By Judy Berman
(as told to me by my Dad, Joseph H. Fiet III)
The desert doesn’t want to give up its secrets – or its treasures. The quest for it often ends in betrayal and, sometimes, madness.
Dad’s internal compass was all we had to go on many times when we rode thru the desert in Nevada and California. At one spot, along the Colorado River, there were signs – footprints and a few empty bottles – to indicate others had traveled this way before. In other areas, we might “turn right at the third cactus” on a dirt path. It was on these ride-alongs and at his kitchen table that we heard the stories behind these remote locations and those who searched for gold and silver.
In the 1960s, a neighbor in Boulder City learned that Dad was looking at old mines. Mojave (not his real name) asked Dad to go with him to a site where he’d looked for a mine once before. On the drive down Interstate 15 just over the California border, Mojave said a former neighbor asked if he knew how to read maps. When he said yes, the man pulled out a yellowed, weathered map, and Mojave examined it.
At the time the map was made, I-15 didn’t exist. There was only a two-lane road which is a continuation of Las Vegas Boulevard. Mojave, the neighbor, and their families, packed a lunch and set out on that road. When they got to a telephone line, they followed it near the top. Then, they got out and decided to have their picnic.
After the picnic, they walked away from the highway. At a certain point, the neighbor said: “Well, I’ve seen enough. Let’s go home.”
Mojave thought that was odd. Odder still was, the next day, the neighbor disappeared. A few days later, a moving van hauled away the family’s belongings. Mojave never heard from him again.
So, Dad and Mojave took the same trail, returning to the same spot where the man decided to go home. It was getting late. There didn’t appear to be anything worth pursuing, and they went home.
A few weeks later, Dad went back to the same spot by himself and started walking into the mountains.
“The deeper I walked, the more I could see there was a trail that had been made by a wagon or a car,” Dad said.
Finally, at the top of the mountain, Dad sees a huge hole in the wall about 25 feet up. As he didn’t have any way to get up there, he returned home. Then he told Mojave: “I think I’ve found the mine that you were not supposed to find.”
Back they went. This time, there were three cars at the base of the entrance. Somebody was in the mine now.
“We couldn’t get to talk to anybody. People are very secretive about mines,” Dad said.
Mojave concluded that when the man discovered where the mine would go, that’s when he decided they should pack up and leave for home. Then, the next morning, the man filed a claim on the mine. The people who were parked at the base were no doubt working the mine for him.
“It almost had to be a gold mine. There are other mines around it that were getting gold,” Dad said.
So they left with no way to find out exactly what was happening inside the mine.
“But, the mystery was solved,” Dad said, “on why the man ran away and never again talked to Mojave.”
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