bob1951- thanks for the question. The answer is "not too much." I'd tell you a more accurate weight if I knew one but I don't. Lets say the common produced something on the order of a half oz. or so- that's just a guess. There were a few pickers found. No nuggets at this outing although people who work the field routinely showed me some excellent specimen pieces, including a softball sized piece of quartz with gold in it taken right in the middle of the field. We stayed a couple days after the outing and definitely did find gold on our own. It was very fine. I hesitate to say it was plentiful, but I don't think you could go there and NOT find some. Sorry I don't have more info.