Sunday, September 25, 2011

Harassing The Wildlife

"Harassing the Wildlife" was the charge printed on the arrest warrant that had me headed to jail in Cleveland, Georgia. I had always heard that the law was tough in these here parts...and now I know it to be true!

"You got it all wrong, Sheriff! I'm innocent. I swear..." (well occasionally, anyhow, but not around my mother who would wash my mouth out with soap for sure).

"Hear me out!"

There I was. Minding my own business and that of the 60 or so high-bankers that my partner, Orange Larry and I were "crewing" for at the Fall outing at Loud Mine under the auspices of Lost Dutchman's Mining Association and the Gold Prospector's Association of America at their gold camp in Cleveland, Georgia. We had our first "shift" of thirty or so workers up and running six machines quite nicely. The water was flowing perfectly through the sluices. The rate at which we were shoveling material into the hoppers was just about perfect. We were telling stories, giving pointers and laughing and learning together- exactly what these outings are set up to accomplish. So when that first flock of geese flew over the settling pond headed right for us out of the early morning fog, I called their attention to my "team" and put my shovel, yes, my shovel up to my shoulder as though getting ready to shoot a shot gun just as they got close and were sure to fly over......low! I'll never forget that beautiful new bright orange shirt I was wearing so those assigned to the shift could pick me out in a hurry if they needed any help with any matters having to do with running a high-banker. I took careful aim with the handle of my yellow-handled #2 spade and..... Bang. Bang. Bang! Of course we are hunting for gold- not geese and so the flock kept on coming- right at me. It was a thing of beauty. A magical moment....

But as the geese flew over, the lead goose took a shot or two of his own, and with all the high-bank shift watching, he scored a direct hit on the back of my hand. Splat! I had been hit! Bombed. Wounded! Publicly humiliated in front of all my charges. I laughed with them. EEEwwww! And as to minimize matters I removed my hat and checked it for "further damage." It was clean. I had not been "hit" on the head, which I have always heard is a goose's (and a sea gulls') favorite target. I turned to the crowd. I declared, "Never fear" he missed my new hat!" I washed my hand under the waterfall at the end of the nearest power sluice and went back to work! That was fun.

But a few minutes later I again heard the tell tale honking of a second flock of geese on exactly the same flight path. Not again. The chances of getting dive bombed twice by a flock of geese has to be way less that the chances of lightening striking twice, so again I called to my comrades, raised my shovel to my shoulder and readied to "fire." Bang. Bang. Bang! I turned back to crew. I laughed. They laughed. And then pointed out that I had been hit yet again... and this time right smack dab mid chest on my beautiful, new, perfectly clean, bright if not fluorescent, orange shirt. A direct hit.

Now running a high banker is fun in its own right. But running one with a big group of friends while you have an ongoing series of "live entertainments" is even better. We all laughed so hard it actually became difficult to shovel there for a moment in time. And within minutes of the end of the first shift of the day, most of the camp had "heard tell" of the goose hunt that went wrong at the far end of the settling pond.

Some things you do in this life are simply not worth denying. The truth will out! And so I told my second shift what had happened earlier and they too had a good laugh with me as we set about to find some Georgia gold.

I reported for breakfast and morning meetings at 7 AM the following morning with the rest of the crew members. There was a warrant for my arrest waiting for me! Not a real one from a real sheriff, but one from the club's sheriff who, upon the filing of an arrest warrant by another member gets the perpetrator "locked up" in the camp jail until you can raise whatever bail has been set. This is a fund raiser for the local camp so everyone plays along. Three dollars may not sound like a lot of money to raise for bail on a charge of "Harassing The Wildlife", but trying to raise it before first light when no one is yet up and moving about is no easy matter. There for a while it looked like I would have to apply for "work release" so I could run my morning shift, but eventually even our sheriff had a soft heart and coughed up the last two bucks to "spring" me. Good old boy!

Those of you who are followers of our adventures via these posts may well remember that back in 2009 when we spent a season working at Chicken Gold Camp in Chicken, Alaska, I actually ran a contest to try to come up with a "gold" nickname to put on my engraved GPAA name badge. We had hundreds of "entries" but none powerful enough to stick. That is to say until now.

My full name is Gregory Samuel (as in my father's first name) Gundy. That would be G.S. Gundy. So some made the leap to "Goose" for my new nickname and some took it one step further, assigning names to both initials as in Goose Sh-- Gundy, which I suppose is no worse than the suggestion made by my dear wife back in 2009- that would be "dirt bag," which she still calls me, affectionately of course, to this day on occasion.

Now if the story ended there, I suppose the ending could be part comedy, part tragedy. Oh, but it didn't. Because you see at our outings we have a category drawing called "The Redemption Drawing." All persons who are incarcerated for whatever reason and who go to the Loud Jail to pay their debt to the society of gold miners in attendance at the outing are therefore entered in the redemption drawing for a gold nugget. And on this occasion, and as if I had not already had a wonderful time with old and new friends alike- my name was picked out of the gold pan and I won the redemption nugget- which looked very much, for lack of a better description, like a corn flake!

When asked to stand before the crowd gathered for closing ceremonies and explain what I had learned from my time imprisoned, I retold the story and then explained what I believe to be the MORAL OF THE STORY:

To Wit- Sometimes if you are just willing to put up with a little "crap" now and then, so long as you keep laughing, good things will always come of it!

What follows is a slide show of the pictures I had time to take while not running the high banking shifts and/or goose hunting with a shovel. I must have had a few moisture problems keeping my camera on the quad through the rain showers and I had a few pictures just not usable- so apologies if I pointed the camera at you during the outing and you do not appear in the slide show.

A final wildlife was actually harmed during the filming of this slide show! And furthermore, no wildlife, stream habitat, or negative environmental impact is ever made by responsible recreational miners. We leave our camps cleaner than we find them. We remove hazards, trash and even mercury from any streams we work in. Fish are downright happy to play in the water even right where we may be working to see what we might stir up that they would like to munch on. As our founder George "Buzzard" Massey, always reminds us- If you have it, and you didn't grow it- you ought to thank a miner for it!

Maybe they'll drop that "S" part and I can just be Greg "Goose" Gundy. I'm cool with that!