Tag Archives: Arizona

Storytime – The Dutchman

(another writing exercise)

Prospector

The Dutchman

Jim Hilton – 2016

   Curse these modern contraptions! As I walked along the old trail today, one of those “horseless carriages” almost ran over me and my mule Persephone. I hope I live to continue my hunt for the Dutchman’s mine.  I wish it was still the the 1880’s – things were a lot quieter then, and moved much more slowly.  Now, 20 years later, new inventions and rush, rush, rush!

     As I went higher, the trail narrowed, and I had it pretty much to myself. I found my small cairn from the previous visit, and left the trail there, aiming to reach the face of the butte above me. Mid-morning, and already a scorcher; glad I brought along enough water for us.

     Persephone was pretty well loaded up, and my backpack was bulging, too, but this heavy loading was necessary if I planned to keep going without having to trek back into town for supplies. Both of us were grunting and groaning as the trail became more steep. Cactus arms reached out to snag me at some of the narrow points, and more than once I heard the warning sounds of the rattlers, which were in the shade of the overhanging ledges. Rocks broke loose as we scrambled along, making small landslides as they tumbled down the mountain. Sweat was making rivulets down my face, and I had to wipe it frequently.

     Finally, we made it to the base of the rock palisade that formed the face of the butte, and, after checking for cacti and slithery intruders, I sat down in the shade of a large boulder. After a brief rest, I got up to take care of my trusty companion. Persephone stood, uncomplaining, as I wrestled the water bag loose and poured out some water for her. She drank deeply, and I almost imagined a smile on her face.

     My plan was to explore along the face of the rock outcropping, hoping to find traces of digging, and it was going to make for a very long day. I set out resolutely, taking careful hold of Persephone’s reins – I couldn’t hope to save her if she took a bad spill, but maybe leading her would help prevent that. The sun beat down on us, intensified by its reflection from the rocks, but I kept on, examining the clefts in the rocks as we went.

     My hopes were not high, as you might expect. So many others had gone before me, lured by untold wealth in the Superstition Mountains, but a fair number had not made it out alive – the tales of their tragedies made it into the newspapers back East. Some adventurers had simply disappeared, either to accident or exposure, or maybe there were some small bands of Indians guarding their sacred mountain heights. These thoughts crowded my head as I picked my way along. At least I felt like I was the first to take this route, since there was no discernible trail here, and no footprints to be seen. So, who knows? Press on, and hope for the best!

     As I came to the toughest section, narrow access, dangerous scree, all that, I began to see signs that perhaps someone had indeed been here. A little further along, I came to a place with just enough room for the mule and I to squeeze through, and in the deep shadow of the huge rock, I saw a heavy wooden door set into the rock face, well hidden from the casual viewer. My heart skipped several beats! I secured Persephone to an exposed tree root and moved to examine the door.

     Someone had scratched “Waltz”, “Verboden”, and “Gevaar” into the center of the door. I knew a little Dutch from someone who was in our church, and I figured out that  “verboden” meant “forbidden”, while “gevaar” indicated “danger”. “Waltz” had me puzzled for a bit, but then I remembered the miner’s name that was associated with the mine legend, “Jacob Waltz”. Had I hit the jackpot? Fingers crossed!

     I was in deep, dark shade, but I was sweating profusely now. I seemed to be so close to the end of the quest and I could hardly keep from jumping and dancing. I didn’t want Persephone to think me daft, you know. The door beckoned, and I could not resist.

The wood was still as strong as when the Dutchman had set it in place, and there was a heavy lock and chain keeping it securely closed. I had a few sticks of dynamite with me, but I decided not to risk an explosion, since a rock shard could easily kill me, even a small one, in the right location. I unloaded Persephone, and foraged through my tools. I had a heavy hammer and a sharp chisel, so I went to work on the wood, where the hasp was bolted.

     In a surprisingly short time, I had chiseled out the bolts and dropped the chain to the ground. I cleared away some of the fallen rocks to allow the door to be opened, then gave it a tug.  More rocks fell, just missing my head, and dust rolled out through the door gap I had created. I stepped back in alarm, then allowed the dust to clear. I approached the door again and pulled a little harder. The door offered little resistance now, as if eager to reveal all.

     Now the door was wide open, and all I had to do was step in, then gather up all the piles of gold which surely awaited me. No, not really – I knew it was a mine, and much heavy work was ahead of me before I held the smallest amount of gold in my hands. I watered Persephone again and gave her some oats – I didn’t know how long I’d be inside and she’d be indignant if I didn’t take care of her first.

     I found my oil lantern and crept inside, trying to avoid pitfalls and other unpleasant surprises. The shaft seemed to stretch quite a ways into the mountain, so I started following the dark tunnel, using my pitifully dim lamp to guide my way. I came to a relatively flat part and remember thinking how unusual it was, and ‘un rock-like’. I stepped onto that section and my heart almost stopped as I felt myself falling, falling. Old Waltz had set a trap, and I fell into it.

     I don’t know how long I’ve been in here, since I don’t have a way to tell time, but my lantern is starting to sputter, indicating that it’ll be pitch dark in here quite soon. I am lying here, back likely broken, legs twisted completely under me, but at least I have a little water left.

I am writing the last of this on some scraps of paper I found in my pocket so you’ll know how I came to be here. I hope your luck turns out better than mine, partner.

