We’re going to Nome!

In June 2012 three of us are going to Nome, Alaska for the GPAA Alaska Gold Expedition at Cripple River Camp.
We already booked a reservation and also reserved three 4 wheelers.
I was watching a DVD movie series called “Alaskan” which shows everything that goes on there during the mining season. You can purchase the movie set here.

They have the sluice boxes for getting that fine beach gold, highbankers for shoveling fresh paydirt, various size dredges for the creeks, a vibration table for separating the gold from the black sand and a bunch of friendly people that operate everything. When we go up there, we will have a chance to experience all that stuff.

Some people like to go metal detecting in the pushes while others like to go out on their own in search of that hidden gold patch. There are countless  streams to pan and miles to drive around.

One person got 4 ounces of flour gold in 1 week from the beach. That’s a lot of work if you think about it.

Our main gold is to experience a little at a time. Each year we want to experience more Alaska gold mining. That is the plan anyway.

I will be running a 4 inch dredge which means I need to get myself a 7mm wetsuit before I go. That water will be ice cold.

I can’t wait to go fishing for a fresh salmon and be able to cook it right there. I haven’t done that in years.

Do I sound excited?

Cooler days ahead

At last, the end of the year approaches. The air is cooler and we can now resume gold prospecting activities. First order of business is to have fun!

I am going to ride the quad around and enjoy nature’s scenery and relax. I have been waiting months for this day. I won’t miss office life.

Gold Prospecting Trip 68

We came back to Rock Springs in search for more of that yellow metal we saw last time. We now have more equipment and more manpower.

We drove our equipment to and from the site with a Polaris Ranger RZR 4 800. It was very comfortable to ride and handled much better than a quad.

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It took about 45 minutes to get setup and ready. We pumped water from the nearby creek which was about 200 feet away. We used 1.5″ Discharge Hose. This hose is lightweight yet very tough and easy to transport. You can see the low pressure hose and foot valve go into a 5 gallon bucket. I drilled about 250 holes in that bucket to allow enough water to seep in. The purpose of the bucket is to keep the algae from building up too quickly around the foot valve and stopping water flow. We only needed to clean this once per hour versus once every five minutes. This helped a lot.

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(click on the picture to enlarge it)

The “little pump that could” had no problem pushing the water 200 feet going uphill. We ran it at 90% throttle for about 7 hours and used less than one tank of gas.

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Josh, Brandon and I worked at least 1.5 tons of material. One ton is forty 5 gallon buckets.

There is about two feet of sedimentary deposit lying on top of metamorphosed bedrock. Not sure where the source of gold originated from, but one old timer suggested it was deposited there about 30-35 years ago from a flood. I sampled many places around the bottom of the site and found no gold. It appears to be all in this hard packed sediment on this hill.


It was a clear day and hot. Next time I will suggest using shade cloth over the work site.

I will pan the concentrates later this week to see how much yellow metal was acquired.

Custom Floatable Dredge

Last week Josh and I went with a mining claim owner to a remote location near Bagdad, AZ and were shown a beautiful place where the water flows over exposed bedrock all year round and the potential for gold might still exist. We prefer being near water most of the year because not only is it relaxing, but it makes finding gold easier. The location is a bit far from Phoenix, but its worth the drive.

At one place we drove up with our 4 wheeler onto a herd of burros and took some pictures. As we left, one of the burros chased after us. Maybe it was being playful, but we did not want to find out. We had so much fun driving around.

We wanted to use our 3 inch Keene dredge/highbanker combo in the creek, but it was too deep for it. We decided to make it float and test it out the following weekend. I did some research and found a compatible Keene flotation device for it, but it would cost about $900. I though that was ridiculously high. I took some time to figure out a more affordable design.

It took a few minutes to think of a simplistic design and several hours later (with a little bit of trial and error) it was completed.

For about $110, we had all the supplies needed to make something workable.

My sister had a sewing machine and knew how to use it which saved a lot of time. That was the hardest part of the design.

The nylon fabric provides exterior protection to the boat and it needed to be stitched on skin tight. Without that, the boat would have sunk from being jabbed many times.

After all the stitching the next goal was to make a frame for the highbanker to sit upon. That was the easy part. Its just four boards that stretched across to evenly distribute the weight.

Lastly we needed to mount the motor above the sluice box. It sits perfectly on the metal bar at the tip of the sluice box. I fastened a strip of foam padding across the bar to keep the two metals from clanging together during operation. The motor mount came with the motor and I simply attached a long board on both sides to be used as an additional platform that can be easily adjusted if needed.

Yesterday Josh and I drove out to the claim again and tested our newly created floatation contraption for our 3 inch Keene dredge/highbanker combo. It was a success and was very stable. The Honda motor created nearly no vibration and it was not top-heavy. It looks unstable, but I assure you it was very much the opposite. I shoved it around and could not easily tip it over if I had wanted.

The sluice box was extended by a long green plastic container and affixed with two small bolts. The bottom of the container was cut off with a utility knife. We found it at walmart for only a couple bucks.

When the dredge was in use use it added about 30 more pounds of weight. We estimated it was under 120 pounds in weight. The boat was rated for 370 pounds. We also needed to add two 2×6 boards under the wood platform to distribute the weight even more and bring the entire platform slightly forward. It was then perfectly stable and even.

Most of the tailings from the hopper dropped on the back of the boat and bounced off, but next time I would add a board to direct the tailing off the boat.

The angle of the sluice box is obviously low in these pictures, but it was raised to the correct level later when we started using it. That did not make it top heavy.

