It was towards the end of a summer day in Colorado at 11,000 feet. We had been there all summer staking mining claims in the La Plata Mountain range west of Durango. The sky was clear and I breathed in that sweet mountain air as I sat at base camp waiting for my dad to finish his line. I remember, the blue birds were chirping in the tall pines and the purple bell shaped columbine flowers were swaying in the cool breeze. It was a good day to be a claim staker.
The man that hired us was probably sitting in some suit somewhere in a building behind a computer. Here we were roughing it, out putting stakes in the ground so they could claim mineral rights and gamble their money. They would find some geological prospect on a map, tap their bony fingers and shout ‘aHA! I know there is gold there, I just know it!’ Then they would give my dad a call and off we would go- searching for someone else’s treasure.
They always called us crazy, too. My dad would take jobs that most people would never dream of. It was always in the worst time of year- the middle of a snow storm in January, or in 120 degree heat in the middle of July. Rain, storm, shine…it never seemed to matter to these suits. When they had the money and the inclination to get a job done, it was our responsibility to see it through. Well, not really me, just my dad.
This time though, on this particular day at 11,000 feet, it didn’t seem so bad. They had at least tapped their finger on a corner of the world with trees and flowers. Colorado was a beauty; a hard, rocky, unrelenting beauty, but a beauty nonetheless. The day before we had done a line up on the ridge above the timber line. I can still remember the view looking out over the vast expanse of land that stretched into Utah. We were on top of the sleeping Ute- what the Ute Indians called the silhouette of the La Plata range looking east from Cortez. And boy was it a view. Up there on those rocks I couldn’t help but feel like the tallest person in the world. We would spend all day huffing and puffing, jumping over boulders and tip toeing across shad scale rocks. The rocks would slip under my feet and I had to strategically hop on wayward grass patches to keep from sliding down the hill. I never knew how my dad did it- he was always like a bighorn sheep walking at those heights. He never slipped and he always knew the way.
Somehow amidst all the slipping and sliding and carrying all our gear and 2X2 posts we would finally reached the top. I would drop everything, sit down and have a drink of water. It’s these moments I remember best. Being stuck between a rock and a hard place was never as bad as it seemed up there, because at least we could feel that cold breeze on our sweaty skin and the air would be fresher than any suit could ever imagine. Well, I don’t envy them anyways. My dad would look over at me and just smile and I knew his soul was happy. There were no words for that beautiful sight.
Finally amidst my daydreaming, I saw my dad stumble out through the trees. I could tell he was successful with his line because there were no more posts on his back. He would wander over to me, sit down and open his canteen.
‘Rough line, Pops?’
‘You betcha.’ And the water would dribble into his beard and he would just smile.
I think those suits are probably crazier than we realize.