While living in Coloma, where the California Gold Rush of 1849 began, I had the privilege of meeting a modern day “old timer,” named Deed. He made his living, panning for gold, and refused the luxuries of electricity and running water.
We shared an unfenced property line and a one-mile dusty driveway easement, but it wasn’t until almost six months after settling into our new, older home, that Deed approached me, for the first time.
“Hey, Missy, (as he so nicknamed me), I need you ta try water witching fur me. You got the fair skin, red hair, and blue eyes that it takes to find water on my property. I know it’s there, but dag-nab-it, not even those high-priced well drillers with their fancy contraptions, can find it!”
Knowing Deed didn’t much care for newcomers invading his small corner of the world, I respectfully bantered in his lingo, as best I could.
“Well, Deed, lookin fur water usin twigs, is a form of divination and ‘cuz I walk in the wisdom to fear the Lord, I can’t help you there.
What I will do, is pray, that God reveals to me where your water is.”
“Now ya looky here Missy, my papa were a preacher, right here in this valley, so I knows all ‘bout that kinda hogwash and I’m a telling ya, water witchin works!”
“Ya, Deed, I honestly believe that, but it’s the power behind it workin, that I don’t want no part of. If your papa was a preacher, don’t you also believe in God’s written word?”
Grinning unabashedly, behind that yellowish-white, Yosemite Sam looking mustache, he chuckled, “Well, I’ll be darned, ya gots the same spitfire in ya, as my mama did, and yep, I does believe in God, just think witching fur water tis more scientific than people gives it credit fur.”
“Yeah, well, it aint gonna be me, attemptin to find out differently than what the Good Lord has showed me. But while we been standin here, chattin, I did pray ‘bout your water and I believe God showed me,” as I pointed to a spot on the sloped hillside, “it’s right over there beneath that red tipped clump of a half dead shrub.”
“Well, I’ll be a doggone fool! Ya done showed me the exact same spot my old friend, Red, found, when he done witched, fur me, but I didn’t believe ‘em!
Tell ya what I’m gonna do, Missy; soon as I can ford it, gonna get me a hand drill and go down as far as I can, to see if you be hearing from the Lord, like ya say ya do.”
Well, it took ‘ole Deed several months to follow up on that search for water, but when he did, I just knew, the entire Coloma valley heard him bellowing his excitement, “WOW-EE and HOT DIGGITY DAMN! I can’t near believe it; I done struck water after nearly six years a tryin!”
Shortly thereafter, Deed walked up my driveway, hollering, “Missy, I got somethin for ya.” As I opened my front door, I could see what looked like a giant Gold Pan in his hands.
“Howdy, Deed, what’s up?”
“Seeins how ya helped me find that water and all, want to give ya this gen-u-ine, metal gold pan. Now it’s not just any ‘ole gold pan neither, it’s one of a few I got and it’s a good one too. Ever been gold pannin?”
“Naw, haven’t tried it yet.”
“Well, it’s an art, an if ya don’t know what yur doin, yur never gonna find gold. I’m gonna take ya on down to the river and show ya the right way to pan. Now hop on up in the back of my jeep. I don’t go nowhere without my dog, and this is her spot, up here in front.”
Unable to decline his generous “on the spot” offer, I said, “No problem.” I lied and prayed the whole time I was climbing in, using the rear tire as a footstool; that I didn’t look like half the fool, I felt like.
Although I learned a great deal about the right way to pan for gold, I never did become an avid gold panner. Nope, I figured it best, to leave this old way of life to the last of the dwindling pros.
However…this Gold Pan became a prayer vehicle for me, to enter the throne room of God, many years later.
To be continued…The Gold Pan Odyssey
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