Since it had been raining all night and the creek was running too muddy to do any dredging, Flapjack loaded all of his stuff up and took his metal detector down to the mine to hunt for nuggets. He had found some nuggets before in the front part of the mine, but now he was going to have to go deeper into it in hopes of finding some more. He was wearing his helmet light and was carrying a battery lantern as well. He had his backpack on with drinks, snacks, and a small pickaxe. He had his oxygen sensor on his belt and his “Gold Bug 2” metal detector slung over his shoulder. When he got to the entrance to the mine, he took his backpack off and left it just inside out of the rain. He placed his satellite phone in the pack, got a drink and a snack out of the pack, and put them in his coat pocket. He then headed into the mine.
He was far enough into the mine that there was no light except for his lantern. The mine was cold and damp, and he could feel the cold soaking into his bones already. “This sixty-five-year-old body sure isn’t going to be able to stay in here real long today,” he said. “Here’s the mark on the wall where I left off the last time I was here. I need to set my lantern off to the side, so it will light up the area I’m going to be working and turn my headlight on.”
His oxygen sensor was beeping about once a minute, meaning the air was getting a little low on oxygen. “I’ll be all right as long as the sensor isn’t beeping solid, and if it does the air will kill me in about ten minutes from lack of oxygen,” he said. “I’ll hunt until the sensor starts beeps about every twenty seconds. Then I’ll head out to be on the safe side.”
He had been searching with the metal detector for about thirty minutes when he got a solid signal. He carefully pinpointed the signal and proceeded to dig the target out of the mine wall. Once he had it uncovered and in his hands, he could tell that it was about a four-gram nugget. “Man, if there is one, there should be some more. I need to really look hard around here with a fine toothcomb.” The time seemed to slip away from him while he was searching the area.
Suddenly there was a loud noise from the entrance that shattered his eardrums, and he felt a force hit him in the middle of his back throwing him hard against the wall. Just then the whole mine started to shake. Dirt, dust, and rocks fell from the roof. The walls crumbled all around him. He felt a couple of rocks hit him on his helmet, buckling his knees and knocking him down to the ground. There were more and more rocks of all sizes falling all around and on him, pinning him to the ground. The dust was so thick in the air, he couldn’t see, and it was choking him. Then there was a stabbing pain in his legs. He tried to move them, but he couldn’t. His left arm was pinned behind him by some rocks. He was finally able to reach his handkerchief with his right hand and place it over his mouth and nose. He was now able to breath a little easier, and the air wasn’t choking him as much.
The mine was pitch black except for his helmet light that was lying on the ground beside him. The cave-in must have buried his lantern. The dust was so thick he couldn’t see two feet in front of him, and it made his eyes burn. He managed to free his left arm and was feeling down his legs to find out why he couldn’t move them. There was at least one large rock lying on his left leg along with a bunch of smaller ones on both of his legs.
Holding the handkerchief with his left hand, he placed his helmet back on his head to protect himself from any more rocks that might fall. He then was able to move most of the smaller rocks off of his legs, but he couldn’t budge the large rock. “It’ll take at least two people to move that rock. My left leg feels as if it is broken, and without some help, I won’t be able to get out of here alive.”
As the dust settled, he could see that the cave-in had blocked the mineshaft between him and the entrance. There was nothing he could do to free himself. He could only pray that help would come and rescue him in time. The oxygen sensor was now beeping about once every forty seconds. “The oxygen level is falling, and I don’t know how long I’ve got before it gets really bad. I need to try and relax to save what little oxygen I have. It’s a good thing that I told my houseguest I was coming into the mine. She might have heard the cave-in and come to investigate.”
He turned off his headlight, saving the battery, and got a drink out of his pocket along with a snack. While he was eating the snack there in the dark, he kept thinking about how he got here and all the reasons why he wanted to live. If he got a second chance, he would sure make quite a few changes in his life.
Flapjack was sitting in the leather chair, looking at the diplomas on the walnut paneled walls, they read, “Arthur Jamieson; Attorney at Law”. The man setting across the table from him made eye contact and said, “Hello, I’m Mark Foster, Uncle George’s nephew.” Mark reached over the table to shake hands. “As far as I know, I’m his only living relative. I came up here to Anchorage from San Francisco to settle his estate. You must be Flapjack, I’ve heard a lot about you. You don’t look like you’re sixty-five, your hair is still pretty red.”
