Happy Camp, CA

Back in the day Happy Camp was a gold mining boomtown. Though illegal now, they used what is called “Hydraulic Mining process”. This was using water canons to wash entire hills into huge sluice boxes In order to recover gold.

 One Saturday evening the miners went into town to do rest and relaxation in the many saloons and brothels that littered the town. As the water canons operated twenty-four hours a day one man was left to tend them and point the streams of water in different directions as needed.

 But it had been a long dry spell from the Saturday before and it wasn’t long until the man tending the canons was lifting his glass with the boys in town. After all. What could happen?

 Suddenly a roar and a thunder was heard over the tinkle of player pianos and the loud laughter of the wild crowd. The ground started to shake as a wall of mud thirty feet high washed through the town, taking buildings, miners, towns people, livestock and more than one tinhorn gambler with it. It is said that except for the pieces of buildings and the bodies washing downstream in the American River, you would have never known the town had been there.

 Jump ahead a hundred and fifty years:

 The town has been rebuilt and hydraulic mining has been outlawed. There is still gold in them thar hills! I know, I’ve found some of it.

A friend whom I will call Dan is a treasure hunter. Through his research he learned that in addition to the bank vault (filled with gold, if you believe the old tales) there are also old coins and jewelry waiting to be found.

Knowing that the banks had been scoured by many others, Dan decides to use scuba and check out what lies in the swift river backwaters and eddies. The first day … nothing but fishing lures and sardine cans. But the next day he hit pay dirt. (Or is it pay water?) and came up with a fistful of silver coins. It was on toward dark, so he decided to quit for the day and hit it hard again the next morning.

 The sun was barely up when Dan entered the dark water, He took an underwater flashlight to see deep into the crevices and hollow places under rocks with. Seeing a silver dollar in the slack water in front of a large opening, he picks it up and puts it in his pouch. His mind filled with the excitement of possibly a large cache, he flicks his flippers and slides into the slack water. Turning on the flashlight he peers into the hole and found a sightless skull staring back at him. Startled he screams and the mouthpiece on the regulator flies out of his mouth. It’s time to leave. His head clears the surface and (he says) that he felt what seemed to be a hand wrap around his ankle to tug him back down. According to his father and his son who waited on the bank, Dan did justice to any ballistic missile launched from a nuclear submarine. One minute he was in the water, the next on the bank. Poor man was so shook that he had to down several inches from the bottle of Dutch Courage, his pa kept in the truck for snakebite.

Years later after he told me his tale, I asked if he ever went back to gather more old coins.

 His face got all serious and he said “No sir! I figure those riches belong to the dead folks killed in that mudslide. They can keep it and I have no interest in joining them!”


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