THE OPAL DAYS (2)

Post your true-blue Aussie yarns here.
Terry
Posts: 2722
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 6:53 pm

THE OPAL DAYS (2)

Post by Terry » Thu May 19, 2016 11:59 pm

THE OPAL DAYS (2)

A snapshot of Coober Pedy in the mid sixties
&
The Jeweler’s Shop mini miracle

The weather had been really hot that year and the town water tank went more or less dry .
one week both Gunther’s and my joint water allowance was restricted to 6 gallons of water; just for drinking. To add to the woes the water truck that was carting water from somewhere had broken down. At least before this we were allowed 20 to 30 gallons a fortnight between us if I remember right.
I remember we went down to the tank one day and they were cleaning it out while it was more or less empty. We were just a little shocked to see the number of drowned cats and dead crows that were fished out of it – I was later in my gold mining days to become quite familiar with fishing out parts of dead roo’s from the wells we used to get water from. Strangely enough I can’t remember ever getting ill from drinking bad water.
In later years they built a couple of distillation plants to help ease the water problems but neither were very successful. Eventually they discovered unlimited amounts of good bore water and these days there is no problem.
For the best part of the first couple of years at Coober Pedy we had no transport, if we wanted to go somewhere we walked – we were real battlers just struggling to survive between the odd small parcel we found, and when desperate we would go down in the old mines and noodle to keep the wolf from the door. Some of the old drives deep underground were hundreds of meters long and hooked up with many other old mines and once you got away from the shaft it was pitch black. There was one occasion when our carbide light went out and couldn’t be relit,
we crawled around if the darkness for what seemed hours before we eventually stumbled onto the right shaft where our rope was.
It was about this time when as usual funds were getting really low that we had a bit of luck. We were still living out on the flat in an old brush hut and it was as hot as hell, we’d wait until a tiny sliver of shade appeared mid afternoon to get a bit of relief (there wasn’t a tree in sight). Then if enough energy could be summoned up in the late afternoon we’d have a go somewhere to try and find a bit of opal.
This particular afternoon we decided to try our luck at the Jeweler’s Shop; an old field on the edge of town. The ground was really shallow at one end so we decided we’d both sink a shallow shaft each; but reckoned we were wasting our time.
I cleared away a couple of inches of loose dirt where I intended sinking my shaft, then swung my pick into the solid ground and immediately heard a sound like breaking glass. Thinking it must be rubbish of some sort I looked down at where I’d swung the pick and a lovely piece of red opal was glinting at me.
We soon realized that I had found a really shallow seam of opal, and it wasn’t crazed as you’d normally expect opal that had been so close to surface would be.
We quickly pegged a lease in case we were onto something good (in those days the mining rules were pretty easy going – but got a lot tougher in later years.
Meanwhile the seam kept going and spreading while getting slightly deeper. The opal itself was quite thin but really good colour and thickened up a little as it went.
We were just starting to think we were onto something really big then just as suddenly as it appeared it disappeared and despite sinking a few more shallow shafts we never found another piece. But we did get some really nice opal form the original patch which gave our meager funds a small boost.

©T. E. Piggott

Heather

Re: THE OPAL DAYS (2)

Post by Heather » Fri May 20, 2016 6:14 pm

That's a fantastic story Terry and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You have some wonderful stories to tell - perhaps they could sneak into your next book? They must have been hard days but exciting days. That must have given you a fright when your light went out. I've been in a gold mine when the lights go out - and there's nothing darker.

How long were you at Coober Pedy?

Heather :)

Terry
Posts: 2722
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 6:53 pm

Re: THE OPAL DAYS (2)

Post by Terry » Fri May 20, 2016 7:12 pm

Hi Matt & Heather
I was there around about 6 years; give or take a little, we eventually graduated to a dugout and had a short wheelbase Land-Rover.
I was thinking while writing this that it was about 50 years ago when this happened - no wonder I hobble a bit now.

I spoke to Gunther to make sure I had the water allowances right, and just talking to him and reminiscing about those day again brought back quite a few forgotten memories for both of us, there are so many stories about all sort of things that happened during that period.

I have no intention of writing anymore books Heather, but if I had it would have been mostly a book of true short stories with perhaps just the odd poem - but been there done that.

