PAT NEAL: There’s ‘gold’ in them thar ditches

THEY SAY AMERICA is a country divided and exploited by plundering gangs of panty-grabbing politicians eternally enthroned by an apathetic population of unregistered voters who get their fake news from the drive-by, lap-dog media.

I say if it ain’t fixed, don’t break it.

We should stand up for what’s right with America.

Instead of boo-hooing unsolvable problems we can’t afford to fix, we should look to our storied past to visualize our sustainable future.

We should remember our pioneer forefathers who journeyed from sea to shining sea as an experiment in democracy.

When viewed through the lens of history, today’s current events are no mystery.

It’s all been done before.

Col. James S. Coolican was a visionary promoter with a keen business sense.

He served as president of the Port Angeles Board of Trade and the Clallam County Immigrants Association.

By immigrants, Coolican did not mean the Chinese.

They were accused of taking jobs from Americans and smuggling opium.

The colonel wanted a “desirable class of immigrants,” northern Europeans along with any Englishman that cared to jump ship, and of course women to swamp out and cook in the logging camps.

We didn’t celebrate diversity back in 1897.

Coolican wrote about the “good time coming” in his promotional pamphlet, “Port Angeles: The Gate City of the Pacific Coast.”

“Veins of precious metals, ores and coal bulge out of the hillside,” the colonel said.

Gold Creek, Silver Lake and Oil City were named for the treasures soon to be found.

Coolican raised $10,000 from the locals to buy a genuine diamond drill and followed his coal-mining dreams up Tumwater Creek.

The colonel drilled 600 feet and found nothing but sand and gravel, which were readily available at the surface.

Except for some manganese, the North Olympic Peninsula was never much of a mining district until now.

As president of the Oil City Economic Development Council, I was hunting government grants to lessen America’s dependence on foreign energy sources by drilling for oil in Oil City.

Failing that, I found another source of mineral wealth that’s been hiding in plain sight for years.

It’s like the old log trucker said: For every mile of road, there are 2 miles of ditch.

These days, the ditches are filled to overflowing with a promising source of mineral wealth contained in the inexhaustible piles of empty cans and bottles that are now worth 10 cents apiece in Oregon.

While other forms of mining are burdened with obsessive government regulation, mining cans and bottles is under the radar.

Researchers retraced the resurgence of refuse to a migration of fishermen from all over the country and around the world.

Having been outlawed by civilized society, these fishing refugees came to the North Olympic Peninsula, where they were accused of taking fish away from the locals.

I’m not saying all the immigrant fishermen are litterbugs, but it seems like all the litterbugs fish here.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence their colorful spoor appeared at the start of fishing season, but researchers identified the genetic traits of the immigrant fisherman’s garbage by analyzing a sudden appearance of beer cans, chip sacks and empty “chew” containers shortly after opening day.

I’m sure fishermen don’t consider tossing garbage as anything more than leaving a piece of themselves for the rest of us to enjoy.

Who cares with Oregon’s new bottle bounty just waiting to be refunded?

It’s like the colonel said: “There’s a good time coming.”

Anyone with rubber gloves and a garbage sack can strike it rich in just a short section of ditch.

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Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal wildlife@gmail.com.