Regarding the matter of Denny’s possible misogyny: about 5 or 6 years after I met him, a defining event occurred, which up-ended my theory of Denny’s thinking about women. I knew he was my friend-I lived in the Bucyrus Erie, an old city bus, Denny rigged-up as a survival shelter for lost hikers, hunters and stupid blunderers, who might get stuck on the road. Having a woman around; to cook on the old Monarch cookstove, wash the pots and pans afterwards; and throw down coffee grounds, to keep down the dust; while sweeping the floor-suited Denny just fine. His regard for most women, was diminished– possibly due to his childhood experience, living at an Ursuline Nuns’ School-where he received the ‘treatment‘-and started hating Jesus Christ. I could understand his perspective, having attended just such a school myself .
Then-along came Gertie-without notice, or even a hint-she showed up at the old oak table, in Denny’s cabin. She became a permanent fixture, and one of the Characters up Elk Creek, until her death, some years later. It seems, she had been tossed out of her home, shared with her arthritic husband-by his ‘children’. They put him in a rest home and booted Gertie out the door. After her eviction, she proceeded to hang out on a bar stool, and drink herself to death. How Denny found out about her situation, I don’t know. However, he brought her up to the Creek, put her on a maintenance alcoholic’s regime, and she perked right up. There was absolutely no romantic component to this relationship. The beneficiary of the arrangement, appeared to be-Gertie. One fly in the ointment, showed up early. Gertie was wildly jealous of other women. Denny had made a few comments about Gertie’s presence, mainly that, “she better NOT get Religion!” Whenever anything broke, or just fell apart-Denny would say, “must be Jesus Christ, walking by”. His expression dared anyone to contradict him, and that’s all there was to it. I am sure of one thing-if Denny had imagined the lengths Gertie would go to-in defense of her position as his number one woman-he would never have signed-on to the job of her caretaking. She was never able to ambulate well, this could be a big problem, since the outhouse was about 100 feet from the cabin. Years after her death, the smell of urine, behind the propane bottle, would still make your olfactory senses cringe. The crazy brother of some Texas LieYar (Denny’s term for lawyer), that owned a place up on the Skimmerhorn, thought Gertie might be hoarding a few coins. This lead to him dropping-in whenever Denny was out-getting Gertie drunker than a Boiled Owl. Having to clean up the big mess, after these visits, got Denny’s goat. He told Ralph to stop getting Gertie drunk-a reasonable request, since Gertie’s inability to make it to the outhouse was the reason for the messes. The next time Ralph made his usual visit, he got an unwelcome surprise from Denny. The Day of the Shooting Incident, Ralph came boiling into the Craft home, where we were discussing our plans, for the weekend. Ralph screeched-“Denny’s gone CRAZY and he SHOT me! A hard thing to believe, as Ralph was churning around the room like a tornado, before racing off to the Sheriff’s Office. We knew Denny was unhappy with Ralph, however, if Ralph was actually shot-why would he be flying around the countryside-like a flock of geese? So it was decided, we would go on up the Creek, to calm Denny down, before the Deputies showed up. For all we knew, he was holed up, in one of his many emergency shelters, preparing for a shoot-out! As we were half way up Greenough Hill, we met Denny coming to town, for the purpose of turning himself in, for shooting Ralph. Denny did NOT shoot Ralph-he shot gravel in front of Ralph’s feet. Gravel ricocheted right up into his shins, just as Denny had planned. At the end of the day-the Judge told Denny he had to pay the Emergency Room bill-and he had to stop shooting people! Denny agreed to that, and things went back to normal. Except, Ralph never drove by Denny’s cabin again. He had to take the longer, Garnet Range Road-wisely, fearing for his life. We all appreciated this, because Ralph was a big pain in the neck, who kept coming around, snooping in everybody’s business.
