13 September 2007

The Blue Bucket

Tomorrow is my last day working out here at John Day, after which I will be heading back to the greener, rainier side of the Cascades. It's been a whirlwind six weeks here, and very worthwhile. I accomplished what I came for, nailing down a PhD topic, on top of which I also got to get acquainted with the excellent fossil collection of the park, to spend several (reasonably productive) days in the field, to see all sorts of desert wildlife (scorpions and rattlesnakes and coyotes, oh my!), and in general to soak up the lifestyle of John Day Country. I do, however, have one regret: I never did find the Blue Bucket Mine. In all fairness, this may be because a) it never existed as a mine per se, and b) I only just learned about it yesterday. At any rate, the Blue Bucket is a legend in these parts and has driven many a local to distraction. In 1842, an emigrant party passed through the region in hopes of finding a southern alternative to the Oregon Trail. Unfortunately, they were led by an inept guide who they followed right into one of the most desolate deserts anywhere in North America. Eventually they decided to rejoin the main trail, and as they made their way north they passed through the John Day Country. Somewhere near here a group of children found several colorful rocks in a stream, which were passed off as copper at the time. Though the children claimed there were at least enough of them to fill a blue bucket they had with them, all but one rock was left behind. After finally reaching the Willamette Valley and later learning of the discovery of gold in California in 1849, the settlers went back and looked at the colorful rock once more, which turned out to be a good deal more valuable than just a lump of copper. Ever since, people have been trying to find the stream from which the nugget was taken, to no success. Given that I'll be leaving soon, it doesn't look as though I will be, either. I'm not giving up just yet, though, because I think my discovering the Blue Bucket might still be in the cards: while in California, I got two fortune cookies, the first telling me that I would "discover unexpected treasure" and the second that "the start of riches" was shining on me. As far as I'm concerned, that's money in the bank...

No comments: