Friday, June 29, 2012

Winter of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker - Part Two

      It landed on the snag. I was, I must admit, too awestruck to even think about my camera. It was huge. The description fit. It hitched it's neck, and turned it, looking behind. I was later told by one expert on that bird that even an Ivory Billed Woodpecker probably could not do that. But then, he had never seen a living Ivory Billed Woodpecker, and this bird did that. As it walked out a limb, certain distinguishing markings were very clear to me. Unfortunately, my forgotten camera sat idle in my hands, and I just gawked.
A piliated woodpecker has a white line running from it's head to it's wing, disappearing under its wing when the wings are folded, as this one was. The Ivory Billed Woodpecker's white line goes up onto the wing, and down the length of it.

      This bird had that white line, the full length of the wing.

      That marking was very clear to me. The first rays of the morning sun spotlighted the bird as he reached the end of the limb. My camera suddenly came awake, and I shot again and again. The bird flew. Afterwords, I went over what I saw and what I did not see in my mind carefully. The angle of my view was pretty steep. I had no memory of seeing the white shield on the back. I felt, at some point, though, I could have seen that. But, it was not in my memory afterward..
      I heard the "Bam, bam, bam, -- bam!" drumming sound, totally different from the Pileated wood Pecker, three more times that morning. Then it was time to go home. Deer season started up again the next day, and there would be hunters in this area, so I stayed away a few days.
      I knew I would need all the help a great lab could give me with those pictures. From our professional days, I knew just the lab. I instructed them to "Push" the film two stops. It was still very early in the morning for a film camera. I had no digital camera at that time. It was at about the time, 2006, when digital was beginning to take over, film was about to become a thing of the past.
      It took several days, during which I knew I had the first modern day photo of an Ivory Billed Woodpecker. I was torn. Should I make it public, and risk an influx of people running the birds off? Or should I keep their secret, hopefully allowing them to make some sort of comeback in that very isolated place? The habitat was great. The Ouachita Mountains arose out of that river, with thousands of acres of pine timber. Down river about a mile, there was a very large plot of beetle killed pines, very attractive to large Woodpeckers. They simply strip the dead bark off the tree, and eat the beetles underneath. Hundreds of acres.
      When the pictures arrived, I had the best books I could find in hand, showing all the markings. But, after studying the best photo, I knew it would not hold up. The bird had turned toward me, and the wing markings were indistinct. The best photo was not totally sharp.
      I discussed my situation several times with the expert on the Ivory billed Woodpecker. I sent him my picture. After studying it, he said he needed a video. One questionable photo was not enough.
While I knew I was lacking in proof, I did see that bird well, and there was not a bit of doubt in my mind. I bought a good video camera, and went to work. I set up several blinds, some with bait stations. About 15 mornings that winter, I left home at 2 AM, arriving in the river bottoms at daylight. But, to make a long story short, I never heard that particular drumming sound again, though I saw many Pileated Woodpeckers, and never another sighting. I downloaded the actual sounds of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, made over half a century ago, and amplified and broadcast them out. The Blue Jays went crazy. Their sound is similar. I videoed several birds responding to that call, but they all turned out to be a dead end. What I saw, and heard, that one morning just seemed to be there no longer.
      The last morning I spent looking for the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, the Corps of Engineers did a control burn on my plot, and the fire ran me out. My blinds and bait stations were destroyed. I knew I could never convince anybody else with my lack of evidence. But I know what I saw, that morning in November. And to my dying day, I will always remain coninced that the Ivory Bill Woodpecker was alive and well in the Fourche River bottoms in 2006. Their secret is safe. Maybe, that's as it should be. That was one difficult decision I didn't have to make. Making such a claim as I have made here, without proof, makes one seem to be somewhat of a kook, so I have been hesitant to talk about this, and I have told few people. I decided to tell it here.

The world needs to know.

