The Gold Diggers

GROWING UP IN IDAHO: “Damn, Stevie! This hole has no bottom. I’ll bet that’s where they’ve hidden the gold!”

As a kid growing up in Salmon, I did love adventure but on my own terms. Mom and dad were adamant that Billy and I leave home on Saturdays and go out exploring. These adventures were fun, but I hated to have my Saturday cartoons interrupted. Billy and I slept in the living room in our sleeping bags on Friday nights and would wake up at the butt-crack of dawn the next morning, ready for cartoons!

One morning when I was six-years-old, Billy and I were kicked out of the house. We were ripped away from Scooby-Doo, given an old Army surplus knapsack containing sandwiches and apples, and told to go find something to do. Personally, I was not in favor of going outside, but that look mom gave me told me I had no choice.

“You boys sit around and watch TV all day every Saturday! Well, today, you’re not gonna do that,” mom said. After thinking about it, I figured finding something to do outside was better than being her little slave and doing chores all day.

Billy and I talked among ourselves and decided to go explore an old, abandoned mine located halfway up a mountain near our house. In some communities, that would mean a trip to the slammer for our parents for child endangerment. In Salmon, it seems kids were supposed to court danger. Most of them eventually returned home; some did not, and some traveled home via a trip to the hospital first. As a six-year-old, words like ‘vertical shaft’ and ‘bottomless pit’ had no meaning to me.

We called our dog, Sally, and then lit out. Sally followed along just like the loyal dog she was. Her tongue hung out of her mouth as she ran ahead, scouting the territory we would be walking into soon.

Billy and I finally made it to the mine after hiking a good part of the morning. We were tired but invigorated by the prospects that lay before us. In our romantically adventurous minds, there had to be sacks of gold hidden somewhere in this mine. Even though young in age, we knew all the legends of hidden treasure in these parts–some we made-up ourselves.

“Hey, Stevie, come over here!” Billy said.

“What?”

“Look at this huge hole in the ground! I’m gonna throw this rock in there. See if you can hear it hit the bottom!” he said.

He heaved a big rock into the black abyss. “I don’t hear anything,” I said. “Throw another one in!” So, Billy lobbed another, bigger rock into the hole. Nothing…!

“Damn, Stevie! This hole has no bottom. I’ll bet that’s where they’ve hidden the gold!” Billy said. “I’m gonna find a rope and lower you down there,” Billy said as he took-off in another direction, looking for a rope.

“There’s no way I’m going in that hole!” I yelled. “You can’t make me do it!”

“You’ll do it or I’ll kick your butt!” Billy said.

I picked-up a heavy piece of wood laying nearby. “If that jerk tries to lower me down that hole, I’ll hit him as hard as I can with this!” I thought.

Within a few minutes, Billy came back. “I can’t find any rope! Who runs a damn mine and doesn’t keep rope around?” Billy asked.

By then, Sally had ventured into our little playground. She slowly and carefully walked up to the big hole in the ground and sniffed into the blackness. Suddenly, she jumped away from the edge and ran out of the mine, barking behind her. Billy and I thought she must’ve smelled a bear, so we lit out of there, too!

As soon as we were out of the mine, we stopped and looked back. Nothing was following us. We peered back and couldn’t see anything, but we were too spooked to go back in.

“Let’s just play on this old, rusty equipment,” I said.

“Alright. How about if we play like we’re in an Army tank,” Billy said. “I will be General Foods and you can be Private Soupy Poop!”

That jerk always had names for me, but if I protested too much, he would kick my butt.

The next few hours were full of intrigue and adventure. We played Army and then threw rocks at each other until the sun was starting to set. Since we had long since eaten our lunches, we were getting hungry and knew it was time to go.

“I’m hungry enough to eat the ass right out of a skunk!” Billy said.

“Mom said we’re not supposed to swear anymore, Billy!” I said.

“Shut the hell-up, Stevie! Mom’s not here.”

Our adventure was complete. We didn’t find any gold, but we got to explore that mine shaft, play on that rusty mine equipment, have a rock fight, and bask in the excitement of our newly discovered playground with the quaint name of ‘No Trespassing’ posted on a sign at the entrance.

When we walked in the door after a long walk home, mom asked about our adventure. “Oh, we had a nice time, mom,” Billy said. She didn’t know where we had gone and didn’t seem that curious to find out. We were home safe, and it was dinner time!

Jeff Hicks

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