“I remember George talking fondly about you and your mother,” Flapjack said. Well your mother anyway, God rest her soul. George never had much use for you. “I was sure sorry to see old George pass away; he was my best friend and the best partner anyone could ever have, and he always treated me like a brother. He was the only family I’ve knew for the last twenty-five years. We shared a cabin together for years until I built my own ten years ago.”
“I remember mom saying something about Uncle George selling you the mineral rights and an acre of land for you to build a cabin on, up on Jackrabbit creek. I’m not sure I understand what all of that means, but then that was Uncle George.”
Suddenly the large walnut door opened, and in walked Arthur Jamieson. He was an elderly man with white hair and a very rigid stance. As the lawyer’s black eyes made contact with his, Flapjack felt a chill go down his spine. Arthur nodded and then turned to Mark and said, “Good morning, gentlemen, we’re here to read the will of George Butler. I can tell both of you that his real estate will be divided between you two. There are certain conditions that must be met before either one of you can take legal title. Oh I’m sorry. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning. I can read you the will in its entirety with all of the legal jargon, or I can just tell you what it says in plain English.”
“I would just as soon hear the short form of the will as long as it’s legal,” said Flapjack.
“I’m inclined to agree with Flapjack,” Mark said.
“Very well, gentlemen, here in a nutshell is what George wanted done. The land, which is one hundred sixty acres, is to stay as one parcel, being split equally between the two of you. Flapjack gets the upper half of the land along Jackrabbit creek, including the acre around his cabin, which is legally his already. Flapjack also legally owns the mineral rights to the upper half of the property that he bought from George some ten years ago. Mark is to receive the lower half, including George’s cabin, his out buildings, and all of his belongings.
“In order for either one of you to get legal title to the land, you must physically live on the land for a full year. Also during that year period, if you both agree, you can sell the land, but you must sell all of the land at one time. Furthermore, the land must remain in one parcel until after the year, at which time it will become two parcels. If either one of you fail to live on the land the required time or one of you dies, the remaining one inherits it all.
“George left all of his money to charity. Now those are the high points. If you want more details, please feel free to ask,” Arthur said.
“Now the way I understand what you just said is, I get half of the land if I live on it for one year. I can’t sell my half during that year unless Flapjack agrees to sell his half also. After the year I can do anything I want with my half. If I don’t live on it or I die during that year, Flapjack gets it all. Is that right?” Mark said.
“That’s true as long as Flapjack is still living on the land. If he isn’t, then it all goes to charity. By the same rules, if Flapjack doesn’t live on it or dies during that year, you would get it all if you were still living on it.”
“What about the mineral rights. What happens to them in case Flapjack dies?” Mark asked.
“The terms of that sale were they would revert back to the land in the event of his death. The only way Flapjack can sell the mineral rights is by selling the land also. Is there anything else you want cleared up, Mark?”
“Basically, the land is all that I get. I get no money, right?”
“Well the land, the cabin, and all of George’s belongings, but no money, right. Flapjack, you’ve been awful quiet. Do you have any questions?”
“I get to keep on doing what I’ve been doing for the last twenty-five years, like I’ve always wanted to do, right?” Flapjack said.
“Yes, and in one year, you’ll own the upper eighty acres.”
“I’m good to go then. Do I need to sign any papers?”
“My secretary will bring the conditional deed transfers for you and Mark to sign if you agree to the terms of George’s will. There will be some tax forms, but she’ll have them all ready for you,” Arthur said. He then pressed the intercom button and said, “Stephanie, will you bring George Butler’s papers in please?”
This very attractive young lady came with her arms loaded with papers for them to sign. “This stack is for you to sign, Flapjack. There are three copies of everything. Please be sure to sign and date all three copies. Oh well, here, I’ll just show you where to sign and then I’ll help Mark with his,” Stephanie said. She showed Flapjack where to sign each copy and told him the date was May 28, 2007. When he was done, she notarized all of the papers. She then proceeded to show Mark and notarize his. They soon had all of the papers signed, dated, and notarized and were ready to leave.