Cheers Terry

Heather

Re: THE OPAL DAYS (2)

Post by Heather » Fri May 20, 2016 7:22 pm

I was thinking of a collection of short stories Terry. Just keep on writing them anyway. You remember things from 50 years ago that most people wouldn't have a clue about and they are fascinating stories.

Heather :)

Terry
Posts: 2722
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 6:53 pm

Re: THE OPAL DAYS (2)

Post by Terry » Fri May 20, 2016 10:27 pm

I seem to have a thing about digging holes Heather.
I remember a trip to Queensland to try and buy some boulder Opal.
We had to do a fair bit of waiting around out at Opalton while waiting for to see people.

So naturally we sunk a shaft to while the time away.
Once again we hit opal; quite big stuff as well, unfortunately it was just very cheap electric blue and at that time pretty near worthless.

As a matter of interest this story I posted here was written to accompany a poem, but I have decided to hang on to the poem for awhile.

As for a book of short stories, I doubt there would be much demand these days for these sort of stories.

Terry

Vic Jefferies
Posts: 1041
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 8:21 am

Re: THE OPAL DAYS (2)

Post by Vic Jefferies » Sat May 21, 2016 10:57 am

Terry a terrific story that I enjoyed very much. What seems ordinary to us now (people of our vintage) is often very interesting to younger people who often have no idea of how we did things or how we lived in years gone past. I think there would be great interest if you were to produce a book of short stories about subjects such as this and those times.

Heather

Re: THE OPAL DAYS (2)

Post by Heather » Sat May 21, 2016 12:03 pm

Terry what you write are little snapshots into the past - it is history and I do think it would have a market in the tourist shops of Coober Pedy and other mining/tourist towns and certainly any historical societies in those areas would be interested in your reminiscences.

I am reading a book about the Ballarat gold days and Eureka (The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright) and i thought this following paragraph might interest you:

"By 1 September 1853, news of fresh gold strikes at Ballarat - 11- feed deep, tens of thousands of pounds worth of gold per hole - came whistling down the wire. These spectacular finds were dubbed the 'Jewellers' Shops', so seemingly effortless was it to reach into the earth and pull a fortune out."

It is staggering the amount of gold that came out of Ballarat in such a short time.

Heather :)

Terry
Posts: 2722
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 6:53 pm

Re: THE OPAL DAYS (2)

Post by Terry » Sat May 21, 2016 10:56 pm

G/day Vic & thanks for the kind remarks

You're probably right, finding the motivation to do it now is probably the biggest Problem mate.
I get the urge every now and again to write a short piece on something that comes to mind.

It's not that there is any shortage of stories, for just about Coober Pedy alone there are numerous yarns I could write about.
And the same applies relating to the many years I've spent gold prospecting.

But as I said getting motivated is the problem.

Cheers mate

Terry

Terry
Posts: 2722
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 6:53 pm

Re: THE OPAL DAYS (2)

Post by Terry » Sat May 21, 2016 11:28 pm

Hi Heather

Perhaps as you and Vic both say there is some interest now in stories and things happened 50 years or so ago.

As I mentioned to Vic getting motivated to write about it is the biggest problem.
I suppose the things I write about although exciting to us at the time weren't really that different to what many others had done back then - Though I suppose as you say they may be of interest to-day.

Yes Ballarat was incredibly rich as were many of the other Victorian fields fields.
I have read extensively about the gold rush days over there, the alluvial fields were fabulously rich and so many people made fortunes.
Vastly different to over here of course where the gold was scattered over a vast area of hostile arid country.

I intend to soon write a short story of how my wandering ways started - I think I was about seventeen when I packed my bags and headed east to explore the country - still wet behind the ears and as green as grass - I sometimes wonder how I managed to survive - To my shame my poor old dad was sure I was dead when he hadn't heard from me for such a long time.

Terry
Last edited by Terry on Sun May 22, 2016 3:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Terry
Posts: 2722
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 6:53 pm

Re: THE OPAL DAYS (2)

Post by Terry » Sun May 22, 2016 12:57 pm

Hi Again Heathe

Somehow I miss-read a part of your last post and somehow thought you had said you were writing about Ballarat - sorry about that.
I should read things a bit more carefully.

Fixed now.

Terry

Post Reply