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Author Topic: Chasing the gold with Lanny  (Read 3561 times)

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Offline Lanny

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Chasing the gold with Lanny
« on: March 16, 2019, 11:15:29 AM »
Now, for something different, Flashback Friday Entry:

(This is a true story, although I have taken some liberties in enhancing some details, but I have not exaggerated any of the facts about the gold.)

Before I start this story, Iíll need to provide a bit of background. I was chasing the gold in the mid 1990-s one summer, in a wilderness area far to the north of where I currently live. While there, I worked with some large-scale placer miners, helping out whenever and wherever I could. In return, as the miners were a wealth of knowledge about the new-to-me area, they gave me valuable tips on where to look for gold in that heavily glaciated region. They also let me tag along as they excavated to bedrock so I could see firsthand the local variables of gold deposition. However, as any of you that chase the gold well know, even with tips from the locals, itís still possible to find trouble while looking for gold, and that trip was no exception.


Story Title: Gettiní High On Placer Digginís

Sorry in advance to those of you into illegal or licensed substances, or those of you hardy enough to have actually smoked gold, or had it ground finely enough to inject or snort, because this tale does not deal with banned chemicals, licensed stimulants, or hallucinogenic substances. (Except I do think I have hallucinated while dreaming about gold in the past, especially during our long winters.) This story deals with the mind-altering effects of a metal. However, this prospecting tale itself is nonetheless mind-altering and reading it is not without risk.

One summer, when the snows had melted and the swollen rivers had dropped enough to allow travel, I headed up North to the gold-fields. Up north means a sixteen-hour drive from my home. But, why drive sixteen hours when there are other gold fields much closer?

Well, thereís far less people thatís why, and thereís coarser gold. As for population, there are less than thirty souls. As for the gold, itís chunky and knobby. On a related note, some of the local boys dig test-pits right in their front yards, then shovel the dirt into a small high-banker onsite, and they get good gold.

But, I digress again, and as you'll see, I'm pretty good at digressing.

So, to summarize, less people, thatís good, right? But bugs? Bad! There are tens of millions of nasty, blood-sucking, winged vampires! Thereís no way to hide from, or to outrun them. The bears, by comparison, are less of a concern, mainly because they canít fly. But, because the bears are huge, smelly, and can be cranky (kind of like me after too long in the bush) they do deserve some respect.

In retrospect, I was in an area of low mountains with fresh, crystalline streams, surrounded by thick stands of deep-green boreal forest. In the low places, mysterious swamps nestled into the hollows and were bordered by countless mounds of glacial till, leavings from the miles-thick ancient glaciers that once bound the land in perpetual winter.

The moving glaciers generated havoc, and the ancient, glacial meltwater produced numerous, titanic rivers, and some placer excavations have exposed seven or eight overlapping and intersecting stream deposits. In contrast, the frozen glaciers were dozers on insane steroids, cutting deep down or deep into the original bedrock, then pushing sections of channels helter-skelter, or orphaning sections of channel high above the present streambeds. It was one of these orphaned sections that this story is written about.

One day, I was sitting near the wash-plant fixing a broken six-inch pump. Having been at it a while, I took a break. Looking across the river, I noticed something high up on the opposite slope. A line of boulders and river rock ran in a well-defined line along its side. The line indicated an ancient riverbed resting atop the underlying black slate bedrock. It was roughly sixty feet above the modern-day river, and sections of that high channel had sloughed off, exposing a bit of face.

Because of this, I scanned the area with my binoculars to gather more information. Clearly, the channel rested on a bedrock rim, while the river-run itself was covered by eighty or so feet of boulder clay, which was then topped by thick forest.

All at once, my pea-sized brain was hammered by a giant, golden brainwave . . . I had to cross the river to sample that channel!

No argument or thought of personal safety holds me back if there's a shot at getting gold! As hot fever had fired my resolve, I had to act.

I grabbed a five-gallon (20-liter) plastic pail, shovel, pry/digging bar, and a small sledge; these items all fit neatly inside the bucket. Next, I shouldered into my prospecting backpack. (I keep all of my essentials in the backpack for easy transport. Nonetheless, when fully loaded, it weighs just a tad under a fully loaded B-52 bomber.) However, rather than worry about the gear in my backpack, I should have chucked it out and made room for a back-up brain instead. As will be seen, a spare brain would have saved me a lot of trouble that day . . .

