May 31, 2000

Greetings from the Great Wet North. Another morning dawns clear and beautiful over the northern English moors. Same scene as yesterday, and I suppose one could become complacent about even this if it weren't for the fact that it will most likely be raining again in a couple of hours. Yesterday it slowly clouded over and by around 1400 it was pouring. I got stranded while retrieving lunch from the container to take up to the mine for everyone. Thinking it was likely only a passing shower, I waited almost a half hour before finally running back up to the mine. Today, I think we dig out those yellow and orange rubber clown suites which are still hidden somewhere in the container.

Yesterday was the first real day of work at the mine. Jim, Jonina and I began by shoveling a lot of the debris off the landing near the door, and cleaning out the track. My back and shoulders remind me that this is different than sitting at a computer for a living. Byron, sledge in hand, set off to undo his cement handy work of last fall. After much thumping he returned muttering something to the effect of "that shit's really hard", meaning he'd failed to break in. It's too bad that our friends didn't pay us a visit over the winter. It would be nice to think they had had a similar experience.

After cleaning the track we were able to push all the equipment out of the mine, including the Eimco 12B, which I thought would be staying put until we got the compressor running. Fortunately, there is an ever-so-slight grade downward out of the mine. Getting it back in by man power may be another story. I hope the compressor battery charged up okay.

All work and no play is definitely not in the cards for Jim and Byron, so by mid-afternoon they were busy having at a cavity of big purples which had been discovered late last year at the back of the tunnel. Byron had used the chain saw to cut into it, and at present, one can wriggle upward through the narrow entrance and stand in the cavity, which was a little above the level of the tunnel. Collecting is definitely a one person job, and from behind you see Byron's legs and butt disappearing upward into rock. Too bad the camera was in the car, but there will be more opportunities. Byron and Jim managed to bar off at least three huge clusters of purples, one of which I'm sure is in excess of 100 lbs. We won't be able to tell if they were worth the effort until we get the water going and wash the mud off. Even if we have to carve them up into small specimens for wholesale lots, we've made a good start on this year's production. If there's any gemminess to them, they should look nice, and the few we brought back last year sold well in the motel. Many of the crystals are in excess of 4 inches, and have that sugary quartz partially coating them. I could see some smaller gemmy purple twins on the surface of some. After "giving birth" to a couple of big ones, I ask midwives Byron and Jim to name the pocket. Jim thought it should reflect something of recent events, and having suffered the first injury of the season in the pocket (a bloodied finger), was suggesting things of a somewhat scatological nature. After a veto or two, he recalled being fascinated by these little crater-like mounds he saw as we crossed the moors coming back from Kendal. I had explained to him what grouse butts were, and so the cavity was dubbed the "Grouse Butt Hole". Believe me, it's better than the other suggestions.

Dave Beadle stopped by the mine to check the operation out, and sounded enthusiastic about starting with us next week. I need to get up there today with the Brunton and plot out where the new tunnel should head, and then let the mine engineers tell me what we can really do. We're also planning on connecting the water and air lines to the mine, and Jonina and I will make a shopping run to Consett. Mick is suppose to arrive with the hydraulic power unit today "noonish". We need to stop by and see Neil Fairless about numerous supplies (rock oil, getting compressed CO2, etc.), and see if he can fabricate a small sheet metal dust container for the air abrasive. If anyone needs something odd, Neil seems to be the first stop in the Dale.

Time to get things going here, as the "to-do" list for the day gets longer each time I think about it.


Jesse, Byron, Jim, and the still sleeping Jonina.

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