Please do not ask for details about the location. I will not tell. That area is totally isolated, with no good reason for people to come in, except to deer hunt. It needs to stay that way.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Winter of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker

My brother Harold and I fished a remote and totally deserted stretch of the Fourche La Fave River one summer. The river ran low, and it was shallow there anyway, but I knew where the few deep holes were located, where the catfish just piled up during dry times. In August, I was walking out of our fishing area, and a very large woodpecker flew from a dead snag that had a large hole in it, near the top. I was struck by the bird's size, and its markings.
The Ivory Billed Woodpecker had been considered extinct for 50+ years. It is similar in size and appearance to a Pileated Woodpecker. The Ivory Billed Woodpecker is slightly larger, it's back is solid white, while a Pileated is dark on top with white feathers below. When this bird flew from me, it looked white on top of it's back, and larger than any Pileated I had ever seen.
Barbara and I flew out for six weeks of wandering Europe a day or so later, but I spent a lot of time, while there, thinking about that bird. This was just after an Ivory Billed Woodpecker had, in many people's mind, been spotted in eastern Arkansas. Positive ID never happened in eastern Arkansas, despite a long hard search by many scientists.
When we returned, there was a break between deer seasons that fall. I knew deer season was about the only time anyone else ever went into that area and Deer Season was now closed, so I would be alone. I left home at 2 AM, and arrived in those woods just before daylight. Immediately upon exiting my truck, I heard a drumming sound I had listened to on old tapes of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. "Bam, bam, bam, -- bam!" This was one identifying characteristic of that bird. The sound seemed to come from the old snag I had seen before. It was immediately answered from the area of another large hollow snag I knew about. I waited until dawn broke, and, with my camera ready, I eased toward that first snag. I began to hear woodpeckers working toward me. Suddenly, a very large one flew into my vision. It was much faster than I had ever seen a woodpecker fly before, flying more like a duck. As it exited my vision, I could hear it's wing noises, also a characteristic of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. "Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!" It was at least 150 feet from me, but the sounds were very distinct. It was still too early, and dark, for a flying picture.
I quickly set up a blind at the large snag, and I waited, camera ready. A Pileated Woodpecker flew in, stayed awhile, then left. The sun was just beginning to peek over Fourche Mountain, which arose sharply out of the far side of the river.

Then IT flew in, and changed my thinking forever.          Conclusion next post

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Decoration Day Gold

     This is a true story, at least my part of it. I can't vouch for Jake.

