The Miner At Home by Bill Nye
Story type: Essay
Receiving another notice of assessment on my stock in the Aladdin mine the other day, reminded me that I was still interested in a bottomless hole that was supposed at one time to yield funds instead of absorbing them. The Aladdin claim was located in the spring of ’76 by a syndicate of journalists, none of whom had ever been openly accused of wealth. If we had been, we could have proved an alibi.
We secured a gang of miners to sink on the discovery, consisting of a Chinaman named How Long. How Long spoke the Chinese language with great fluency. Being perfectly familiar with that language, and a little musty in the trans-Missouri English, he would converse with us in his own language, sometimes by the hour, courteously overlooking the fact that we did not reply to him in the same tongue. He would converse in this way till he ran down, generally, and then he would refrain for a while.
Finally, How Long signified that he would like to draw his salary. Of course he was ignorant of our ways, and as innocent of any knowledge of the intricate details peculiar to a mining syndicate as the child unborn. So he had gone to the president of our syndicate and had been referred to the superintendent, and he had sent How Long to the auditor, and the auditor had told him to go to the gang boss and get his time, and then proceed in the proper manner, after which, if his claim turned out to be all right, we would call a meeting of the syndicate and take early action in relation to it. By this, the reader will readily see that, although we were not wealthy, we knew how to do business just the same as though we had been a wealthy corporation.
How Long attended one of our meetings and at the close of the session made a few remarks. As near as I am able to recall his language, it was very much as follows:
“China boy no sabbe you dam slyndicate. You allee same foolee me too muchee. How Long no chopee big hole in the glound allee day for health. You Melican boy Laddee silver mine all same funny business. Me no likee slyndicate. Slyndicate heap gone all same woodbine. You sabbe me? How Long make em slyndicate pay tention. You April foolee me. You makee me tlired. You putee me too much on em slate. Slyndicate no good. Allee time stanemoff China boy. You allee time chin chin. Dlividend allee time heap gone.”
Owing to a strike which then took place in our mine, we found that, in order to complete our assessment work, we must get in another crew or do the job ourselves. Owing to scarcity of help and a feeling of antagonism on the part of the laboring classes toward our giant enterprise, a feeling of hostility which naturally exists between labor and capital, we had to go out to the mine ourselves. We had heard of other men who had shoveled in their own mines and were afterward worth millions of dollars, so we took some bacon and other delicacies and hied us to the Aladdin.
Buck, our mining expert, went down first. Then he requested us to hoist him out again. We did so. I have forgotten what his first remark was when he got out of the bucket, but that don’t make any difference, for I wouldn’t care to use it here anyway.
It seems that How Long, owing to his heathenish ignorance of our customs and the unavoidable delay in adjusting his claim for work, labor and services, had allowed his temper to get the better of him, and he had planted a colony of American skunks in the shaft of the Aladdin.
That is the reason we left the Aladdin mine and no one jumped it. We had not done the necessary work in order to hold it, but when we went out there the following spring we found that no one had jumped it.
Even the rough, coarse miner, far from civilizing influences and beyond the reach of social advantages, recognizes the fact that this Little, unostentatious animal plodding along through life in its own modest way, yet wields a wonderful influence over the destinies of man. So the Aladdin mine was not disturbed that summer.
We paid How Long, and in the following spring had a flattering offer for the claim if it assayed as well as we said it would, so Buck, our expert, went out to the Aladdin with an assayer and the purchaser. The assay of the Aladdin showed up very rich indeed, far above anything that I had ever hoped for, and so we made a sale. But we never got the money, for when the assayer got home he casually assayed his apparatus and found that his whole outfit had been salted prior to the Aladdin assay.
I do not think our expert, Buck, would salt an assayer’s kit, but he was charged with it at this time, and he said he would rather lose his trade than have trouble over it. He would rather suffer wrong than to do wrong, he said, and so the Aladdin came back on our hands.
It is not a very good mine if a man wants it as a source of revenue, but it makes a mighty good well. The water is cold and clear as crystal. If it stood in Boston, instead of out there in northern Colorado, where you can’t get at it more than three months in the year, it would be worth $150. The great fault of the Aladdin mine is its poverty as a mine, and its isolation as a well.