i lived next to an abandoned mine in old superior, colorado. the site above the mine had been deemed too unstable for building houses. it had remained empty since Industrial Mine’s closing at the end of WWII. the area was now eerily empty except for white dead trees, mine dumps, decaying brick walls and mounds made by large rodents. signs on the barbwire enclosing the old mining grounds warned of bubonic plague-carrying prairie dogs. this was in 2008 when the great recession was just starting and the price of gold was about to double. around that time i began mining for gold and looking for treasure.
i bought a cheap metal detector and combed my yard for artifacts. thirty minutes after i had started i came upon a concentration of buried metal. i dug a hole. i found burnt newspaper, deformed toys, melted glass and an oval-shaped object. this darkened object was heavy and made of bronze. it was a little smaller than my palm. i ran my thumb over it and felt two embossed letters: US. i figured it was a relic from the civil war or perhaps the american armies posted on the western frontier. it may have belonged to a veteran, a kevin costner-type character. or maybe it was a keepsake from a participant of little bighorn. the artifact, i later learned, was an army issued plate that went on the ammunition cartridge of union riflemen.
why was it burned and buried with household trash? did it belonged to an unfaithful husband that had ran away? was it a painful reminder of a lost love? would i find the remnants of a soldier if i kept digging?
the clues to the mystery were to remain underground. i stopped my excavation when white dust started rising from hole and i suspected a cancer agent. i covered the site and moved on to search for gold in the mountains.
Charles Marion Russell. The Custer Fight. 1903.