Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

In honor of Veteran's Day, I've included this story from a good friend of mine, Kyle Cassidy. He lives in Portland and is a true adventurer. Here's his recent blog post:

Sometimes There’s A Man…


This weekend my plans to hike to the top of S**** mountain (near Mount St. Helens) while wearing a sasquatch costume were derailed after meeting the “owner” of the mountain: a toothless hard-rock miner with a bottle of Gold Rush wine and a bag full of gold. He was a veteran of the Viet Nam war so, in honor of the holiday today, I will tell you about the encounter.


It was foggy and dismal and all kinds of Oregon awesome out - ideal conditions for sasquatch photography. My friends couldn’t be convinced of this, however, so I set out alone into the rainy backcountry of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. After a frustrating day of muddy hiking and failed attempts to set the timer on my digital camera while wearing the sasquatch costume, I gave up and turned home. On my way back to Portland I noticed a bicycle in the parking lot of a park near the L— River and decided to ask the owner if he or she might be willing to snap some pictures.

[Video and more story and pics after the jump]


I was still wearing the sasquatch costume (minus the mask) when I pulled into the parking lot and saw a man taking shelter from the rain in an outhouse. He had a guitar in there and was drinking Gold Rush wine. His name was James and he was a miner, he said, and agreed to take some photos for me under the condition that I drive him back up to his claim, where he had left his wallet - an adventure I happened to be in just the mood for.

His claim was deep in the woods — almost an hour and a half up sketchy forest service roads — and on the way he told me about living year-round on S**** mountain as a hard-rock miner.

It was a hard life, and the further we drove into the depths of the forest, the more amazed I became that he had ridden his bike clear down to the park where I had met him. He had been on his way to Portland, to sell a bag of rocks speckled with gold.

His claim was near a creek and consisted of nothing more than a tent and a small fifth-wheel. It was getting dark but he showed me where he spent his days smashing pieces of feltzbar and quartz into a powder to sift gold out of. The work was hard, he said, because his knees had been bad since serving as a hole rat in Viet Nam.

Hole rats, he claimed, crawled into holes and murdered Vietnamese soldiers with their “bare hands.” Like the minors of yore, he had a violent history. He claimed to be a good man, though, one who was haunted by
nightmares of the things he’d done. The only time he’d come near violence recently was when he had to run a claim jumper off his mountain with a pistol last year.


His mountain. He claimed that his family had mined the region for centuries and through a sophisticated grandfather clause (which he said he could prove with documentation, though I never saw it), the mineral rights to S**** mountain belonged solely to him. He referred to it lovingly as “my mountain” and would woop and yell and point to it and sing out, “I love my mountain! I don’t got much, but I got my mountain and they can’t never take that away!”

After grabbing his wallet he jumped in my car and I we drove back to the park where he could stash his bike and grab his bag of gold (he actually left the bag tied to the bike while we were gone). It was pitch black out now and dumping rain. He was good people and I’d agreed to drive him back to Portland. He spilled Gold Rush and tobacco all over my car, but was great conversation. When I dropped him off at a Mission downtown he left me with a handful of gold.

Good luck hard-rock miner, wherever you are. You are a true-blue American and if it weren’t for your sacrifices in Viet Nam you might not feel obligated to live on your mountain.

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