Regardless, all packed up, I made my way down to the river. Now, in Canada, even in mid-summer (which it was), the rivers that far north in B.C. NEVER get warm. In fact, if you dunk your head, you get instant brain-freeze! Ignoring rational thinking, I had the clever idea to delicately pick my way across the stream in my rubber boots, and ballet-like, I flitted from rock to rock. Yet somehow, I lost control. Disaster struck! Prospector, pail, and pack plunged below the surface. (Any comments uttered after surfacing will not be printed here in order to protect the innocent.)

In spite of being wet and cold, I fully enjoyed the rest of the crossing (thatís a huge lie!). I felt somewhat refreshed (another whopper) after dragging my cold, soggy carcass out of the water. On a brighter note, after dumping eighty or so pounds of ice-water from each boot, it was easier to walk.

So, threading through the poplars and aspens beside the river, I then headed up the slope until I hit a new obstacle: boulder clay. This is the stuff I mentioned earlier, a nasty mixture of tan to yellowish clay liberally dosed with boulders that was abandoned whenever and wherever the lazy glaciers wished.

Boulder clay sloughs or oozes down hillsides when it's wet, and later it dries into bomb-proof concrete, though not quite as soft as concrete. As well, getting a toehold on it is the devil. Regardless, I somehow cut some steps with my shovel, and through stubborn dedication, I progressed a third of the distance upslope finding a v-shaped wash filled with cobbles and larger rocks, ones birthed from the channel and boulder clay above. The v-shaped wash held a nest of ill-tempered branches, dead limbs, and exposed roots that blocked my way. However, even with my squishy, soggy socks and boots, I navigated Mother Natureís hazards.

I continued upslope and worked my way into some sheltering pines. At that elevation, the smell of the pines is a wondrous thing; it's a smell I'll always associate with the true sense of freedom only to be enjoyed in the mountain environment while out chasing the gold.

At last, I reached the high placer diggin's, the coveted bedrock rim with its ancient channel. Eagerly, I went to work. (I need to provide a little description of the worksite here: Imagine how tricky it is to rest one rubber boot on a three-inch ledge of bedrock, as the other boot powers the shovel, all while trying to maintain enough balance to avoid a tumble down the mountain. Imagine as well using the pick and bar in such tight quarters, while trying to carve out an excavation, one running three feet into the face of the boulder clay in an attempt to expose the bedrock.

Success arrived when I exposed the underlying black slate of the high channel. Then, pulling my sniping tools from my backpack, I cleaned every little crevice, cranny, and dip or gutter in the slate and dropped the collections into my bucket. In addition, I added in some oxidized reddish-orange dirt to my bucket as well.

Not relishing the long haul down to the river with a small load, and wanting a good test sample, I loaded that bucket as heavy as I could in case I only made one trip. So, with the bucket filled, I tossed my tools over the edge to a landing of sorts, lifted the bucket, and turned around. Instantly, I realized something shocking; that return slope looked a lot steeper than it had on the way up! What mind-altering substance had possessed me to get where I was anyway?

Clearly, some moron had deluded himself into scrambling to a place no sane person ever would. Moreover, I get myself into such fixes by denying the existence of the laws of physics, and probability, etc. I override and defeat all laws, and any stored wisdom when I'm gold crazy. Yet, I carry on in happy oblivion until I realize far too late what I've done. Regardless of my denial of scientific laws, etc., one law never surrenders to my delusions, and that law, as we shall see, is the irrefutable law of gravity!

So, there I was, faced with a problem. I had to go down, no option, because I couldn't go up a vertical wall of boulder clay regardless of how high I was on gold-fever delirium. Deciding on a better course of action, I took the first step down. (This in spite of my brain trying too late to warn me of some impending doom. Come to think of it, I often override my brain's warnings to court danger while chasing gold.)

However, the first step really wasn't that bad. I just leaned into the hill and put all of my weight back on my boot heel. Miraculously, it held me in place, and the eight-thousand-pound bucket of gravel and I took another step forward. (Could it be that the bucket was so heavy because of its high gold content? Or, was I just an idiot that had severely overloaded it?)

