Haley met Wades dog before we started gold mining. Much of the day was spent writing, reading, setting up the hammock and lying by the river, but Wade brought over a rattlesnake without head and was running out of beer. Luckily we brought beer from a run into town to keep this gold mining operation going. I did mention the sign showing no gold panning, no metal detectors and absolutely no prospecting or removing of minerals. Good thing he brought a fire hose and pump, a floating dredge and twisted metal to conduct this orchestra. What I still find funny about today is that when Wade first pulled up he asked me three times if I was dredging. Having no idea what that meant I repeated: what?
First impressions are often all you get, but Wade still figured due to our inept experience camping at clearly a mining spot we had to have more going on than reading Walden in a hammock. With a river four feet wide; who has an inflatable boat deflated next to a truck? Surely nobody would believe we just came from Arizona and were boating yesterday in 110 degree heat only to wake up the next day and put the boat hurriedly away moving as fast as sloths.
This man was clearly more than willing to teach us how to gold mine. Yet every question he asked of us resulted in a no. Liquor, weed, no aptitude to work hard with a shovel for gold, and certainly no fear of rattlesnakes. Curious but a little pissed off someone would make me go buy beer to entertain the easiest of these things to offer. Just because I wanted to know why these things were necessary on this fine Thursday. Minutes later the thump on the ground was the rattlesnake hit with a shovel just feet away from camp after his leg and dog were in retreat yet cornered by a river and a tree. A saddened man came asking if we had salt and butter due to this poor snake that almost killed us.
Not only did we have salt and butter but a pan and also beer at this point-in-time. A decent trade to eat snake that nobody wanted to kill, yet due to circumstances it was best to eat the western diamondback rather than let it rot like we were beasts of the earth commandeering those as we wished; not hunting, just trying to stay alive. Still, it was rather odd to be digging for gold flecks in a river when clearly snakes were of a greater concern.
Not to Wade. This man sells essential oils for a living. Before the gold, before the rattlesnake, he convinced me to rub essential oils on my body to keep the flies and cedar gnats away. Apparently the only thing that really bothers this man is cedar gnats. I shy away from chemicals and we had that in common. We had a good discussion on the safety and purity of essential oil remedies. Which was why I was not expecting the next conversation. At 19 he experimented with chemicals in the military when all they cared about was if you were willing to kill and not where your morals stood.
It took him quite a long time to learn the alphabet again after discharge while speaking to a metal lathe and hitting a man on the head with a ball peen hammer because his lips became “weird”. He spoke of escaping arrest multiple times on the ship and finally the only thing that got him to calm down was being politely asked to put on a straight jacket and handcuff himself so he could be placed in a rubber room. He claims to have done that just because he was politely asked.
Wade was into PCP, Acid, and 32 + drugs spoken like we knew every name and strain of dope made in the past and only spent time in prison for breaking someone’s neck in his 9th DUI arrest, as for the military his worst punishment was 24 hours strapped to his bunk and he was released when he could spell his name, not yet the alphabet. This man believes the system saved him. I couldn’t disagree. I heard of more skulls cracked by this seemingly innocent man than the lifetime of the National Hockey League. It might be a good thing that hockey isn’t played on ships too often, you might get thrown overboard, Wade did that too. Welcome to the Marines in the 1970’s. So here we are in the woods all alone, and it is late, there is a machine in the river, a man with a story, clearly he has no intention of sleeping tonight.
I’m ready to sleep like a baby. I shut the door and I won’t have to think about rattlesnakes in my bed until tomorrow when the door is open. Sleeping by a river is so soothing. It can be nice to hear the sounds. Nicer to have silence as well meaning animals that like space give ample warning.