Ghost Creek excerpt from CHAPTER 8 – SACRED LANDS, JUNE (?), 1892 – pages 85-86

Garret’s soul mate the miner finds gold in the Blue River, and now sets his sights on the surrounding hills.

Prospecting his claim was a slow, painstaking process. John Parker found a few flakes and some gold dust in the river, but little else that could be called significant. On land, nothing begged his undivided attention either. However, a few areas, namely Big Bear and Little Bear Mountains, the two knolls he named in honor of the sow and cub black bear he had seen the week or so before, did warrant further observation. These places he would investigate after panning the river one last time. Parker had a hunch that he would find something of value in the river if he only tried hard enough.

Laden with the collecting pan he had purchased from his good friend C.J. McKay, and some burlap bags, Parker walked a little ways downstream to where the river made a slight jog before straightening once again. The discontinuity in stream course caused the current to slow considerably, permitting the water to drop its load in the form of a grass-covered gravel bar. It was here that John Parker decided to pan for gold.

Parker waded into the water on the downstream side of the gravel bar. He hacked into the saturated, matted mass of roots with his hatchet and placed a generous heap of grass, roots, gravel, and muck into his gold pan. He kneaded the mass to loosen the strangulating grip the vegetation had on the rocks and sediment, then began the washing process. Parker’s pulse quickened as he swirled the mixture gently beneath the modest current of the river. Slowly but surely the mass was rendered to a mud slurry. When the water started to clear after the majority of the fines had been washed away, he looked into the pan with earnest. As with his earlier forays in the river, Parker was disappointed. His efforts yielded just pieces of granite and more mica flakes than he could stand. He repeated the process several more times. Each time he was rewarded with the same result: nothing. Disgruntled, Parker picked up his wares and rounded the bend of the bar. There he paused to stretch his tightening back and check on his dog. Satisfied to find Britt chasing a pair of pack rats among the shoreline rocks, he resumed his business, albeit with less enthusiasm than before.

Still he found nothing after what seemed like hours of agony and futility. With a huff, Parker dipped his pan one last time into the sediment and began to swirl. Several long seconds passed, and again nothing. Then his eye caught the glimpse of something that looked promising. Parker plunged a large hand into the broad dish and pulled out a heavy, hickory-nut-sized pebble. From what he could see, the pebble was metallic. Closer scrutiny confirmed that it was indeed metallic, dented, and covered with algae. Feverishly, he scraped the surface with his thumbnail. The stone’s brilliant golden hue soon sparkled through like the star of Bethlehem.

Gold! He had finally found it. It was there all along, just like C.J. said it would be. Parker let out a raucous belly laugh that reverberated off of the mountains. He kissed the large nugget and placed it in his pocket for safe- keeping. Parker then splashed about in the river in celebration of his glorious accomplishment. Britt saw his master’s excitement and hurried to Parker’s side to join in the festivities.

His greed somewhat satiated by the gold nugget and the five others he found just like it that morning, Parker next turned his attention to the two hills looming behind him. He reasoned that since he had already found a significant amount of gold in the river, there must be plenty more where this came from. It was all his for the taking.

Parker scoured Big Bear Mountain for about an hour. The brownness of the rocks intrigued him, but he was neither knowledgeable in geology nor particularly competent in prospecting. Accordingly, their color prompted little more than idle curiosity. Looking up toward Little Bear he noticed that the rocks there, too, had a reddish-brown hue to them. A quick surveillance of several nearby hills and distant peaks failed to show the same earthy tone. These highland areas were colored the characteristic gray or pinkish-gray of the Rockies. The rocks of Big Bear and Little Bear Mountain were just somehow different. Parker shrugged and continued on toward Little Bear.

 

Ghost Creek excerpt from CHAPTER 3 – NICKEL CENTER, ONTARIO, OCTOBER 22, 1985 – pages 39-40

A Blossoming Romance: Garret and Michelle get to know one another by the fire.

Garret and Michelle continued on with their own conversation shortly after Tracy left to find Nick. Garret had fished two more beers from the cooler before sitting down again next to Michelle, then commented that her response to his hometown jab was indeed a good one. This comforted Michelle who, unlike Tracy, always felt insecure around boys she didn’t know very well. After Garret extended his compliment, a relaxed Michelle remarked how nice it was that they had enough wood to keep the fire blazing late into the evening. She shivered; her teeth chattered. Her front was toasty from the heat of the flame; her back as cold as the night air.

“Yeah, Nick usually thinks of everything. Did you see the woods around here? There isn’t a scrap of wood to be found. It looks like frickin’ Haiti.”

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?” she said.