      Many years ago, I took my family to the Gillum Decoration Day/Reunion at a pavillion in Rover, Arkansas.It was not uncommon for old Gillum relatives I did not know to show up. I'm the youngest of my generation of Gillums. Many of my cousins were grown and scattered to the four winds before I was ever old enough to know them..
      An old, old man I had never seen before got my attention and called me over, introducing himself as "Jake." "You look like a strong young man. I need your help." I inquired what he needed my help in doing. "I need you to go to Texas with me, and find and haul back 17 mule loads of gold," he said. I told him to tell me the whole story, so he popped open another can of soda pop, and motioned for me to pull up a chair.
      It seems that during the last years of the Civil War, some of the leaders of the Confederacy realized the end was near, so they decided to take much of the remaining gold of the Confederacy to Mexico, and hide it. After the war was over, and things had settled down, the gold would then be retrieved and used to rebuild the New Confederacy.
      The war ended, and years passed. The Reconstruction ended, and most of the Carpetbaggers, Scalawags, and other Yankees that were going home had left. The time had come.
      Jake's Dad, a young man, was chosen to lead a team to Mexico, and bring back the gold. A map was given to him as they left. They took along a good herd of pack mules to carry back the mounds of gold. The time frame was in the late 1880's.
      Things went well. They found the gold, just where it should be. They quickly loaded up the mules, and headed out of Mexico as quickly as possible. The second day on the trail, they began to suspect Banditoes might be on their trail. They could see dust in the distance, at times. They picked a hill where they felt they could defend themselves, if necessary, and made camp. They saw no more sign of riders.
      When bed time came, the team decided, just in case, to prepare for trouble. The Gold was hidden, as best they could, and the horses and mules were staked out to graze. The men took their bedrolls and climbed to the top of the hill, well out of the campfire light, and waited in the rocks.
      Hours passed, with no sign of trouble. Just before daybreak, shots were fired from the rocks surrounding the camp. The ten men returned fire. The battle raged until well up into the day. By noon, only three men were left alive on top of the hill, and the banditoes were in a similar situation. Most were dead. Finally, the few banditoes remaining were seen fleeing the battle, headed for Mexico.
      The remainder of the team assessed their situation. Seven men dead, All the mules were dead, only four horses remaining. One of the horses was shot in the leg. They decided they must bury their friends, then bury all the gold, make a good, detailed map on the way home, and get out of there before the banditoes came back.
      They pulled out the next morning at daylight, and things went well for a time. Crossing into Arkansas, they were attacked by a rough, mean looking group of men, who obviously intended to rob them. Jake's dad's friends were killed, and 3 of the attackers were killed before the rest ran off. After burying his friends, Jake's dad continued on toward his home in south Arkansas. He had a lot of time to think on the trail. The Confederate cause was lost, he knew, and it would be a simple matter to report that the Banditos stole all the gold, and only he survived. This gold could make his family rich. He must wait a long time before returning for the gold.
      Many years went by. The map was stored in a hidden place in his house for many years. He was now an old man. Fear and caution had not allowed him to return for the gold.Finally, he realized. It's now or never. Soon, he would be too old for the hard trip. Jake's dad pulled him aside one day, and showed him the map. "Jake, I want you to look this map over good. . Next week, we're going for the gold. We'll take two wagons, and haul all of it we can."
      Jake's mother begged them not to go, fearing they would be killed. But Jake's dad knew it was now or never. The night before they were to leave, Jake's mother located the map, and in an attempt to save her family, burned it. Jake's dad was livid. After a day or two, he began to settle down a little bit. The map, and the gold, were gone. And, actually, he had always feared that trip, all his life, back to that place where  he had seen so many of his friends die. He was secretly relieved.
      Jake had a secret that he never told his dad. Jake had a photographic memory. Every little detail of that map was locked away in his mind. But, as a boy, he was not anxious to make that dangerous trip, either, so he kept the secret. For many, many years.
Jake was continuing his story. "After my children were grown, and my wife died, I stewed about that gold every day. I know I can find it, I just don't see how I can ever get it out of Texas. I knew a lot of Gillums would be here today, and I need help from family folks." I knew Jake was some crackpot Gillum, and his story was crazy. Just to humor him, I said, "It's time to eat. I'll talk to you some more after lunch." Jake nodded his head OK.
      I moved down and filled my plate, eating with my family. I was thinking. I know he has to be a crackpot, but what harm would it do to humor this old man, drive him to Texas? He said the gold was hidden just east of San Antonio, and I loved the Alamo. Might be a good adventure. And, I might get a really good story out of it.
I threw my paper plate in the trash can, and headed back toward Jake. But his chair was empty. I searched all around that pavillion, but nobody seemed to know a Jake Gillum, or a Jake anybody, for that matter. The old man was just gone. Along with any thoughts that, in spite of my better judgement, were beginning to seep into the back of my mind about Confederate gold.          Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Conclusion - TERESA'S QUEST

      Do you remember me mentioning Ky's wife, Teresa?

      I have always called her "The Eternal Cheerleader." When she married Ky, she was fresh from being a Ouachita Baptist University cheerleader. They began having babies, and more babies. But it didn't affect Teresa as one would expect. She still kept the slim figure, still looks like a cheerleader. But that is not the main gist of my story here.
      As with many women, Teresa had always wanted a girl. Badly. The first was a fine boy. Soon four great, handsome young boys blessed them at their dinner table.

      Teresa's biological clock was running out.

      Corey and Christi, Teresa's age, decided to have one more child late in life. Their children were growing up, and Christi just loves having a baby in the house. And, Corey has always spent his spare time playing with his kids. Needless to say, they are great parents. Christi's home had become babyless, and Corey was losing his playmates.
      Teresa and Ky made a decision. If Corey and Christi could have a child late in life, so could they.
Teresa was soon pregnant. During her early pregnancy, Teresa was walking along the beach in Florida. Something pink lay in the path ahead. When she reached it, she recognized a pink baby shoe! She ran to it, picked it up. She burst out crying. This was it! This was the sign! She took this shoe home.
      The day of the tell-tale ultrasound arrived. Christi couldn't bear it. She waited in the car. Teresa emerged from the clinic. Her head was down. Christi's heart sank. Suddenly, Teresa raised her flushed, smiling face, and making what could possibly be her greatest cheerleader move ever, threw her arms to the sky and shouted, "Its a Girl!!" The pink shoe was framed in a shadow box, and the new baby's room was built around it.
      Rachel, Teresa and Ky's new daughter, and Carson, Christi's new baby and Corey's new playmate, are a wild pair when they get together. They are now five years old. Barbara and I were at daughter Kinley's house awhile back. Teresa's mom, a wonderful woman, was very ill. She was in hospice, and the end was near. Barbara and I offered to watch after Rachel and Carson during a very hard day for Teresa. We soon realized we had our hand's full, with these two. Barbara followed them around when they were in the house, I took over when they went outside. Rachel ran to the swing, jumped up and grabbed the ropes as high as she could, and was soon upside down. I was in panic mode. Teresa was a gymnast, and hoped Rachel would be also. I learned really quickly, she had gotten her wish.
You may have seen it on Facebook. Rachel recited the 23rd Psalm, from memory. Rachel is not just a gymnast. Not just a pretty face, which she is also. Five years old.
Barbara and Rachel were talking. "Guess what?" Rachel was saying. "My Grams may get to go to see Jesus today!" Reading the sadness in Barbara's eyes, she said, "It's not a bad thing! She's going to get to live in a castle made of gold!" From the mouths of Babes.....

