Mining by hand on Dead Horse Gully Circa 1999 Excerpt from 'Pillarbasher'
Quite a few years later my younger brother Shannon and I were champing at the bit each morning to get to the field. After a sauce with pasty and a farmers union iced coffee, we were totally pumped. Off down the dusty track in the crusty ute to our claim in the desert. In those days we had what is known as a 'self tipper' or automatic hoist. Dead Horse Gully was a favourite field we dubbed "red sauce gully" because of the stunning unusually blood red colour in the opal. On one spot we drove 200 odd feet by hand which is blasting and removing the dirt with 2 x 20 litre buckets on a barrow. We wheeled the buckets to the base of the 45 ft shaft and transferred them into the 50 litre bucket on the automatic hoist, and away she went, up and over and back again. Ironically, when we arrived and were installing the winch, we found 3 $2 coins at the top of the shaft and said, maybe its a sign we will find 6 million! Turned out to be 6 thousand, barely wages at the end of it, but an experience I would probably do over for free.
At one point in that claim we were trying to open up a 9 inch air shaft that was blocked with gibbers about 30 ft down. We devised a simple plan to drop a sausage of anfo (ammonium nitrate/fuel oil) or 'nitro' locally. With the safety fuse alight, Shannon dropped the plastic bag down the hole attached to a skinny frayed rope with the idea that a small jolt at the bottom would release the sausage and we would crack the blockage. I still clearly remember the look on Shannon’s face when he brought the rope up and the bomb was still attached! There was still a smidge of time on the fuse so I grabbed the rope and hastily dropped it in the hole. Right then we realized the ute was only about ten feet from the hole and could suffer some damage from the blast. I quickly grabbed a short handled shovel and covered the hole thinking it may stop some rocks from flying out. Cerrracckk!! Off went the shot as we woo hooed and leaped with excitement at the adrenaline rush, being not too far from the hole. As the dust cleared, we noticed the shovel had disappeared, then looking upwards saw the shovel spinning at rpm about 150 ft in the air on it's way back down. Thankfully everything missed the ute and we survived. We literally had a blast, got the shaft cleared and the air flowing but all for very little opal in the end. One of the partners was always totally beside himself and yapped his face off every time a bomb exploded, our trusty red heeler cross mining dog Goof, Goofaloofa or Loofy as we liked to call him most. He loved the back of the ute better than anywhere else on earth, like any other bush dog. If we approached speed on the Stuart highway the wind would catch Loof's eyelids and lips, turning him into a freak. Brilliant for a laugh after a hard day mining, being full of endorphins and pretty 'surfed out'.
Watch to see the process we followed mining this claim, and some of the spoils at the end...