I kept at it, leaning and stepping, and soon found myself in the branches and cobbles that littered the earlier mentioned wash. I took several more steps but then a malicious root or scheming branch snagged my boot. Well, that bucket just kicked out in front of me like it was rocket-boosted. (At about twice the speed of light, Sir Isaac Newtonís law had instant and complete control.)

Immediately my brain switched to its salvation-panic mode as I yanked myself back as hard as I could, the bucket jerking back toward me.

However, the problem was, my feet no longer cared what I was doing, as in trying to right myself, they chose instead to betray me by heading down the mountain. The effects of gravity increased in intensity as I picked up speed.

Now, when viewed from the other side of the canyon, it must have looked as if someone had shot and wounded a strange forest creature, some ugly beast, a raging bull-moose perhaps, or some other smelly, cantankerous critter (a classification I could easily qualify for after weeks in the bush!). It also must have looked as if that crazed creature was hurtling down the slope to a certain and speedy demise.

The real truth, however, is that instead of being out of control, I was magnificently in control, in fact, most supremely so. Even with my rubber boots throwing off more smoke than an Alaskan smudge fire, the accompanying smoke was a planned effect to keep the bugs at bay. However, keeping the smoke pouring from those hot boots while simultaneously attempting to apply my brakes among the boulders proved too tricky. In addition, the fact that the three gold pans in my backpack were absorbing more shock than a crash-test-dummy at impact was only a minor annoyance. As well, bashing off the face of the boulder clay was merely a slight test of my prospecting mettle, so to speak.

At last, still breathing (though hot and ragged breaths those breaths were), I came to a sudden stop. Some friendly tree branches gracefully halted my ballet-like plunge. (It's rumoured a visiting Russian judge, observing from across the river, gave me a 9 out of 10!)

Now, for those with a sense of the divine in nature, this was the perfect moment. The moment that finds the human at one with the mountain (and miraculously still alive). However, more remarkable than my survival was that the dirt had not spilled from my bucket! Yes, that is the wonder in this high placer taleónot a stone was lost from the bucket, not a single grain of sand!

So, with pay-dirt still intact, I somehow made my joints regain function, more or less (more pain and less function!). However, with renewed confidence, I set off once again. The only obstacle remaining was the sullen boulder clay.

At some point, you'd think the brain would revolt, refusing to power the muscles required for descent, especially after a such a brush with imminent extinction, all perpetrated by some ambitious idiot bent on chasing dirt! But no, the brain can always be overridden! I've located the master switch to disarm it. I've used it many times to stop logical thought, yet I have somehow survived to tell this tale. (This is proof that life is full of mysteries, ones not easily solved by rational thought.)

At any rate, about a dozen steps down, the clay, somewhat wet from a seep, remembered one of its admirable qualities, the slicker than greased Teflon quality, and off I went again. This time it was only a playful, sort of jarring bashing, with the odd bone-numbing wallop thrown in for variety. It lasted for a mere twenty or so feet, then I came to a feather-like stop on the gravel below, the contents of the bucket still intact.

Although amazed at the miraculous luck required to save such a valuable cargo, I took a break and picked a pan full of golf ball-sized gravel out of my mouth. Next I pushed several teeth back into their sockets, then replaced my left eyeball. After that, I checked to see what the crooked protrusion was that seemed to be attached to my head. Finding that it was my neck, and finding that it was still attached to my shoulders, I set off to the river to pan the dirt!

Three flakes, in five gallons. . . . You can't make this stuff up.

I guess there's a lesson to be learned here, but far be it from me to get preachy, or to force my hard-earned wisdom on any of you. I'll let you figure out the drug-induced dangers of gettiní high while chasing placer digginís.

All the best,

Lanny

Offline tonofsteel

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Re: Chasing the gold with Lanny
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2019, 12:28:47 PM »
Lol great story, thanks for sharing!  Sounds like you have been on some adventures over the years.

Offline DirtHogg

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Re: Chasing the gold with Lanny
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2019, 01:36:47 PM »
Love hearing your stories chasing that sassy Gold! If you were to publish,i for one would be first in line.Thanks for joining and posting!

