All us Gillums took a trip one day. We went to the Crater of Diamonds State Park at Murfreesboro, Arkansas. The kids were still young, and were excited about digging around in that dirt ---for about ten minutes. We didn't find a diamond, but it did have a profound effect on me. I was hooked.
That park is one of a kind. It's the only place in the world where you can go in, pay a modest fee, look for diamonds with a reasonable chance of finding one, and keep what you find.
I knew, after that trip, that I could never rest until I found a rough diamond. Everyone has a cut diamond or two lying around, but who do you know that has a rough diamond, straight from the earth?
I watched what appeared to me to be the most serious hunters. What they did, the tools they used. I filed it all away in my head.
It was not long until I had my tools constructed, and had gathered up whatever else I would need. I headed out for a three day trip.Arriving at the diamond field, I studied rough diamonds that were on display, so I could recognize one. I then hauled all of my equipment to the far side of the field, where a hand pump and a water trough awaited.
I found a likely spot, where the ground appeared to have been disturbed very little. Those places were scarce, even then, in the 70's. The place I chose was back in under a tree, and the chisel on a rod worked really well. I loaded up two 5 gallon buckets of mud from way back in under, hooked them up to the oxe yoke I had made, and carried them to the trough. I filled them with water, to let them be softening up, then repeated this until I had 10 buckets full. I had constructed three large screens, which I stacked on top of the other. The top one had a half inch mesh, the next a quarter inch, and the bottom one was fine screen wire. I put on heavy rubber gloves that came far up on my arm. Partly to keep my hands warm in this winter water, but mostly to allow me to wash my mud around in that water until only rocks remained. I took this screen off, looked it over good. If I found a diamond on that screen, I would be rich. I repeated this with the next screen, but I also laid those gravel out in a nice pile to dry. Diamonds show up better when dry. All the gravel shows up shiny when it's wet. I was geared up like a pro now, and I played the part. If a tourist tried to look over my drying gravel, I ran them off. "Can't feed a family here, with everybody looking through my gravel." They asked me if I made a good living at it. "Well, I don't get real rich." "Do you have a real diamond with you, so we can see what one looks like?" "Nah. Can't be carrying all that weight around." I washed that bottom screen out good, until only sand remained, and put it in the bucket I would carry home to look through later. Occasionally, I would have to scoop out the mud that built up in the trough, scoop out all the water, and pump new water. I kept this up all day, and I usually had about a five gallon bucket full of fine sand to carry out as the last rays of sunlight disappeared.
James Archer was an old man who hunted more than anybody, in the old days. And he found more. He was a legend, and I was fortunate enough to get to work beside him, and get to know him. I watched his methods, and tried to be just like James Archer. I failed.
He told me that once, He had found a really nice diamond, just as a couple of rough men walked up. James was a black man, they were white. Afraid they might try to get it from him, he just dropped it in his sand bucket. He was never able to find it again. Made me wonder how many diamonds I might miss, going through my sand, if that could happen to a legend.
Diamond fever is much like gold fever. It becomes a consuming obsession for some men. Over the years, I have seen far more broken down old men, their arms and legs shot, still chasing their dreams in that field, than diamonds.
In those days, men just went deeper and deeper, often for days. I have seen some holes that were 20 feet deep. But rules eventually were established. Dig a hole, fill it back up that same day.
Fortunately for me, I still lived far away, I was still very busy at home, so my trips there were scarce. One more three day trip, later, and scattered one day trips. After we lived at Arkadelphia, only a short drive away, I worked hard at it only one winter. So I finished up pretty well physically intact. But I did know a lot of men who finally left that field a broken down old man. None of these, to my knowledge, got rich at it. Digging diamonds, full time, the way the big boys do it, is a man killer. Continued Thanks for reading!