      Teresa happened to look up the meaning of the name "Rachel" later.

      Oh, sorry, I almost forgot to tell you what she found. "Rachel: A Gift From God."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Diamonds, Trophies, and a Baby - Part 5

     Instead of an army of men, perhaps it could be done by a single, absolute, working machine.....Along with his family of little working machines!. I called Henry Emison.
He was not really busy now, and they could use some Christmas money. We agreed upon 25 cents each, we haul and pick up. Finished by March.
      Corey and I went shopping. 22,500 screws, just the right length. A handful of Dremmel tools. Drill bits and screw drivers. The next problem was to get that mass of boxes to Gurdon. My friend, Bud Reeder, loaned his truck and large trailer.
      Hooking that very heavy trailer up one morning, I strained a little too hard. On the way to Little Rock, My vision in one eye started going crazy. I was seeing little sperm shaped black things, swimming all around in my vision in that Eye. It continued. Unloading the trophies later that day, I called my friend Frank Teed,  the famous eye doctor. His team was out of town that day, but he said they would meet me at his office when he returned. And, don't lift another box. My friend Tyrone was helping me unload. I was glad, but he was sad, when I told him he had to do the rest of the unloading alone.
      Frank's team were all there waiting for me when I arrived, after hours. Good to have good friends in important places. The verdict was, my retina was tearing loose. After a specialist welded it back with a laser the next morning, we continued hauling trophies.Good thing Henry lived in a very large house.Six bedrooms. Each load about filled the first floor.
      A warehouse in Arkadelphia was rented. We shuttled the boxes to Henry, and we all shuttled them back to the warehouse when repaired.
      This is not a part of this story, but a neat thing, so bear with me. Hauling the empty trailer back from Gurdon one day, a large deer almost hit my trailer, which was at least four feet tall. When I looked into the rear view mirror, all I could see was the bottom of it's feet. It jumped clean over my trailer!
      As it Turned out, Henry had young and grown children who were also hard workers. Lori has the same work ethic as Henry. Well before March rolled around, they were all repaired and in our warehouse.
Next came the big show. The Chinese had made good on their delivery of the larger trophies. They were perfect. Corey, Ky, and wives Christi and Teresa headed to Las Vegas, to the International Trophy Show, loaded for bear.
      We got the call late one night from Las Vegas. Our trophy had just been named "Best new trophy of the year!" We celebrated the rest of the night! We were about to all be rich!
      Now the ball was in Corey's court. Two of the Trophy Industry's largest suppliers wanted to buy us out. We knew we had to sell, now, while it was hot. We did not have the money to market it ourselves, on this large scale. Offers flew back and fourth.
      Finally, a large company in South Dakota offered what we decided was our best deal. A nice royalty on future sales, and they would buy all our existing stock, our repaired trophies. They sent a big truck to Arkadelphia to pick them up. They wanted their own suppliers from China to build 100,000 more, but their suppliers could not figure out how to build it. They made a deal with our company in China.100,000 more were soon distributed to wholesale sales outlets throughout the United States.
      When the trophy appeared in the catalog that fall, they used the entire back cover promoting it. The company reported the dealers just loved it, and orders were flying off the shelves. After the dealers got stocked up, we held our breath to see how the public would react.
      It was not good. The trophy seemed to fall into a void between very cheap participation trophies and more expensive, larger trophies. The public was just not as excited as we, and the dealers, were. The royalty checks reached a trickle, and has held there so far. It seems we are not going to be rich after all. But, thank the dear Lord, our investment money is safe. It could have been a whole lot worse.
Ky is still busy turning out new inventions regularly. But Barbara and I quietly bowed out of the futures portion of the company. We've had all of that form of drama we want, for a lifetime. And, I still remember the last time a Gillum signed someone else's note, in 1930. It extended The Great Depression for my family in the mountains of Wing, Arkansas, sixteen years. During that time, my Dad's car sat up on blocks. He could not afford to buy gas. And, we ate what we could grow. And what we could hunt or fish for.

