I was looking for a place to gold dredge in Tuolumne County in California in 1985 when I found a small dirt road off Highway 49 that ran along a creek. I didn't get too far when I was confronted by a crusty old woman wearing a full circle brimmed black hat. I could barely see her eyes. She was ornery from the get go and asked why I was there. She was alone and she had two legs and was a gold miner like me, only I used a machine and she scratched around in the dirt. I asked if I could dredge in the creek since I could find nobody friendly enough to allow me to dredge on their claims. I had the feeling that she wanted me off her claim, but she stopped her cussing at me and stared and said, "I want 10% of whatever gold you find." "When can you start?",she said. "Right now," I said. "Before you unload your dredge I want show you where you might try," talking like a Drill Sergeant. "My husband who passed away said to try right there," as she pointed to a particular part of the creek. I just wanted to dredge and I did not know how poor paying the gold in this creek was and I didn't care. I came to California to find gold and thus began my weekend gold dredging on her claim in November that lasted as long as the creek, named Big Jackass Creek, had water flowing in it.
She said, "There ain't no need to claim jump me because here are my claim papers." I could clearly see on her mining claim the title of "Three Fingered Jack Mining Claim."
During the middle of my dredging on weekends Marie had a circulation problem. The doctors said she had to have her big toe taken off. SHE WAS STUBBORN because it went ankle, knee, and then leg taken - off. It was a couple months before I saw her again. I dredged through the winter and it snowed on me once and my dredge was covered with 3 to 4 inches of snow . Broke my finger on a boulder in freezing water. The next week I broke the finger on the other hand. I was just as happy as a clam to be dredging.
She showed up one weekend after fixing up her van to the steering wheel so she could drive up from Turlock by herself to make sure I wasn't cheating her.
I carried her down to the creek so she could pan for some gold. I did not know she was romantically involved with me. I guess carrying her down to the creek was something similar to being carried over the threshold. I looked or felt that she and I had an agreement. We were business partners was my impression. That's all. I would find out later about her feelings.
The water quit flowing in the creek and it was time to split the gold. It was all small flakes that didn't amount to much, under 2 ounces or so, but I gave her 20% and she still figured I swindled her some how.
"Hey, I will see you next season when the water is flowing?" I said. I can't remember what she said in response, but I never did see her again. There is kind of an emptiness when I think about her.
But One legged Marie left me with memories mining on her Three Fingered Jack Mining Claim on Big Jackass Creek in Tuolumne County, California.
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