Denny’s condition, after Gertie’s rescue, was significantly altered. Whenever the ‘couple’ went shopping for groceries, it was common for Gertie to publicly, whack Denny over the head, with her purse. Accusing him of ‘looking‘ at the women in the store. A ‘school teacher‘ from California, owned a cabin just up the hill from Denny’s claim. She usually showed up once or twice a year, bringing her friends, who were all Lesbians, to my knowledge, for a visit. Denny was her official caretaker, and for a few dollars a year, kept things copacetic around her place. Because of this, she was able to leave a furnished cabin back in the woods without vandals and thieves stripping the place. When the gals from California arrived, they enjoyed great hilarity with Denny, and kept him plied with booze and food, for as long as he wanted to go on about whatever was on his mind that day. The situation got out of hand. One evening-Denny arrived back at the cabin, just before dark, to find Gertie gone. He frantically searched for her, in the creek, and wherever he thought she might be. Finally, he retraced his own route back up to ‘those women’s‘ cabin. Luckily for Gertie, he heard her faint cry, from the ditch, where she had tumbled on her way to retrieve Denny from ‘those‘ women!
Whether hunkering down-to avoid Gertie’s unprovoked purse attacks-or dealing with other indignities, suffered while Gertie lived up Elk Creek-Denny did not complain, or act maliciously. I never could figure out why he didn’t just leave Gertie in the store, after those purse whippings! Gertie was a good hearted old gal, we had fun fixing up her hair, with wildflowers, because her delight in the reflection of her stick-straight hair, all Gussied-Up-was so cute. Things have slowed down, on the Creek, over the past 18 years. Denny always had company coming through to hunt, fish, camp, or do the mineral work on their claims. Now that he is gone, there are treasure seekers, with stories of Denny’s hidden Gold fortune, ringing in their ears, who dig around his cabin-stealing whatever they want. I miss all of Denny’s whimsical signs, and little panoramas placed around the claim. He kept three outhouses, fresh and stocked, with paper and corncobs-for his guests’ convenience. I bring my own paper, when driving up to the mining claims, where I always use my favorite outhouse, for old-times‘ sake.
Looking over some re-claimed mining areas, it occurs to me, there are unseen dangers lurking on mining reclamation and active operating sites. Innocent people need to be warned of this, before endangering their lives, when in Gold Country, I will describe a few of these. Concern number one, in my mind, are the settling ponds standing on many claims, –active or reclaimed. Also included in this category, are deep dredge holes found along rivers and streams in resource-rich lands. Children wading, chasing frogs, or fishing near these water bodies are in a dangerous situation-if they try to wade into the ponds, or dredge-holes with water. The decomposed granite from gold mining will act like quicksand. In very short time, it will be impossible to get out without assistance. There have been instances, of adult men, trying to dredge from these ponds, unable to extricate themselves from them without help. A lone dredge operator is very unlikely to escape one of these death traps, unless help is close. Dredge-holes are dangerous because they have been scooped out by huge buckets, leaving steep banks beside deep holes of water.
A deadly practice of inexperienced people in Gold Country-delving into banks of decomposed granite, hauling out buckets of pay-dirt to wash in nearby streams. Eventually, these banks are undercut so badly, someone is crushed by a multi-ton overhang landing on their body. No amount of Gold is worth One Life! This has happened in our mining district-and there are worse dangers, in over-worked underground mining sites. Areas have been tunneled into by so many seekers of wealth, that mountains become honeycombs. Those venturing about such places, are in danger of falling into old mine shafts.
It is Critical that people use common sense, when approaching active mining operations. There are many things going on at once, the roads are minimally passable, and it is in your best interest, to exercise extreme caution, in these areas. Approaching too close to operations is dangerous for more than one reason. Miners have problems with weird yahoos that drop by, so they are armed and serious. Don’t startle miners-don’t go near their sluicebox– and do NOT get in way of equipment. Also, remember wildlife, of all kinds, are living in the area. See my preceding article to avoid deadly encounters with some of these. A few common sense practices, will serve to keep you safe and sound-in Gold Country. Exploring Ghost Towns and old diggings of miners is fun and fascinating.