DirtHogg

Offline Lanny

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Re: Chasing the gold with Lanny
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2019, 04:59:50 PM »
Lol great story, thanks for sharing!  Sounds like you have been on some adventures over the years.

Yes, many adventures, some great, some not so great, but all were worth it, as on every trip where I make a mistake, it becomes a learning experience that might save my hide on some other outing.

Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed the story, much appreciated, and all the best,

Lanny

Offline Lanny

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Re: Chasing the gold with Lanny
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2019, 05:44:52 PM »
Love hearing your stories chasing that sassy Gold! If you were to publish,i for one would be first in line.Thanks for joining and posting!

DirtHogg

Thanks for letting me know you like the stories, as I enjoy writing tales about chasing sassy gold. Mainly because Mother Nature sure did make it almost like a person,  sassy or flirty or mischievous when it comes to trying to track it down; all kinds of tricks up Nature's sleeve to keep that gold sassy indeed.

All the best,

Lanny

Offline kodibear

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Re: Chasing the gold with Lanny
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2019, 06:32:04 PM »
Great story, you didn't bother to mention the place where it took place but it sounds a lot like Manson Creek to me. I can picture a steep bank similar to the one you climbed on the Germansen River but then again maybe I just got a little feverish after reading your story.

Offline mcbain

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Re: Chasing the gold with Lanny
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2019, 07:11:46 PM »
Hey Lanny great story. very much appriciated.Ever think of teaming up with some one like Robert Service.Hell you could retire on stories like that.Forget chasing gold and die in one piece.Luck Mcbain.
I started out with nothing Istill have most of it.

Offline Lanny

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Re: Chasing the gold with Lanny
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2019, 10:38:53 PM »
Great story, you didn't bother to mention the place where it took place but it sounds a lot like Manson Creek to me. I can picture a steep bank similar to the one you climbed on the Germansen River but then again maybe I just got a little feverish after reading your story.

I've been to the Germansen, and I got to look at one of the old hydraulic works where they also tunnelled to chase the gold (I also got to speak to one of the guys that worked in the tunnels at the base of the hydraulic pit, and he said it was not that safe, so he got out), as well, I saw other placering operations on the Germansen.
I've also made multiple trips to Manson Creek, and I was on the Manson river at Discovery Bar, if you know where that is, and that is where I climbed the bank to check out that high channel.

In addition, I met an Old-Timer there that told me about a tunnel that some earlier miners had cut into that ancient channel, and he said there used to be a cable ladder (two strands of cable, with boards at regular intervals) dropped down from the rimrock, as that's how they got up and back,  and he said he worked his way up there once (not by using the ladder as most of the boards had rotted away) and he got some very nice gold by digging around in the bedrock there. However, I heard that story about the ladder from him a couple of years after I made my bungled climb, so the information about the tunnel was too late for me by then, or I'd have done some more climbing to check that spot out! He also told me the guys that used to work that "cable mine" did very well as they had tunnelled in quite a ways to drift along the bedrock.

All the best, and thanks for the connection to Manson Creek, nice to know someone else has been there,

Lanny


Offline Lanny

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Re: Chasing the gold with Lanny
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2019, 10:50:51 PM »
Hey Lanny great story. very much appriciated.Ever think of teaming up with some one like Robert Service.Hell you could retire on stories like that.Forget chasing gold and die in one piece.Luck Mcbain.

Many thanks Mcbain, such a nice compliment, much appreciated.

Robert Service was the real deal, and I just kind of mess around with writing stories when the mood hits me as it takes so much time, but thanks for your feedback in making such a kind comparison.

My problem is I love being in the Mountains, as a result, I'm sure I'll still be out chasing the gold for quite a while yet, so I guess what that means is I'll still find my share of trouble and still bruise my pride a few more times.

 Another reason I'll be stomping the gold-fields for sometime longer yet is that I've taken on the project of training my son how to nugget shoot with a variety of metal detectors, and as he's found a great catch of nuggets already, he might be a bit of a natural.

Many thanks for dropping in, and all the best,

Lanny

Offline Lanny

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Re: Chasing the gold with Lanny
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2019, 09:39:39 AM »
Dredging River Dance (or, how to almost die dredging).