      It's all there, detailed in my book, SPREADING WING, Coming out this year. I pitched my book to my first traditional publisher last week. He was encouraging, said it sounded like the kind of book they needed to publish. But he also said he currently had hundreds of submissions on his desk. He asked for my Publisher's Previews. They are now in his hands. Now, I just sit and wait! And wait. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
      I have one more story left to tell in this series of posts. And, it's the one you don't want to miss.............

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Rough Diamonds, Flashing Trophies, and a Baby - Part 4

Flashing Trophies.
      Corey's lifelong friend Ky is a bright young man. He was also a student of mine at one time.
He designed a new trophy. Not just any trophy, but one with 7 different, flashing and rolling lighting patterns in the column. Like none other. He needed a partner. A person with a strong sales and business background, someone he could trust. My son Corey fit the ticket.
      The next job was to find someone who could actually build such a thing, inexpensively. After much looking, He finally located a company in China who said they could do it. They did. They shipped Ky a small load to approve.
      Corey and Ky gave me some of them to go over, look for problem areas. They worked, but I did discover a problem. A few of them seemed to have a weak switch. When pressed, the switch just sometimes broke loose inside. Taking it apart, I saw the switch was glued into place. Sometimes, those with less glue just gave way.
      I called Ky, explained the problem. That switch just needed to be reworked. The switch issue was resolved, we thought. Corey and Ky, just sure they were onto the next "Big thing," ordered a shipping container load. They are both very big thinkers. Financing became a problem, and they offered Barbara and me 20% interest in the company if we backed their loan. Not a thing characteristic of us, we did. After Dad's Great Depression days, he made a family rule, one I had always followed to that point. A Gillum never signs another person's note. But, this seemed like a sure hit.
      When the container arrived, and boxes were stacked in a warehouse, we went to inspect. The stacks and rows of boxed trophies seemed to stretch on forever.
We opened a box, and started testing. The earlier batch had been shipped in the summertime. Only a few failed. This container load had been shipped in the winter. The glue must have gotten very cold on that long voyage.
      One switch failed. And the next. And another. Somehow, in the communication between Me, Ky, and China, the seriousness of the problem was not fully understood. They had not remolded the plastic column, providing a solid backing, but had added more glue, and tested a great deal. But they obviously had not taken into account the effect of the cold. Apparently, warm glue holds better that cold. We were looking at 22,500 non-functional trophies.
      The International Trophy Show, in Las Vegas, was in March. It was late December. We had two months to straighten this mess out.
      Ky negotiated with the Chinese for days, but from a position of weakness. They had our money.
Shipping them back was not an option for them. That was the major expense. Them sending a team of workers over was discussed.
      Then we got to thinking. If they could repair them, we could too. We had a second generation trophy, still on the drawing boards. We could not afford it at this time, for this year's Trophy Show.
If they could redesign the switch correctly, Build the larger trophies, and ship them all for free to us, in exchange for their switch mess up, We could come out ahead. If we repaired the stock in hand. A very big IF.
      China went for it, very anxious to please us, and keep their selves in position for much profit when the really big orders came in. The deal was sealed.

      Figuring out just how to repair this mountain of trophies fell upon me.

      For days I tried one idea after another. Heating worked, but after a night in the freezer, we were back in the same boat. Finally, I discovered that if I took the trophy out of it's box, took the batteries out, and put a very short screw into the bottom of the battery case at exactly the right place, it could be tightened up against the back of the switch, and hold it firmly in place. It worked!
But it was slow. It would take a virtual army of men to repair all these by March. Then it hit me....................

