Wednesday, June 25, 2008

pick of the litter

I was 6 or 7. I cannot remember which. But I remember the event as if it were yesterday -- meeting my first prospector.

Not a fancy 21st century mining engineer. No sirree-bob. He was a genuine slice of the Old West with an old felt hat, a pick-axe , and a burro.

Well, not really a burro. Actually it was a Chihuahua that he toted around stuffed in his ragged ruck sack -- like some retro Paris Hilton.

Today we would probably call him homeless and try to stick him in a shelter so we could make him more like us. But on that day, he was in our house for dinner because my Dad was just that kind of guy -- ever-generous with my Mother's cooking.

But, for my brother and me, the Prospector and His Dog were as real as any boy's adventure could be. I am certain he told us tales. But, looking back, they must have been as tall as Paul Bunyan. The hills of Powers were alive with timber, not gold. My Uncle Wayne probably had more gold in his mouth.

On Tuesday I was serving (rather, I was waiting to serve) on jury duty. The man sitting across from me was reading a gold prospector magazine. I had not thought of prospectors for well over 50 years. I laid down a nostalgic riff for him. When I finished, he had an odd twinkle in his eye, and said: "You're kidding. That was my Dad."

Well, if it had been a more interesting encounter, that is what he would have said. Instead, he smiled indulgently and went back to reading his magazine.

Somewhere, deep in my my stored goods, there is a chunk of rock -- brown on the surface cracked open to show a beautiful quartz interior. If you look closely, you will see sparkling yellow specks. It was a gift from the Prospector, who told me it was gold.

It was a lie. But for one brief magic moment, I shared his belief that there was not only gold in them thar hills; I could actually hold it in my hands.

Perhaps that is why I keep the rock. I still share the fantasy.


Islaholic Trixie said...

Wow!! What a great memory, and to run into the son who is reading a magazine about prospecting gold!!

Babs said...

Ah, the magic of youth and "far away places"........