This year the annual dig would be just south of Cleveland, Ga. Land acquired some time back had been surveyed and found to be a perfect place for this years event.
When Cathy found out about the outing, there was no holding her back. She was going with or without Joe, her husband. Joe had no intention of letting his wife have all that fun alone.
“If you have everything ready by the time I get home, we can get there several hours before dark. That will give us time to check in and maybe meet a few people.”
“Do I need to pack the equipment?”
“No. Everything will be provided for us. Just food, clothes, and toiletries. Don’t forget the soap this time or the rubber boots.”
They headed out Friday afternoon. With free camping and a long drive, there was no reason to start out in the middle of the night, so they could arrive by starting time Saturday morning.
“I was hopping you would attend this year. Who is that beautiful thing with you?”
“Buzzard, this is Cathy, my wife. Honey this is Buford or Buzzard to his friends. The man who taught me most of what I know about this hobby.”
Cathy said, “Hello. I’ve heard so much about you, I feel like I already know you.”
Buzzard laughed and pulled his hands from inside his overalls. He stuck out his right one and shook Cathy’s hand.
“I hope you are not naive and believe everything you hear.”
Joe asked, “How many have signed up so far?”
“The last count I have is twenty three.”
Cathy asked, “Sir, is there any rules preventing me from participating with Joe?”
Buzzard responded, “As long as you pay the fee and do your share of the work, you will be entitled to an equal share of the gold we find.”
He gestured toward a man who was approaching.
“Excuse me; I think Cecil needs me.”
Joe said, “Let’s register, then get something to eat before it gets dark. I want to move the truck away from the creek too. Maybe those pesky vampires won’t be so bad over there.”
Joe pointed to a vacant spot on their left. Cathy pointed at the loader and backhoe parked close to the creek.
“Is that what they are going to use?”
“Yeah. See the sluice box next to it. The backhoe will feed the box and a pump will pull water from the creek to wash the material down the box. The people who have paid will help clear away the dirt at the bottom and someone will use that wheelbarrow to haul it somewhere over there.”
Joe pointed to a spot beyond the loader.
“Most of the time we will just prop up a long handle number two shovel. With that many people, no one will be over worked.”
Cathy said, “That sounds a little boring to me. I’m glad you will be there, so I will have someone to talk to.”
“Me to. Let me tell you this now, so you won’t cause any trouble later. Most if not all of these men are married and some of them may have extremely jealous wives. Please be careful how you appear to any jealous wife watching you from a distance.”
“I take it, you don’t want me wearing my bikini then.”
She smiled thinking back to the first time she wore it for Joe. He just nodded an affirmative. He also thought of rising out of the river and took in her almost naked body. That string bikini didn’t hide much of her ample breasts and none of the posterior cheeks.
Cathy exclaimed, "My God Joe, there must be two hundred people here, but only twenty three paid. What will the others do?"
"They will get in the creek with everything from a pan to dredges. They are members, but haven't paid for the dig."
About seven AM they heard that big tractor fire up. They went to bed early and were already up by then.
“I’ll fix us some breakfast. Why don’t you get some water from the creek. I don’t want to carry dirty dishes down there.”
Joe grabbed three buckets and each had lids.
He asked, “Can I borrow the wheelbarrow for a few minutes?”
Joe didn’t wait for an answer. The men standing by it were not the owners of the one wheel vehicle. Breakfast was simple and fast.
The couple watched the loader start well back from the marked square and dig a ramp down, then dig a level spot about four feet deep at the edge of that marked square. All that dirt went into the sluice box to be processed. The box was positioned close enough so the backhoe did not need to move to dump each bucket full into the box. The planning on the layout of that equipment saved an enormous amount of time. The pit grew in size and in depth with each bucket of the huge backhoe.
Cathy leaning on her shovel was intensely curious at all the action. She knew the process of washing dirt down across the ripples in the box, but had never seen it done on such a massive scale before. A three foot wide bucket can move a cubit yard of material with each swipe. It would take her many hours to process just one bucket full, only using a pan.
Joe watched his wife and enjoyed her enthusiasm. Her body was covered with a loose T-shirt and jeans. That didn’t matter. He had explored her beautiful body the night before. It was her lust for life and thrill at learning something new that Joe loved about his wife as well as her other kind of lust.
“Cathy, there is a formula I learned a while back. It goes like this. A person can process a shovel full of material about every minute. A person with a sluice box can process about ten times that much material and a person with a three or four inch suction dredge can process about ten times what that sluice box can do. Can you guess how much that guy can move with the backhoe.”
She answered, “A damn lot!”
“It’s about four hundred times what my dredge can process. It's a numbers game. the more material moved the more gold is found. I’ve never been disappointed with my share of the gold yet. With both of us taking a share home, we’ll add a considerable amount to our retirement account. If we are lucky, we may even take home a nugget.”
“You mean they may find some nuggets. How does the division work to determine who gets a nugget?”
“There are no guarantees but in the past nuggets have always been found. Tomorrow afternoon we will draw a piece of paper from a hat. A number on it will determine when we get to pick a pile of gold. Number one obviously gets the first choice which is usually the biggest nugget. Last year, I saw number twelve get two small nuggets as his share. With both of us drawing, we doubled out chances of drawing a good number. Now get off that shovel and let’s earn our share.”