(This rather lengthy flashback of a tale is about one of my dredging misadventures, experienced while I was investigating what I thought was promising bedrock. [I will offer these stories up for as long as my wounded pride allows.])

Well, here's a tale of summer's fun, more or less:

One glorious day, I tried to cross the swiftest part of a river, located in a deep gorge, to get to the other side. I like to think of it (my attempt) in terms of the world famous River Dance as there are common elements: both of them require rapid movement of the feet, careful planning, and lots of whirling of the body, with accompanying vocal or musical tones that may or may not be melodious (when it comes to dredging, in particular).

As I got suited up one pristine summerís day to head into the dredge hole, I saw a cliff across the river at the base of a terrace of other cliffs, ones that marched up the mountain in a series of timbered steps, rising upwards for several hundred feet.

Cut into the bottom of this black bedrock, thereís a wicked pool of water where the river fires a significant portion of its water through a bedrock chute. Just upstream of the chute, the river slams into the bedrock wall, cuts back on itself in a foaming suction eddy, then whirls on, completing a right angle turn before diving to create a channel around eight feet deep, yet with a width of only a couple of yards.

To elaborate about the volume and velocity of water rushing through that chute, the rocks and boulders in that hole perpetually shimmy and shiver under the relentless thrumming of the stream.

Nevertheless, my giant brain had a feverish idea, a true inspirational melon buster of an idea (this often foreshadows some form of danger or disaster). I peeked across the river, and since I was already suited up for underwater gold hunting, my brain devised a way to get me safely to the other side to investigate.

Now, remember, thereís a cliff on the other side, so holding on to that far bank isnít an option. However, with the weather nice and hot, and the river level dropping day by day, it seemed a good plan to saunter over to the chute to take a peek underwater to see if any nuggets were trapped in its cracks or crevices. After all, it should be a simple matter to peek around over there so as to have a shot at any visible coarse gold before the snipers cleaned it up later in the summer.

As mentioned earlier, I was geared-up for dredging which works great for sniping as well. In fact, I had on two wetsuits, a 5mm shorty, and my Farmer-John 7mm, with a cold-water hood; my mask, and snorkel; and my Hooka harness with my regulator slung over my shoulder. I was ready.

So, my pea-sized brain (notice how my brain shrunk from earlier on?) decided it would be a glorious idea to secure my arm around an anchor rope and then tiptoe across the riveróall while keeping constant pressure on the line to maintain my balance in the stiff current. That was the idea . . .

Iíd work my way to the far side of the chute, gently lower myself into the river, and then let the sixty pounds of lead I had strapped to me do what lead does best. While it sunk me, I'd casually examine the bedrock for orphaned chunks of golden children in need of adoption, so to speak.

That was the plan. That is not what happened.

While the dredge motor purred contentedly to fill the reserve air tank, I stepped away from the Keene model 4505PH four-inch, three-stage model to work my way over to the chute to snipe for gold. (I was so excited to get into the hunt, it reminded me of my younger years as a boy getting ready to hunt pheasants with my gun dog.)

Come to think of it, itís too bad I didnít have my hunting dog with me then, as heíd have absolutely refused to test the waters for the golden game I was after that day. Being a smart dog, heíd have looked at me like I was crazy, turned tail, shot back to the cab of the truck, hopping in with a smug look on his face as he bedded down for a safe snooze.

Upon reflection, thereís something about dogs being smarter than me that doesnít sit well. Regardless, maybe some humble pie is in order, and I should wise up and pay dogs a consulting fee to save myself from future grief.

Pea-sized brains, dog brains, and canine wisdom aside, I decided Iíd quickly cross that stream, and I immediately stepped on a slippery sheet of slate. Not to worry, I told myself, for in addition to my weight-belt around my waist, I had ankle weights that would quickly stabilize my feet.

Thinking back on it, there must be some science of river physics that my tiny brain hasnít quite grasped. It must be a ratio or an equation that goes something like this: ďriver velocity times mass plus slippery rocks equals stupidityĒ all run out to the power of 10! And, if you divide that by a gold-fever dimwit factor in action that day, you get a predictable result. For, with every misstep in the stream, the river exerts an ever-increasing degree of control over the flailing foreign body thatís trying to stagger across it (NASA should consult me on bizarre test theories involving impossible encounters with physics when they get stumped!).

