Sierra Rivers

Murphy's Bar

Following the regs...sort of

With spring coming most of us undocumented dredgers are busy touching up the camouflage on our equipment. By most, I mean Bob Flanagan and I.

I have found a well camouflaged dredge acts in harmony with nature. I've also found you can recover more gold when you're dredge hasn't been confiscated.

When you're trying to mine gold, you follow the gold. The funny thing about gold is it completely ignores regulations.When miners discovered shooting a giant jet of water at a bank of gravel could recover more gold, they built hydraulic monitors and washed away whole mountains. When it became feasible to run bucket line dredges they built bucket line dredges.Flanagan and I dredge because somebody put water on top of our gold deposit.If the State would be so kind as to remove their water from my claim I'd be happy to comply with their dredging ban. Until then they can continue to pretend I need a permit and I'll pretend like I care about permits.

Flanagan and I are the last two remaining dredgers on Starvation Creek, and perhaps the county. But undocumented dredgers tend to work in the shadows of society so its not like we hold rallies and go loot the mining supply store.If you're wondering the US Fish and Wildlife Service has refused to recognize us as an endangered species. This lacks equity with the endangered frogs they say require the entirety of my mining claim to reproduce.

I may have mentioned I'm somewhat flexible when it comes to following regulations. Although the regulations are stupid - I'm not. I'm not going to put up a sign which says "Hey, I'm dredging down here." No point in taunting the State, they have lots of cops to enforce their regulations. Right now the State is feeling pretty good about having put me out of business and have their attention focused on why people who are put out of business can't afford a house. They may eventually come up with a program for that.

Bob Flanagan, the downstream claim owner of the Biscuit, tends to be a little more nervous about regulations. Which isn't a healthy attitude when you're an undocumented dredger. Lose a lot of sleep that way.

Last summer Bob and I got into the same argument we've had a number of times about following rules. My claim is upstream from the Biscuit, consequently I have a certain interest in the gold found on Bob's claim since its undisputed gold doesn't go upstream. Flanagan continues his false narratives and misdirections by claiming its his labor which recovers the gold, therefore he's entitled to it. Sometimes the guy can really be unreasonable.

Murphy's Bar is a place which serves Old Tailings IPA in the town of Hardrock. Flanagan's Bar is a flat spot on the creek we both camp while we're mining. I'm usually done with mining earlier than Flanagan. I like to think I'm more efficient than him, so I'm usually in my camp chair enjoying an Old Tailings IPA when Flanagan comes dragging in around sundown. Today's he's got a pretty good limp. He's not lame but he does have a tendancy to overestimate his ability to lift huge boulders.

"Three foot rule." I said as he grabbed the chair I keep reserved for him. Since we're the only two people in the canyon, and I have two chairs, it makes Flanagan feel good to think I have a reserved chair.

"Strip clubs." He replies.

"Your mind isn't on mining." I said.

"We're not going to argue about regulations again?" He replied as he dropped his 5 gallon bucket of concentrates next to his chair and walked to the creek to get some water for panning out.

"I just want to know where you stand on the three foot rule. You know, the one which say you can't dredge any closer than three feet from the bank."

"Is there a reason for asking?" He asked noticing a good chunk of the gravel bar which was there this morning, is now missing.

"If you were doing a quarter ounce an hour following a streak would you follow it into the bar or not?" I asked.

"I guess that explains the missing section of the bar." He replied.

"Don't worry about that, the winter will put it back."

"I think they have that rule because they say small creatures live near the bank and you could suck them up."

I noticed Bob eyeing my pan which had about a penny weight sitting at the top. "Every pan has been like this." I told him. "You see nobody bothers to tell the gold where it ought to go, and it tends to not follow the regulations requiring it to stay in the gut of the river. It goes where its pushed and it seems a whole lot of it got pushed into this bar."

"You're cutting into the bank?" He asked. "Fish and Game says that could destabilize the bank."

"Unlike the winter floods? But, it's not a bank, it's a bar, which is temporary by definition. If you're a small creature living on a temporary structure you may want to take out some insurance. I just readjusted the boundaries of this bank a bit. And, the cool thing about pushing the bank back is you always remain 3' from it. It's brilliant."

Bob's first pan looked a little meager for a guy who just spent 8 hours dredging and had a broken toe and a blackened fingernail to show for it. I couldn't help but ask, "You just dredging for recreation these days?"

There's no such thing as a recreational miner, we're all professionals."

"Even Glory Gulch Gary?" I asked.

"The guy who comes from Kansas every year and parks his Winnebago in the middle of the Feather River?"

"That's the guy. I've never seen him so much as leave the shadow of his RV to look for gold." I said.

"According to Pickhead Pete he's still a professional miner."

"I don't think he can get his walker down to the river."

"Pickhead Pete says the worst thing we miners can do is mention the word 'recreational'. Some folks on the internet forums are even calling for a total ban of the word." Bob said as I began washing another pan.

"Who's Pickhead Pete." I asked.

"He's pretty famous on the forums, he's got over 1,000 posts so that puts him at the 49'er level. He's a hard rock miner. He did a whole post which said there's no such thing as a recreational miner."

"How do you know he's a hard rock miner?" I asked.

"He said he was."

"So do you think the guys from Barrick Gold are spending their days on the internet forums?" I asked him.

"What difference does it make?" He asked as he washed another lousy pan into the tub.

"My pans and your pans is the difference it makes. You either follow the gold or you're just in it for fun. Mining means moving dirt, it's not about following some regulation about staying in the gut of the river. That's not mining, it's recreation."

"Yeah, you should read Ruck a Chucky Chuck's post on mining rights. He's pretty up on all the mining right stuff."

"He's out of jail?"

"Yeah. His thirty days were up."

"Did he get his dredge back?"

"Not yet, but he did a post about how they're violating his rights by keeping it."

"How's the State feel about violating his rights?"

"So far they could care a less. But I think Ruck a Chucky will win, he really knows mining law."

"Hence the 30 days in jail."

"Bad judge."

"Well," I said, "I may not know the mining law as well as Ruck a Chucky Chuck, but I do know I'm sitting on a bar loaded with gold and I aim to rearrange this bar a bit so you may want to move your tent tomorrow before you head to your claim."

"Fine," Bob replied eyeing a few specs of gold in his pan, "Just try not to damage any riparian vegetation as you're rearranging the bank would you? We don't want the Fish and Game cops asking what happened to all the poison oak."