Catching up (a little)

So much has happened since my last post, and I don’t know quite what to include and what to skip over (my poor memory will take care of some of this problem). According to WordPress, my last post was in April of last year, and it seems so long ago.

Last year we were still living in Indiana, of course, on our pastoral retreat outside Corydon, a quaint historic town in the southern part of the state, about 9 miles north of the Ohio River. We had lived in that part of the world since January 2010, which is exactly when I began this little journal, intending to document our move from Littleton, Colorado, and then see what developed from there.

What developed was….we gained MANY MANY new friends, had MANY great experiences (again, I won’t attempt to list all of them here – most of them showed up here, on these pages). Kate began her new job at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, and our new location gave us much easier access to some of her family, across the river in Kentucky. We got to visit her mother, Frances Seymour, who lived first in Vine Grove, KY, then later in Elizabethtown, KY. Also, her two brothers and their families lived there – Bruce and Joyce, Alan and Janice, all nice folks, good in-laws for me 🙂 We had many nice get-togethers with family, and I learned a few things about the land south of the River.

Kate and I got to participate in some ‘historical re-enactment’ events in Corydon, notably Corydon’s Unsavory Past, where we got to dress up in ‘old timey’ clothes (pretty handy, me being married to a seamstress). IMG_4330We added to our friend list through those activities, and also, through that connection, I wound up as Santa Claus for Corydon, and Kate was Mrs. Claus (again, the seamstress thing – Kate made some wonderful costumes for us!).

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After that, Kate never referred to me as ‘the fellow who dresses up like Santa’ – she always pointed out, “Yes, he IS Santa!”  Whadda gal! 🙂

Kate made an important connection during our lives in Corydon – she volunteered to join the CASA program (Court Appointed Special Advocate), whereby she was assigned cases to become the voice for the children caught up in the court system (parents at odds with the law, etc). She found it to be demanding, time-consuming, and…TOTALLY rewarding. She has a BIG heart, and even though it took up a fair amount of her personal time, she never complained, she just kept smiling, kept helping, kept ‘stepping up to the plate for the children’. I still don’t understand why this great woman said ‘Yes’, back in 2009 when i proposed, but I am honored to be her clumsy, silly husband.

And, to provide some small explanation of how we came to be in Arizona, I have to say that I was the instigator of the whole thing, and Kate acquiesced to make me happy. Now, the story: in April of last year, about the time of my last post here, we were invited to visit and stay in a large RV-Retirement Village in Mesa, Arizona. My daughter Natalie Lewis, and hubby John Lewis, were staying for awhile there, in their 5th wheel, and they asked if we’d like to come experience the ‘over 55 retirement village’ lifestyle, we said, “Hey, sounds like fun!” So, Natalie arranged for us to stay in a Park Model mobile home (a new term for us, but as we learned, that describes a small mobile home, about 400 square feet, just about big enough for 2 people). We went to Mesa (Phoenix suburb), stayed about 3 days, and had a wonderful visit. Nat described the lifestyle in that particular park (2000 spaces) as ‘like being on a cruise ship’, with all the available activities (yes, they had MANY activities!). We had fruit-bearing orange and grapefruit trees nearby, giant saguaro cacti  everywhere in the park, palm trees, and there were ‘over 55’ folks walking, cycling, enjoying life.  The weather was PERFECT, April in Arizona, you know, but, nice as it was, we couldn’t picture living there in the summer heat (115 degrees is very common!).

So, back home in Indiana, I was still taken with the idea, and also I kept returning to the thought that, if there was some way to get Kate nearer to retirement, away from the nursing job in Louisville that kept her running the halls of the hospital 12-14 high-stress, exhausting hours per shift, and maybe if we could do it while not going broke, well…. maybe an affordable Park Model out west would be the way to do it. We had seen some attractive pricing on that type of housing while in Mesa, but….TOO HOT IN SUMMER.

I was entertaining myself at the computer, checking out prices on Park Models, using Craigslist, and a few ads popped up in Show Low, Arizona. Hmmm, good prices on the homes, but…..Show Low?? I started doing a little research, and found that, with the elevation, and the low humidity, it could be a LOT like Colorado, which we both loved! So, one house-hunting trip later (which I had to do alone, due to Kate’s work schedule), here we are. HomeSweetHomeKate is still working, but this time she is a traveling nurse, and gets to do mostly driving, instead of running the halls – much easier on her. It’s not ‘zero stress’, since she has the lives and health of numerous patients on her hands, and it is, oh by the way, a JOB, ya know! 🙂 But, no RUNNING 🙂

We got here in late July, at the tail-end of summer, and the weather was MARVELOUS! And, no TICKS, as we had in Indiana. We’ve seen maybe 3 mosquitoes the whole time we’ve been here, and the low summer humidity has been delightful. We happened to get here in time to enjoy the COLDEST winter they’ve had here in years, but we know from the data that the average winters will be much nicer than back East. Heavy snow is predicted for tonight and tomorrow, so time to bundle up and hope for the best 🙂

We’ve made many new friends here, as you might predict, but we do miss all our friends back in Indiana and Kentucky. I’m trying to be the watchdog of our finances (trying not to buy too many techie toys), and hoping to get some nagging bills paid off so Kate can retire before too much longer. Keep us in your thoughts, ok?

We’re loving Arizona, and we’re adjusting to our new lives, with new adventures coming our way. We love all of you! 🙂

Jim & Kate