Aussie Gold Hunters

Lately I have been enjoying this Australian television series even though it was several years old. Three teams of gold prospectors endured great obstacles including intense heat in pursuit of gold. I know I couldn’t survive the high temperatures but what I fail to understand is how some could wear rubber boots and heavy felt hats. I could only assume that they were well adapted to the hostile environment. Some of the gold discoveries have been quite stunning.

I have several copies of my grandfathers school notebooks from 1903. In one, there is a study of the Australian continent. When my great grandfather urged his son Gordon to emigrate to a country with a better climate than the coal-choked air of Great Britain, I’m glad he chose western Canada. He raised his family in the dry belt of southern Alberta for roughly twenty years, then moved them to the cooler foothills closer to the Rocky Mountains for another twenty or so, and finally retired with his wife Mary, and youngest son to Cordova Bay on Vancouver Island, BC in 1954. They enjoyed their final decades breathing fresh coastal air and living in a time when the world wasn’t so crowded.

Maybe the Australian gold deposits are superior, but I think the southern prairie of Alberta was less harsh. It’s difficult to imagine the realities gold hunters (and people in general) faced in the 19th century but if we don’t get climate change problems properly addressed, life could get a lot more difficult for us all in the near future.

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1963 Closure of Camp McKinney Gold Mine

Video by Frank Fleming with permission from Royal BC Museum AAAA2467

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The Wasp

Here on the west coast, many older apartments and houses don’t have screen coverings over the windows like I had on the prairies. Swarms of flies, mosquitoes, and grasshoppers made it mandatory there. On the west coast, especially on the sixth floor, the occasional stink bug or bee might error in navigation and pay an unintended visit but not often.

The recent spike in temperature resulted in my windows being open wider and more frequently. Vertical blinds shielded the morning sun but allowed a small breeze to bless the day. As I lay on my bed contemplating the day (I do that a lot in retirement simply because I can), I felt several light touches on my bare leg. Looking down I saw a sizeable wasp moving about and seemingly wondering how to get back out of this ingenious trap. I rose, walked to the window and pulled back the blinds and glass while the wasp followed and waited like a pet that needed to pee. The wasp returned to his tasks for the day while I wondered where it found the good manners shown.

The incident reminded me of a day on the farm decades ago when I endured the ramblings of an implement salesman before I could return to another of my many waiting tasks. The salesman had just entered his truck and closed the door when we both noticed a large, unusual, moth-like insect crawl away from us. Quicker than shit through a goose, the salesman leaped from his truck and stepped firmly on the bug. He returned to his truck and prepared to leave again.

“Are they dangerous?” I asked. He answered that he had no idea, started the engine and drove off. I had never seen anything similar to that bug and wondered if it were the last of its species, trying to survive in a world where man in all his infinite wisdom, reigns supreme. My point here is simply that whether it’s an insect in your home or in your yard, think about its role in nature before you pronounce a death sentence. The species you save in the end might play an important role in nature.

I didn’t buy anything from that salesman.

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Easter on Agnes Street

Springtime brings new growth and the promise of the summer yet to come. I imagine Rock Creek Canyon emerging from the deep sleep of winter to the lush growth of spring and raging snow melt coursing downwards through the canyon. I have seen the results of a spring melt in the canyon and know it can be both terrifying and beautiful. Will the melting snow from Mt. Baldy be early or late? Last year was the first year I missed going to the canyon in eleven years but I won’t miss this year. I need to be there…

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View From Mount Baldy

This is a view from Mount Baldy, one I have not personally experienced. Even though I have been in the area during some winters, my visits were all focused at the base of the eastern slope searching for clues and gold bars. I have driven by where Camp McKinney once existed but never stopped to look around, unsure of who owns the properties. But I should for no other reason than to visit the cemetery. The call is strong so I will return this year and search once again for the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney. Photo courtesy of Alec Tuura.

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Author Signing Event Cancelled

Indigo/Chapters seems to be still suffering effects from their cyber attack in early February and have just informed us the event at Pinetree Village in Coquitlam has been cancelled, again. As a novice, I looked forward to trying to wrestle potential buyers away from the dildo section (not just pillows anymore) towards a table laden with my books and posters. Well no matter, maybe I will have to carry an armload of books to Queens Park and engage those trying to enjoy a peaceful solitude.

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Author Signing Event in Coquitlam, BC

I’m pleased to be included in this year’s BC History Bookfest at the Pinetree Village Indigo/Chapters store in Coquitlam. The event has been delayed a month to the beginning of April.

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Sleeping Cold

I prefer sleeping in a cool environment, cold enough so that when crawling under the covers, the room temperature feels too cold. But in mere seconds, body warmth and an excess of blankets create a comfortable environment. In all but the worst weather, I keep the window open a crack for fresh air.

Sleeping cold reminds me of camping in Rock Creek Canyon when fall night temperatures dictated I use two sleeping bags, one stuffed inside the other with a heavy wool blanket placed on top. No polyester allowed. Getting up to pee in the night was brutal yet returning to the warmth of my cocoon made it worthwhile. Sleeping cold also reminds me of life in our old farm house before 1964. There was no heat on the upper floor except for the meagre amount that several small floor vents allowed. If we were lucky, dad had installed the storm windows all round before cold temperatures put such ideas to rest. Either way, warmer moist air inside the room collected on the cold window panes creating frost ferns and endless floral patterns. The designs were flawless and grew thick with frost. Our young minds reeled at the beauty of the art and weren’t completely satisfied with the answer that Jack Frost was at work.

These are the memories I enjoy when winter reigns supreme and my bedroom cools off. I know how much our parents enjoyed the new house with all the amenities including all the kitchen gadgets that made mom’s life easier. But superior windows barred Jack Frost from returning and more magic faded from our world. Progress bettered our lives but there is always a loss until only the memories remain.

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When adventure calls to you, it’s important to be self-reliant, especially when there is no cellphone service. Being six or seven kilometers away from any help means you should be prepared for the unexpected as shown here. After sliding off the trail towards numerous trees, I was forced to use a hand winch and length of chain to pull the truck back onto the road. Another hard lesson learned meant the rental company had no knowledge of my off-road journey. But the outcome could have been so much worse.

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Camp McKinney Jimmy intro

Camp McKinney Jimmy introduces his memoir Chasing Stolen Gold, a treasure hunter’s adventure to locate the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney, east of Osoyoos, British Columbia. The robbery occurred in the summer of 1896. The amount of bullion taken forced the bandit to hide the two larger bars in the forest. When Mathew Roderick returned three months later to retrieve the bars, he was shot dead in a bungled attempt to follow him to the treasure. The gold bars whereabouts remained unknown, until now. The highly illustrated book comes complete with a detailed treasure map. softcover eBook

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Old Man in Green Sweater

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This Young’s Weeping Birch grows on the grounds of the old Insane Asylum in New Westminster, BC, about one kilometer east of my apartment. I see it as a former patient, firmly rooted in the past, trying to escape the institution. Also seen as my self-portrait.

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