The question again almost caught Garret in a compromising position. Yes, he said, remorsefully with some hesitation. He told her he had a sister, though he didn’t offer a name. He then remarked that his parents had been killed in an automobile accident when he was young and that he has lived with an aunt ever since, whose job kept her on the road most of the time. The lie came so naturally and was so effective that Garret could see Michelle’s luminous expression fall by the light from the fire’s flickering glow. Like Nick earlier, Michelle didn’t want to press the issue, so she said nothing in return.

“Enough about me; how about you? How did a pretty girl like you ever get to a school like Huron College?”

Michelle blushed at the compliment. “I was wondering when you were going to get to that. That’s usually the first question someone asks.” She laughed lightly. “Well, Ohio State was too big, North Carolina too far, and Cincinnati and Indiana are too close. So where else would I go?”

“How about Miami University? I understand it’s a good school. Too close, I guess?”

“Too many yuppies. They’re all too squeaky-clean; not my style. The graduate students are pretty cool, though. They stick out like a sore thumb.

You know, shitty clothes and no money. I’m surprised you’ve heard of Miami. Not many people have outside of the area. They usually think of the other Miami down in Florida.”

“I guess being a guy and knowing a thing or two about sports I would have heard of Miami. Ron Harper, college hoops, you know.”

“Wow, yeah. He’s the greatest. I remember hearing about him when I was in high school. Everyone still talks about him back home. I have to admit, though, I don’t follow basketball.”

Even mentioning Miami University still gave Garret heart palpitations. He was amazed that he could even talk about the school with civility. It was a surefire bet. A generous point-spread in his favor, home court advantage, two teams that matched up well with each other. Who would have thought that Miami would blow the spread? Because of that one ill-advised bet in which he overstepped his means, Garret came ever so close to losing his prized Pontiac. At least he didn’t begin to black out again. For this, Garret was deeply grateful.

“What about you?” Michelle said. So what brought you to Huron?”

Garret dismissed the unsavory thoughts of his betting woes to answer her question. “Most of the schools I looked at were in Michigan. The geographical universities—you know—Eastern, Central, Western. Then there is U of M of course. I also looked at Ferris State, Hillsdale, and Michigan Tech. Tech, you could say, is like Cincinnati area schools to you—too close for my liking. Yep, Huron gave me the best offer, and it’s far enough away from home. That the weather is relatively balmy in Traverse City is a plus.”

“Balmy? Are you kidding? It’s cold as hell in Traverse City.”

“It may be cold to a girl from Pig’s Knuckle, Ohio, but when you live practically in the arctic, like I do, Traverse City feels like Rio.”

“All right, enough with the Ohio cracks,” Michelle said in a voice that was only half joking. “Do you know what you want to do when you get out of here?”

Garret shrugged. “I really don’t know. Maybe field camp will help me figure out what I want to do.”

Michelle’s eyes sparkled. “Super. I’m planning to go to the field sta- tion, too. You’re going to Huron’s camp, right?”

“Of course. I wouldn’t miss Alpine Lodge if my life depended on it,” Garret enthusiastically replied.

CHAPTER 9 – McCLELLAND HALL, HURON COLLEGE, MARCH 11, 1985

Here’s another excerpt from Ghost Creek, Chapter 9, page 99. 

Dr. Hamilton droned on. “For all of their attributes and business practices that may seem at least a wee bit barbaric to us today, early miners did a remarkable job in helping to establish a stable American economy. Hard, diligent work raised many small desolate communities into bustling hubs of wealth and prosperity. Coeur d’ Alene, Ouray, Cripple Creek, Silverton, Breckenridge, the Magdalena District, these places and many more like them were the pride of the West in their day. Then again, all good things must come to an end.”

Hamilton’s words didn’t disillusion Garret in the least. He loved mining, the whole aura about the trade, despite its many shortcomings. His father was a miner, as was his father before him. As a youth, Garret would read tales of mining lore for hours with the hope that one day he would find his own mine.

More than anything, all of this talk about mining agitated the itch to find the source of the black crystal adorning the neck of his refound love. Did the crystals come from some old abandoned mine, or did they wash out of the bedrock due to stream erosion? Did Paul Carter excavate some little vug—a hollow void in rock commonly infilled with mud and crystals? Not knowing was excruciating.

Garret continued to flip through the textbook. He paused at another double-page photo spread of someplace that looked strangely familiar to him. Garret looked long and hard at the panorama, trying to place the location. He couldn’t. He was certain, though, that he had seen the very same mountains that rose off in the background somewhere before. In the way that he held the text before him, his hand covered the center of the picture. When he removed it, he had to re-center the book in his grasp. After he had done so, he looked to where his hand had covered the majority of a miner who apparently was the focus of the photograph. And there was the man again.

Hope you enjoyed the read.

Rick