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April 8, 1988 was the day we didn’t die. Yes, I remember the date.
This was the Lady and my first desert trip together. I had run around this area with a buddy in the late 1960’s so this trip was a chance to look back, remember, tell the Lady stories from when I was younger, and make new discoveries, the two of us.
I hadn’t been up this canyon with my buddy, but we had looked at it, talked about it. There were stories about a small settlement that dated back into the 1800’s. At one time there had been a road. It had been continuously washed out and destroyed. It was now about an eight mile walk up this canyon, hard to get to, maybe untouched. Who knew what the Lady and I would find? The adventure of it all called to us.
It was a beautiful cool spring day. We saw bighorn sheep as we walked. The small settlement was tumbling down, old looking. We were surprised to see a couple of sixties era vehicles and a newer small shed. At one time someone must have tried to make a new start up here but the wild debris flows and floods had stopped them too. It looked like the new inhabitants hadn’t even made it back to retrieve anything.
The main workings were high up the mountain side marked with a trail of rusted cable and remains of tramway towers. After poking around the buildings we decided to make the climb. We followed a steep switch backing road that was washed out at every crossing of the gully. It was cool as we sat outside the main tunnel. We don’t take chances by going into these mines. We enjoyed our perch in the sun, looking for warmth, and took turns exploring. Just off to the side was a smaller opening with a swinging rusted plate steel door. It was partially open, no lock. I stepped inside.
The entering shaft of light first hit the boxes of dynamite. This caught my interest. As my eyes adjusted, I could see more, much more. This was a serious explosives cache. In the shadows on pallets were stacks of blasting powder. The pile was as tall as I was. There was a big pile of long narrow plastic covered packages like sausages. I figured these were explosives packaged up, ready to slide into drill holes in the rock. There was detonating cord.
This was scary, but not scary enough.
I walked over to the dynamite. One box was lying open. Most of the sticks were in an open clear plastic bag. There were several outside the bag lying on top. There were also about six on the bottom of the box outside the bag. These looked old. Crystals were growing on the outside of the tubes. This looked bad, really bad. I did not have experience with dynamite but I had grown up on a diet of westerns, especially Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti western days. I had heard about dynamite sweating, the nitro coming to the outside, oozing out and forming crystals. At least that’s what all the movies and stories told me. I was not going to touch those. I picked up one stick from the top.
I walked back out into the sun and called to the Lady. “Hey, you’ve got to see this.”
She popped up and came over. We walked together into the cache.
I handed her the stick and said, “Have you ever held a stick of dynamite before?”
“No, so this is dynamite?” She really wasn’t that interested and I didn’t get the jump I was expecting.
And then she threw it.
This remains a vivid memory. I still see it, the stick in slow motion, cart wheeling through the air, end over end, on a direct trajectory into that open box of dynamite. It was a direct hit. Nothing happened.
“My god, you don’t throw dynamite! There’s a bunch of unstable sticks in that box. This whole place could have blown! They would have heard the blast in Vegas! Nobody would have found even a little piece of us but they sure would have found the hole!” I unloaded. I was shaking.
With complete calm the Lady said, “I don’t know anything about dynamite and I expect that you would not hand me anything that was not safe.”
The Lady has a knack for getting right to the point, a quality that I have grown to love.
If marriage is lessons in compromise, this was an easy one for us. I no longer hand the Lady dynamite and she no longer throws items I hand to her.