“Flapjack, how about you and me going down the street and I’ll buy coffee and we can have a nice talk about all of this?” Mark said
“I really don’t really see any reason to, but if you’re buying,
I’ll listen for a while,” Flapjack said. Man, what kind of a fool idea
has this kid got up his sleeve now?
They went down the street to Sourdough Sally’s Café. Mark picked a table in the back of the room. Sally came over and said, “What’s it going to be this morning, gents? Are you going to eat or just have coffee?”
“I’ll just have a cup of coffee, cream and sugar,” Mark said.
“I’ll have a cup of coffee, black and a piece of apple pie with ice cream,” Flapjack said. “I never turn down a chance to have pie whenever I’m in town.” As Sally left, Flapjack said, “Kid, what have got on your mind that you want to talk to me about so bad?”
“I know Uncle George never thought very highly of me, but I’m a lot older now, and I hope a lot wiser. I assume that you’re going to continue doing what you have for all these years. Working your part of the land.”
“Well, you’re right. I’m going to do the same thing I’ve been doing for the last twenty-five years, living on the land and working it for gold, until the day I die. If I die out in the creek running my dredge, then I’ll die a happy man.”
“So you have no plans to sell the land now or in the future, right?” Mark said.
“You’re pretty smart. You figured that out real quick, didn’t you? According to the will, if I don’t sell, you can’t sell for at least one year unless I die, and the good lord willing, I’m going to live a long time.”
“I hope you live another twenty-five years. I’m going to try and live on my part of the land for the year and then see how I feel at that time. There are a lot of things about the land that I really like. I need to look it over real close and see what opportunities I can find,” Mark said. “I’m hoping that you might show me how to run a dredge and how to use a metal detector. Who knows, I might even catch gold fever myself. I’m really looking forward to living on the land with you.”
“Well, we won’t be living together in the same cabin, and you won’t be able to live in George’s old cabin. It’s in pretty bad shape. George asked me to help you if you wanted any help before he died. I gave him my word I would. I can show you how to run the dredge and how to use a metal detector sometime, but I doubt you’ll ever catch gold fever.”
“I had a good look at the cabin before I came here. You’re right. There’s no way I could live in it. I’m planning on having my motor home shipped up and living in it for a while. With a satellite hookup, I’ll be able to work from there most of the time, needing to make a few trips back home to check on the business, from time to time.”
“It’s good you’re going to give it a go up here, but I don’t think you’re going to be able last the year. Now if there isn’t anything else you want to talk about, I’ll be leaving. I’ve got some things to take care of here in town before I head back,” Flapjack said as he stood up.
“I just wanted to get your thoughts on the land, and now that I’ve gotten them, I can move forward with my plans. It’s been nice talking to you. I’ll see you up on the land in a couple of weeks. Thanks again,” Mark said as he stood up and shook Flapjack’s hand.
After shaking Mark’s hand, Flapjack turned and walked out of the café.
Man, that wasn’t a very firm handshake; you’ve got to watch a weak hand
shaker. He won’t last a year.
Flapjack went out of the café and got into his truck. Then drove up to the north part of town, to North’s Gold Exchange. Before getting out of the truck, he combed his hair and straightened his clothes. As he was walking towards the store, his usual frown gradually turned into a slight smile. His green eyes seemed to get a little brighter as he opened the door and walked in. The clerk was bent over rearranging the display in the counter. She pushed her blonde hair back from her face to see who had just come in. When she recognized Flapjack, her face lit up, and her blue eyes started to sparkle.
“Flapjack, you’re a sight for sore eyes. To what do I owe this pleasant surprise?” Clara said.
“Well Clara, I just happened to be in the neighborhood, and thought I would stop by,” Flapjack said.
“Liar, liar, pants on fire. You’re only about three hundred and eighty miles from home, so I assume you were in town for some other reason. You’re too tight to drive all this way just to see me when you know I’m going to be in Jackrabbit next week, just like always.”
“Ah kid, you know me too well. I was trying to impress you.”
“I just love it when you call me kid. It makes me feel so young. Even though I’m only ten years younger than you.”