They picked up several shovels full of dirt and placed it in the wheelbarrow to be hauled out of the way. No one worked very hard. With only six shovels they took turns using them. About noon, during one of their down times, Cathy slipped away and returned with sandwiches and tea.
The operator of the backhoe was changed so the first guy could get lunch. The work never slowed down and the pit grew deeper. Joe noticed the complexion of the dirt being removed had changed. The layers were first about eighteen inches of top soil. Then a layer of dark sand. Joe guessed it was a mix of sand and top soil. Then they hit a foot thick layer of grey clay. The backhoe operator dumped all that material on the side; not in the box. When they removed all the clay, a layer of river gravel, quartz and sand was noticed. An extremely good sign!
Cathy asked, “Whey did he dump that dirt on the side and not in the box?”
Joe replied, “That was clay he dumped. Clay will surround the gold and allow it to be washed away with the rest of the material. That operator knows his business and didn’t wait to be told to dump that clay.”
Late in the afternoon the tractor was shut down and a clean-up operation was started. Buzzard walked over and started chatting. He loves to talk.
“Mrs. Crow give me that shovel. You have done your share of work today.”
Cathy replied, “What about that clean-up operation. Don’t you want us to help with that too?”
Buzzard replied, “See that young man up top. He’s my son and an expert at this procedure. The young man washing out the carpet is also my son. Let’s let them handle this delicate procedure. Besides, you did your share of the work today.”
Buzzard took Cathy’s hands, then turned them palms up. He didn’t let go when he started talking again.
“No blisters or red marks. That tells me you have used a shovel before. Joe where did you find this lovely creature?”
Joe replied, “Well, I found her in a convenience store one morning and brainwashed her into going off on a fools adventure, hunting gold.”
“Madam, I hope you don’t take me seriously. It’s just my way. You have captured the heart of a good man. Take care of him. You’ll not find any better around here.”
Buzzard, still holding Cathy’s hands, pulled her right hand up and kissed it in a gentleman’s fashion.
“You take care. I need to go and try to be a good host.”
Joe and Cathy migrated back to the truck and Cathy started supper for her and her husband. Not long after they returned, a young man approached.
“Hi Joe. Dad told me you were here. He also told me about a new addition?”
“Hi Tom. Your dad talks to much. Cathy come here hon.”
Cathy stuck her head out from behind the truck.
“Come here. I want you to meet someone.”
She walked out while wiping her hands on a small towel.
“This is Tom Massey, one of Buzzard’s sons. Tom this is Cathy, my wife.”
“My God! What did he do, brainwash you?”
Cathy smiled at the snipe and replied.
“No, he just got me hooked on something more addictive than heroin. I’ll never forgive him for it either. He’s nothing more than a low down rapist.”
Joe said, “I heard you captured the national panning competition a few months ago. Congratulations!”
“Thanks. Cathy, you take care of this rapist. You’ll not find a better man on the planet. Joe, good luck on the drawing tomorrow. I’ll let you get back to raping her.”
Tom smiled toward Cathy, then shook Joe’s hand and left.
Cathy asked, “Is there anyone here you don’t know? Honey, all your friends are nice. All of them make polite comments about me though. Is there something about your past I should know?”
“I guess they're surprised about me having a wife. I was kind of a loner before I met you. Don’t pay any attention to them.”
“I like being a surprise package. Besides, they treat me nice. I like your friends. They are good people.”
After supper, they settled down for the night. I didn’t say they went to sleep.
Sunday was a repeat of Saturday, but without as many questions by Cathy. Both her and Joe did their share of work. At one point Joe called Cathy over to the pit.
“See that. They are in a layer that looks good. At some point in time, water flooded this area and deposited a large amount of material. I’ll bet good money on there being a lot of gold down there.”
Cathy had an arm around Joe’s waist and squeezed a little more at that comment.
“Let’s hope so. You sound really positive about all this. Are you that sure of what they will find?”
“Sweetheart, trust me. I’ve been doing this long enough to know good dirt when I see it. In a few more hours we will know one way or the other if I'm correct.”
Late Sunday afternoon, the clean-out process commenced. The material left in the box was panned several times by three of the best panners in the country. Tom was one and Joe only knew the names of the other two men.
“Sweetheart let’s go inside and draw our numbers. After that, there isn’t much to do until they finish panning the gold and divide it into separate plates.”
Joe was referring to paper plates which would hold each participants share of gold.
Cathy closed her eyes and reached into the box. She withdrew a folded piece of paper. She was nervous and her hand was trembling. Joe reach in and got his number. He looked immediately and saw number thirteen.
Joe said, “What are you waiting on. Go ahead and look.”
“I’m scared. You look, Please?”
Joe took the little piece of paper and opened it. His face gave him away. He looked a second time, just to make sure. It was number two!
“You are my lucky charm. My lover and my wife and you drew number two.”
Cathy almost fainted. She grabbed her husband for his support and comfort. When the quizzes past, she looked at the plates with their beautiful yellow bounty. One and two were almost Identical. One plate had a few flakes of fine gold in it, but to the naked eye, they were identical. Each held a beautiful gold nugget. Joe got three smaller nuggets as his share. It was a beautiful day and a delightful weekend.
Joe dropped the nuggets into a glass jelly jar which was half full. His plan for their retirement was progressing nicely. On top of the retirement plan, they were having fun. Doing something both liked or more precisely, thoroughly enjoyed. What better way to save for one’s retirement.