Well, the playful river started having fun almost immediately when my left foot, moving forward, slid down the slippery slate, the accompanying force mashing my big toe into a boulder, thus causing the formerly cheerful dredger (weíll refer to this numb-skull in the third person, on and off, for the next while, to keep things simple . . .) to weave a tapestry of glorious, colourful words that blued the mountain air, said words accompanied by melodious tones (Well, all as melodious as a roaring boar grizzly sounds while attacking a cougar with newborn kittens is melodious, I guess.).

This verbal explosion of excited speech created a momentary lapse in sanity, causing said golden boy to move his right foot to avoid the hammering pain of his left foot's big toe. Furthermore, the river current promptly seized said bozoís right leg at the exact moment when the right foot slid down a submerged incline.

This in turn caused the doomed dredger to twist his back, generating some sort of physics wonderland where the the dredger's broad back now acted like a garage door trying to navigate the river perpendicularly. Yet, the dredger resisted this irresistible force by trying to keep his body upright!

This exponential force utilized the might of untold millions of gallons of glacial melt water moving at roughly Mach III (this is only a rough estimate as I had no calibrated instruments for measuring water velocity with me that day). These enhanced forces took vengeance on the dimwit as he porpoised back and forth across the river (yet the same dimwit kept a death-grip on the safety line).

I must call a brief pause here to reflect on the annoyance of having a smug dredge buddy, one that watches you thrash about helplessly in the grasp of a raging river. It's not annoying that your buddy is watching. No. What's annoying is the jackal-like, high-pitched laugh that terrifies or frightens off any man or beast, within three miles, capable of helping in any way with a rescue.

But, not to worry, after several ballet-like corrections on pea-brainís part, he righted himself with the safety line, nearly . . . For, pulling back hard on the safety line to come upright, his garage-door-like body, now played the part of a super-rudder and rocketed him back across the river, bouncing him playfully off the boulders as it launched him downstream toward the dredge. This frolic in the water started a barrel roll, spinning the attached twit around on the safety line like a tailless kite in a hurricane.

Oh, did I mention that his Hooka regulator was hanging across his shoulder as he artfully (more like really bad art than anything else) stepped into the stream? Well, with his regulator streaming straight behind him, and his snorkel acting like a water-main, he began his attempt to breathe the river dry.

Oh, desperate drinking it was! For, after his noggin plowed underwater furrows, heíd burst forth, shaking his hooded-head side to side, smacking his lips loudly as he bellowed unpronounceable syllables (ones likely banned from Viking drinking songs; ones sung after drinking steadily for two days!). Nevertheless, he soon floundered (both eyes looking as if they were the squashed and compressed eyes located on the distorted face of the flounder) his way up the safety line. He then stood waist-deep in the placid river, magnificently in control, feet firmly anchored once again.

Yes, rest from insane turmoil was finally his.

However, then came the shameful task of trying to explain his aquatic antics to his mining partner . . .

Nonetheless, after a witty explanation, the dope on a rope cautiously proceeded to the chute on the other side. Once there, he launched himself into the slack water behind a lip of protruding bedrock that guarded the head of the chute.

With regulator in place, he stuck his head under water only to see that the bedrock's surface was as smooth as a bathtub for most of its length . . . But there, just off to the right, was a small crevice, and in that crevice was a chunk of sassy yellow gold.

(Oh, it was magnificent and glorious, for the bright sunshine winked off it as it sparkled and shone.)

Therefore, the dauntless dredger once again ignored his ever-tinier brain and tried to reach the golden prize, forgetting all lessons learned as he then abandoned the shelter of the bedrock outcrop.

This unexplainable act launched him yet into another River Dance. Clearly, this performance was not in any way connected to the one that played on the world stage for years. No, this was a river dance accompanied by colourful and strangely explosive, yet disharmonious tones instead of the lively, upbeat music of the world-famous production.

At last, the soggy dredger, much refreshed after finishing his two auditions for the River Dance team, returned to his still purring dredge, stuffed his brains back in through the openings originally intended for his ears and nose, reoriented his eyeballs, popped his shoulder back in, and then quietly returned to a boring day of uneventful dredging.

River Dance, indeed.

All the best,

Lanny

 


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