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rough Diamonds, Flashing Trophies, and a Baby - Part 3

      A young man from Iowa started at about the time I did. We both went many days without finding a diamond. But once he did, he was totally hooked. He went back to Iowa, sold most of his stuff, and moved back to the mine, living in a tent outside. He hunted full time, and the hard way. I never knew how many he found But every day I was there, he was hard at it. I heard he later found some nice ones along the way. I fully expect he will be one of those who leaves that field at last, as a totally broken down old man.
      Some got around the "Fill up your hole at the end of the day" rule by hauling in a piece of plywood, hiding the entrance, cover it with dirt, and come back to that same spot the next day. I was busy washing away one day when one of those guys came up and told me I was working on his doorway, dumping my mud on it. He had a system of caves dug underneath that area.
      I saw two or three men set in and dig a new hole, five feet across, and they took turns and dug all day. They were able to get 12 or 14 feet deep, pulled out a diamond from the bottom, and still got it filled back up that day.
      I dug 30 days that winter, yet my total find was one diamond and a small amount of gold. I always told the other guys, "I am the best equipped, most knowledgeable, and the hardest working of all the Non-Producers."And I think that was true. The park officials would not believe I found that gold there, asserting, "There is no gold in this park." But God and I both know I did.
      Though I proved to not be a productive diamond hunter that winter, I did find two diamonds, of another type, who totally out shown any type of mineral that might be found there.
      Henry and Lori Emison were mining away when I first met them. They were becoming regulars, and everyone soon began to realize, they just worked a lot harder that anybody else. Henry was a total machine when he has a shovel in his hand. He could outwork anyone, five to one.
      Some Texas diamond hunters were digging one day, and hit the glory hole. It was a thin strip of fine creek sand, and deep creek sand is the very best. They found it very deep. An old creek bed from eons past. They quickly began to find many diamonds, but by then they were totally exhausted. Time was getting short. They had to leave for Texas that day.
      Henry was working across the creek from them, and they, like everyone else, soon realized he was a digging machine. They went over and made a deal. "We are in a very rich diamond bed. Dig with us and we will split the diamonds found." Henry went for the deal, and by the end of the day, Henry had 5 very nice diamonds.
      Henry called me that night, and told me exactly where that glory hole was. Quite naturally, I was there, ready to dig, the next morning. But a full timer had already taken over that spot, and he dug there for days. He told me after he had washed it all out, many days later, that he found no diamonds. If he was telling me straight, it seems the glory hole was exhausted. Later, I was there on a day after a large rain, and the glory hole area was under four feet of water. I told some college guys of the twenty some odd diamonds found in that hole in one day. When I came back by later that day, they were sitting in that hole, reaching down under water, and gathering up that dirt, handful at a time. There are no lengths to which one bitten by the diamond bug will not go.
      My grandson Jordan came with me one day shortly after that. At the end of the day, he wisely informed me, "Papaw, anything that is fun can never be this hard." Great words of wisdom from a child. He was right. Every part of my body ached. My body was breaking down, and I was becoming one of those "broken down old men." After 30 days, I hung up my shovel and screens, and have never been back. But some day I will, and I have already planned out my approach when I do. I have a spoon attached to a long handle. I will wait until right after a very large rain. Then I will walk around all over that field, look for tiny reflections from the sun, pick them all up and put them in a bucket. Then wash out only that. Many lucky people have found beautiful diamonds there, right on top of the ground. Maybe mother luck will shine upon me some day. Lord knows, I deserve it!
      Henry continued his obsession. He was still working full time, landscaping and construction, but he is a man among men, one who could come over after work and still do a day's work at the mines. Just naturally, he found many more diamonds. They rented a house from me in Gurdon, 16 miles from Arkadelphia. Partially because they loved that very old, six bedroom brick house, the oldest brick house in Gurdon. But, mostly, it was close to the diamond mines.
      Henry and Lori didn't just stand out in their ability to work. Henry preached, for free, at Nursing Homes. A young girl was desperate for a home. They adopted her, even though it greatly strained their budget. That kind of people.
      When they moved into my old house, I saw Lori just loved to fix it up, and they hoped to buy it some day. I made them a rock bottom price, but they didn't feel ready to take that on yet. I went down to the Hardware store in Gurdon, opened an account, and told Lori to charge anything she needed to improve that old house. She did, and she never abused my trust. It was quickly a far better house that it had been in many, many years.
      This is not the end of my Henry and Lori story. They will come back in later, in a very big way. Little did I know, they were destined to become my salvation, when an almost impossible task faced me. A job requiring absolute human working machines.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Rough Diamonds, Flashing Trophies, and a Baby-Two

