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Friday, April 18, 2014

March Community Living

March 2014

What is a claimstaker?

What is a claimstaker? Well, here’s the shortest description I can give. A claimstaker is what you call a person who gets hired by a mining company to go out to the middle of nowhere to put posts in the ground. As a rule, the job is almost never in a very nice place, and it’s almost never at a pleasurable time of year. It could be up a mountain on the top of a cliff or on the vastness of a dry playa bed. It could be in the heat of the middle of summer or the cold of the snowiest day you have ever seen. Generally, the job involves putting monuments in the ground to establish a physical boundary for mineral prospects and the recording of all of this with the appropriate government offices. There are many different laws and requirements depending on the size and general location of said group of claims. One I can think of is the requirement for a valid claim monument. In Arizona, a person has to have a five foot high 2X2 post sticking out of the ground in order to be valid. In other places, a three foot pile of rocks will suffice, and still in other places yet, one could scratch marks into a tree and that’s a good enough monument as any.
               Once, I can remember spending an entire afternoon looking on a hillside covered in pine trees and rocks. I was looking for a marker placed before the 1930’s which showed the corner of an important claim. Well, given the time difference between then and now and the overgrowth and subsequent variations from year to year, this made the task very daunting. The only thing I had with me was a copy of an old hand drawn map and a set of latitude longitude coordinates. I plugged the numbers into my fancy GPS machine and drove as far as I could up the hill on ATV to the general location I thought it would be. I had to hike another couple of hundred feet up the hill. After scrambling up and getting scratched from the thick growth of pines, I came to the exact location. My GPS showed that I was right on the spot that it was supposed to be, yet there were no significant markings or posts of any kind around. There was just a whole lot of scraggly pine trees, boulders and thick undergrowth. So I wandered around for a while; up and down the hillside. I can remember feeling frustrated because I knew it was something I had to find. After a while I wiped the sweat off my brow and I sat down to think for a moment. 
               It was a dry December day at a cold altitude, but I remember that the sky was clear. I knew I couldn’t leave the job until I found this monument. I had to have the coordinates so that I could draw a new more accurate map, I just couldn’t find it. And then, like a silent prayer, I looked up and thought I saw something on the tree. I moved closer and got my hand up on the tree to peel back the bark. Well, hallelujah, I thought to myself. I could see the markings that someone had etched in the tree. Though it was no longer legible, I could tell that someone had deliberately carved the name of the corner in the deepness of the bark. And on this day, almost 90 years after it was originally etched, I was finding it again.
               And you know, I think this is the best description of a claim staker that I can give. It’s a lot like life in a way, because I find myself lost a lot of the time, but after I sit down and really think about what it is I want to find, it’s usually right in front of my nose. Even if I can’t always understand why or how, usually the question has already been answered. All one has to do is find your marker and put it on your map.   

A Divine Map (finished)

Maps show so many things
Treasures and tales
Of lost golden rings.
Some maps are dirty
And yellowed with age
Some maps are crisp
Some printed on noble page.
Some are folded
Hidden in some corner
And some are rewarded
With county recorders.

Maps are like you-
Maps are like me
Born a blank page
Empty and free.
But as time rattles on
All of us draw our own maps
With pencils of experience
We plot our own path.

Who else but God
Could show you the way
When you have no idea where you are going
And no idea of what to say.
You are not born
With a draftsman’s keen eye
So, how can you tell
The mountains from the sky,
But if you look around on your map
There are a few hidden clues
To the state you were born
And the life you will choose.
One knows not
The roads you will take
Or the mountains you’ll climb
Or the fences of fate
Which cross the designated path
Often when least suspect
Covered in rusty nails and barbs
God draws you a fence.

The map you are drawing
Is unique and intense
And you must always remember
There’s a path around that nasty fence.
Look to the scale bar
To find out how long
An inch is a mile
But I might be wrong. 

But of the drawing of maps
The most important rule is such
That the North Arrow
Must always face up.
Like hands towards the sky
It acts as your guide
No matter the weather
Or if your map leads you awry.

So say a little prayer
And you’ll find your way.
Just look where you are going
And always have faith.

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