“Well, really, I had to come into town for the reading of George’s will.”
“Honey, I sure was sorry to hear about him passing away. I know the two of you were like bothers. How did the reading turn out?”
“George left all of his money to charity, which was fine with me. The one hundred sixty acres that I should have gotten, he split it between his nephew Mark and me. We have to live on it for one year before we get title to our half. Before that, neither one of us can sell without the other one selling too. Should either one of us leave, or die, the other one gets it all. That city slicker nephew of his, wanted to sell it, but I said no, leaving him no other choice than to try to live on the land. I think the chances of my getting it all are very good. He’ll never be able to live there for a year.”
“It sounds as if you’re going to keep staying there and working the gold as always. You know you could move down here with me and help me run the Exchange,” Clara said.
“That’s a might fine offer, but you know how my nerves get on edge after being here more than a day at a time. I’m no longer my pleasant smiling self. I become grumpy, mean, and hateful,” Flapjack said.
“Have you looked into the mirror lately honey? Ask anybody. That’s the way you are all the time, except when you’re with me. I guess I would rather have you happy for a little while than unhappy all of the time.”
“Enough of this mushy stuff I’ve got some business to transact. Then we can get personal,” Flapjack said. “What are you paying for fine gold today?”
“Honey, you know I always give you spot, and I don’t even deduct any for impurities. Today’s spot was $936.74,” Clara said. “Let me weigh your gold, and we’ll see how much you’ve got.”
Handing her his leather pouch, he said, “Here’s my poke. My scales say there’s 2.5 ounces in there.”
“Why do you still use this old leather pouch?”
“The leather is soft and easy to carry, and if you drop it, it won’t break.”
Weighing the gold, she said, “You’re a little light. I get 2.54 ounces, which is about your usual amount. Figuring spot that comes to $2379.32. You know I’m going to have to give you a check, right? I don’t keep that much cash on hand for good reasons.”
“That’s why I’m in here early enough to get to the bank and cash your check. After that, I thought I would come back about closing time and take you out to dinner. Later we could go over to your place for dessert and breakfast in the morning,” Flapjack said with a smile on his face.
“You silver tongue rascal. You know you don’t have to take me out to dinner. We could just eat at my place. You’re always welcome, and you know it.”
“I like taking you to dinner when I get to town. Besides it’s not fair for you to have to cook every time we get together.”
“If cooking was what it took to get you to come see me, then I would be happy to cook for you every day,” she said. “Here’s your check, and I’ll be looking for you at closing time. I hope the time between now and then flies by.”
“I’m going down to the bank and cash this check, go buy my monthly supplies, and then I’ll be back. See you later, Clara.”
“Okay honey, I’ll be waiting,” she said as he turned and walked towards the door.
Flapjack drove over to his bank and went inside. When it was his turn at the window, he cashed his check and said, “I need to have access to my safety deposit box as usual.” He went back into the vault with a couple leather pouches and was back there for about ten minutes. On his way out, he said, “I’m done back there. Thanks, Maryann. I’ll see you again in a couple months.” He then went to the supermarket to buy his supplies for the month. He had to make a couple of more stops to get some new clothes and some parts for his dredge. He got back to the Exchange a little early, and Clara was busy with a couple of customers.
“Hey kid, I’m going to go into the back room and rest until you’re closed. If I fall asleep, you wake me up when you’re ready to go. It’s been a very trying day, and I’m looking forward to a calm pleasant evening with you,” Flapjack said, as he went though the door into the back room and lay down on the cot.
“I’ll second that,” Clara said to him as he headed towards the back room.
After Clara closed the Exchange, they went out to a nice restaurant overlooking the bay and had a very nice seafood dinner. They went back to Clara’s place afterwards, and spent the rest of the evening in each other’s company.
Clara fixed Flapjack a real nice breakfast in the morning before she had to go open the Exchange for the day. Afterwards Flapjack kissed her and said, “I’ll see you in a week when you’re making your rounds and stop at Jackrabbit. I really enjoyed last night, and I want to thank you. You know I hate goodbyes, and so I’m out of here. See you later, kid.” He turned and walked out to his truck. Throwing his stuff behind the seat, he got in and drove off for home.