      Diamonds can be had, the easy way, on that field. Approach many of the "professional" looking diggers, when you are alone, and ask if he has any diamonds for sale. He may glance around, confirm nobody is looking, and motion you to his backpack. He may pull out a brilliant display of rough diamonds, each with a certification card. If you have the bucks, you can get a rough diamond easily on the black market.
      It's not always easy to identify some diamonds. Some may be attached to other minerals, and if one does not look at all sides of the sample closely, the visible portion of the diamond may not show up well. The key thing is, look for a metallic luster. And, there are lots of shiny minerals on that field. I have a little display showing one diamond, and ten little gems that are not, but to a novice, may look like a diamond. I have asked lots of tourists to identify the diamond, and few can do it the first time. Though I firmly believe I am by no means an identification expert. I think that may have been one of my problems. After being turned down, time after time, when I took a specimen up to the visitor's center for certification, I got a little hesitant to try. Since I stopped digging, I have seen many certified diamonds that I would have had doubts about, and probably have passed on.
      One of the legendary hunters was telling me a little story. Said he and a tourist were walking onto the field one morning. The tourist, obviously a rich man, asked him if he had a large diamond for sale, at least six carats. He had to tell him no, he didn't have one that size. After they went their separate ways a few steps, he noticed something on the ground, picked it up. After looking it over good, he turned to the tourist, and hollered, "By the way, I do have one about eight carats. Are you interested?" He was. Now, take stories with a grain of salt. Diamond hunters are a lot like fishermen when it comes to stories. One big man, who got really famous on the field for finding so many diamonds one summer, and whose picture is still up in the visitor's center because of it, told me he became so famous with the tourists, that three different women approached him on the field, and begged him into going into the woods with them.  It seems to me, that's just too easy, no matter how famous one is.
      While washing out my gravel one day, one man, a northerner new to the field, hung around, telling me how easy finding diamonds was. "I just walked around, looking, yesterday. I found ten diamonds, right on top of the ground"."Did you get them certified? Lots of things out here look like diamonds."  I said. "No, but I'm sure. I "certified" them myself on the internet." I wanted to tell him, if he would bring any two of them to the visitor's center the next day, get a certification card on them at the Visitor's center, I would kiss his butt in the middle of the field, at high noon, and give him 30 minutes to draw a crowd. But, I only thought about it. He was a big guy.
      I returned home after that first trip, washed all my fine gravel out good, and lay them out in the greenhouse to dry. Corey happened to walk by that drying gravel that afternoon, and said, "What 's this piece of glass doing in here?" Before he could throw it out, I grabbed his hand. A beautiful, yellow, one carat diamond. I had reached my goal, the rest was just gravy.
      I spent many, many nights going through all that gravel, three buckets full. One spoon full at a time, under bright lights. I found one more diamond, a white 7 point. 100 points equals a carat. My obsession didn't hit me really hard again until 30 years later, when I was semi-retired, and I was only a short drive away.
My new equipment was better, Aluminum where I once used wood, and I made an aluminum sled to haul it on. Powered equipment and wheels were forbidden. Things were different, too. Many hundreds of diamonds had been removed from that field in 30 years, and it was very difficult to find virgin soil. I was once digging a very deep hole, way back under a large tree, and the word was getting around that I was probably in new dirt, a very rare thing. Some of the full timers came by to look. I was getting excited, then I started washing out old nails. Ten feet deep under a large tree.
      A new tool had been added. The Seruca. It was a tool straight from the South African diamond mines. Shaped somewhat like a gold pan, but with stainless steel wire. A load of gravel, worked around properly under water, concentrated the heavy minerals, including diamonds, in the middle, on the bottom. Flipped over, this left the heavy minerals on top, right in the middle. Let this dry, and look that area over carefully, and there was no need to take all the gravel home to inspect. Or, just take that small handful in the middle, which I always did.     Continued     Thanks for reading!