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The Story Of Old Mike And The Missing Gold

This is a story that was told to me by an old miner who worked at a mine. It's not your ordinary lost gold mine story. This story is about a mine that had gold and then some of the gold went missing.

This mine was an alluvial mine up in the remote parts of Alaska and a long ways from any kind of town. They only worked in the long days of summer and then in the winter this mine would shut down. Of course being in the early 1950's, the economy was booming in the south and it was hard to get help to work at these mines, so the mine owners had to pay big dollars to attract help. However, the work was hard and the days were long, and many men couldn't take the hard long hours of working 12 hours a day, 7 seven days a week and so some men would quit.

Hiring new people was difficult because you had no way of letting anyone know you were hiring other than a miner telling his neighboring miner he was short of help and hopefully the word would get out. Sometimes from time to time a drifter would walk into the mine looking for a job, but that was quite rare.

One day a couple men quit and the mine was working short handed. The boss didn't what he was going to do when low and behold a older man by the name of Mike, drove into camp in an old beat up pickup looking for work. Of course the boss hired him on the spot and after introducing him to the rest of the crew, and getting him a room in the camp shack, he was put to work.

When you first hire on at this mine you get all the dirty hard labour type of work unless you are a top notch machine operator. This new hired man however didn't run machines well so he was tasked with being what they called a sluice tender. Tending the sluice was a cold wet dirty job. You had to make sure that all the gravel that the machine operator was dumping into the sluice box didn't plug up. When it did you had to try to unplug the jammed up rock and muck with a bar or shovel.

Now anyone who has been around a sluice plant knows that the ground around it is always wet and muddy from all the water being used. Because this new man was tall and lanky, when he was tending the sluice, he would be covered in wet muck with big gum boots on, you would see him slipping and sliding around trying to man handle his crow bar and shovel. The rest of the crew would watch him struggle and snicker to themselves and that's how they ended up calling him, slippery mike.

Now once a day the machine operator would shut down and take a quick break and check over machine. During this time it was up to the sluice tender to rake the riffles of the sluice box. That was to break up and compacted dirt and loosen the material so the riffles would be cleaned out for the rest of the shift. He had to work fast because the machine operator would not want to be kept waiting. Once the riffles were raked the machine operator would start shoveling gravels though the sluice and the sluice tender could take a quick break.

Everyday after raking the riffles, old mike would shuffle over to where an old 2 ton truck that was parked at the edge of the claim. He would stand there and take a leak and then lean against the fender and have a smoke. After having a cigarette, he would be back doing his chores.

Soon it was starting to freeze and the season came to an end. Everyone packed up and headed home before winter set in. The next spring everyone came back for another summer of work at the mine but slippery mike never came back. No one thought anything about it because there was always men coming and going. One day the generator quit running and the mechanic noticed that the vibration of the engine has caused a crack in the fuel tank. There was no time to fix it so the boss told the mechanic to just go out to that old 2 ton truckand take the fuel tank of it. The mechanic returned stating that the fuel tank was missing. That's strange, said the boss. Wonder what happened to it.

That's when it all came into play. You see old slippery mike would walk over to this old truck everyday and have a smoke right after he had raked the riffles on the sluice plant. While he stood there having a leak, he opened the gas cap and threw a few nuggets in. Sometime during the winter when he knew no one would be at the mine site, he returned and removed the gas tank from the old 2 ton truck. Old slippery mike. He was slippery in more ways than one. Old mike got himself a summers pay and a christmas bonus.

Mike raking riffles

Humble Creek boss