On Looking for Lost Gold

The Bugs Bunny, Road Runner Hour was my favorite cartoon in 1969. A few years before when we lived in Boise, I took dad’s police gun out of the holster early one Saturday morning and tried to shoot the Road Runner. I figured Wile E Coyote needed some help, and I had a good shot!

Dad came home from working night shift as a deputy Sheriff. He committed a huge error and simply forgot to put his gun up. I watched dad shoot that .357 magnum revolver; I knew how it worked. How nice of him to leave it laying there for me! I figured I’d be famous around here if I took care of Road Runner for that stupid Coyote.

Well, while I was trying to make the gun work and blast a hole in Road Runner through the TV, my brother was in my parent’s room telling on me! Suddenly dad appeared in a flash and disarmed me.

“Jeff, don’t ever take this gun out of the holster again unless I say you can. Do you understand me?!” he yelled, with a bunch of swear words thrown in.

“Okay, dad,” I said.

And before I could explain my genius plans to shoot Road Runner, he disappeared into his bedroom mumbling something about those darn kids, except he didn’t say darn. I looked over at my brother and gave him the evil eye. That morning I learned my first lesson about gun safety. I also learned that I couldn’t get away with anything if Mike was going to tattle on me. All I wanted was to accomplish something important, like shooting Road Runner. But Mike was my buddy – sometimes – when I wasn’t hating him for beating me up or telling on me.

Saturday was cartoon day – a day more sacred than Sunday and church. My brother and I got up Saturday mornings before the TV stations came on the air. It was customary to sit and watch the test pattern until cartoons started. We didn’t want to miss anything; it was our routine. Dad and mom didn’t’ mind as long as we weren’t noisy and wake them up.

So, you can imagine how mad we were early one crisp fall Saturday morning shortly after moving to Salmon, when mom came in and ordered us outside. “Get out of here, you two! I don’t want to see you around here till this evening. Go play in the field, throw rocks in the river, go on a hike. Just get out of the house; it’s a nice day! Here’s your lunch.”  She handed Mike an old Army surplus day pack with a couple apples and sandwiches inside.

We stood on our huge front porch for a couple minutes. “I don’t think mom likes us anymore,” I said.

“Oh, shut up, Jeff,” Mike said. “You’re always worried about stupid stuff.” I was only five years old. I’m not sure what stupid stuff he was talking about. I was sensitive to the fact that mom didn’t want me around. And I was ticked that she had the audacity to turn off our cartoons right in the middle of Scooby-Doo!

As I was standing there contemplating my deep thoughts, Mike was scanning the horizon. “Hey, let’s walk up to that old mine!” He pointed to a mine across the valley. “We could eat our lunch there and throw rocks into the hole,” he said.

“Alright,” I said. “Sally! Here Sally!” I called to our dog. She came running up with her tail wagging. Let’s go, pooch! And we headed out. I figured since Mike had just turned seven, he could lead the way. What could go wrong? He was practically an adult as far as I knew.

It took us at least a couple hours of steady walking to get to the mine. Of course, we stopped along the way and threw rocks at stuff. Sally chased a few rabbits and killed a mouse. We even scared up a few deer that went bouncing away.

In our new hometown of Salmon, I thought it was cool we could play anywhere we wanted. In Boise, we had our whole neighborhood to roam. But here, there were miles of open land, mountains, and forests. I felt lucky to be a kid in this place. I suddenly felt sorry for all of my buddies back in Boise who were probably standing around with nothing to do but throw rocks at the neighbor kids up the street.

Those days were behind me; I was a ‘country kid’ now; whatever that meant. I now had better things to do. Well, I did kind of miss those big rock fights. But a few months before moving, I broke the neighbor’s car window during a street rumble. Mom and dad said I couldn’t have a bike until they had paid for the window.  

When my brother and I finally made it to the mine, we were tired – no question about that! We sat on some old rusty equipment and ate our lunch. “I’ll bet there’s some gold hidden in that cave,” I said to Mike.

“Yeah, I heard some cowboys were being chased by bad guys and hid their gold in there,” Mike said. “But they probably came back and got it. Or somebody stole it from them.”

“No, I think it’s still in there somewhere,” I said.

So, we walked into the opening of the mine and looked around.  In our romantically adventurous minds, those sacks of gold had to be in here somewhere.

We didn’t find those cowboys’ gold, but we did have a lot of fun throwing rocks at old mine equipment, yelling down the mine shaft, and basking in the excitement of our newly discovered playground with the quaint name of ‘No Trespassing’ posted on a sign at the entrance.

When we got home that evening, mom had supper on the table. It was a good thing. We were starved! We discussed our adventures of the day while we ate beef and potatoes and drank some fresh cow’s milk. “You boys be careful playing around those old mines,” dad said. “You fall down a mine shaft; that’ll be the end of you.”