We took turns dredging with our snorkel and masks for about 4 hours until we got a little sunburned.

The water was fairly warm, the breeze was cool and it was a good day.

Geocommunicator Mining Claim Maps discontinued

I just found out that geocommunicator.gov Mining Claim maps have been discontinued. They have a notice on their web site.

Well, I’m not that bummed. I stopped using it for locating mining claims after learning how inaccurate it was. I still used it as a tool to visualize the PLSS grid and SMA (Surface Management Agency) layers. It’s really no big deal that it is discontinued as there are other data sources available such as their Map Services API and LR2000. However if you are doing claim research, you really should be looking up information from your County Recorders office and LR2000. That is what BLM recommended to me.

After searching Google, I stumbled upon a link to another geocommunicator server that is hosting the Mining Claim maps. I’m not sure how long that link will be available.

Fortune Cookie

Today, I was sitting at my desk eating some Chinese food for lunch. After I finished, I opened up the fortune cookie to read what the paper said and found it rather interesting. I had to take a picture of it.

Could this be a sign of things to come?

(I used my other uneaten cookie as a prop)

Mining Claim Forms

I written this post to briefly explain the procedures for filing the paperwork for a new placer mining claim and the renewal of an existing placer mining claim.  I include our experiences and what we learned. It is intended as reference material for me. I should note that I live in Arizona and this information pertains to Arizona and may be incorrect for other states. This information specifically applies to the 2009 and 2010 assessment years.


Mining claim fees are due on or before September 1 each year.

The initial cost per mining claim (load or placer) is $140 + $35 location fee.

The annual cost is $140 per mining claim (load or placer).

The process of staking a new mining claim

In the 2010 assessment year, my friend Josh and I went out looking for gold in known gold-bearing areas. We sampled areas for placer (alluvial) gold using our recirculating mini-highbanker. When we found a place that was acceptable we first looked around for other claim markers to be sure someone else had not already claimed it. Its a good idea to look for private property signs and no trespassing signs too. I created a waypoint on our gps receiver and then we headed back home. Later while sitting in front of my computer, I downloaded the GPS waypoints into Google Earth and used the PLSS overlay to figure out where the claim is located.

I should note that GPS is very unreliable for accuracy. When you are saving waypoints, you should take into consideration that the coordinates could be a few hundred feet off. This is why I like to use Google Earth. It shows a map of the area, the PLSS grid and the waypoints data all together as layered information so I can judge with better accuracy using the PLSS grid which Township/Range/Section I was at.

I searched LR2000 and the County Recorder’s web site to see if that particular area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and also checked if it is open to be claimed.

**** UPDATE ****
Geocommunicator will no longer be available for mining claim research. It has been permanently discontinued by BLM. Use LR2000 instead.

The land appeared to be available for claiming so a few days later we went out to stake our claim.

By staking a claim we have legal rights to the minerals in the ground for 90 days starting from that day. We usually tap a 4 foot metal rebar into the ground and slide a white 5 foot capped pvc pipe over it. You can find the supplies from Home Depot. Make sure all the markers are at least 4 foot above the ground. Also put your information, date and corner coordinates at a center marker so if someone finds your claim they can identify the claim. You need 4 corner markers and and 2 center markers.

* It can take several hours to walk around and tap all your markers into the ground so you should dedicate a cool day for that and always bring someone else along for safety reasons. Don’t forget to bring plenty of drinking water.

Next thing to do is fill out the paperwork and write a check for the total amount, then mail it. ($189 per claim)

* The Bureau of Land Management will accept two forms of payment – bank check or credit card.

For the new placer mining claim, I had to fill out a Location Notice (MCF102), Mining Claim Map (MCF100a) and Maintenance Fee Form (MCF112).

Here is a real example of the paperwork we submitted for a mining claim

Gold Trail (PDF format)


You can also download this KML file so you can visualize the mining claim in Google Earth.

Google Earth KML (right-click save as, then open it with Google Earth)


It took about two weeks to get a new claim approved. When that happens, the BLM will assign an AMC serial number to the mining claim and stamp all the original paperwork and mail it back to you.

* The paperwork process can take longer sometimes.

After we receive the paperwork, I immediately mailed all the originals to the County Recorder office. There is a fee to record your documents and I sent along a bank check.

* The County Recorders office will accept two forms of payment – cash or bank check. It costs $14 per 5 page document set and $1 each page thereafter. You must include a cover letter describing what is to be recorded and  a return mailing address.  Note: the cover letter counts as a page.

**** UPDATE ****
Yavapai County Recorder has new fee change as of January 1, 2012 – CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

The County Recorder then makes a copy of your documents and gives you a record number for each set. It is then mailed back to you.

The County recorder must receive the paperwork before December 30. Fail to do so will invalidate your mining claim.
(Here is a copy of 43 US Code 1744 to prove that)

That is all you need to do.

The process of renewing an existing mining claim

In the middle of the 2009 assessment year we purchased a placer mining claim from somebody.

It was now our responsibility to renew the mining claim before September 1, 2009.

We spent a few months prospecting for gold on that property and also helped to keep it clean from trash other folks left behind or trash that blew onto it.

A small miner is someone who owns 10 or less mining claims (load or placer) nationwide. If you want to have more than 10 mining claims nationwide, then you are no longer considered a small miner.

The Bureau of Land Management may allow small miners to pay less for their mining claims if the small miner has spent at least $100 worth of work and improvements to the mining claim itself. It is an incentive for you to keep the land looking beautiful for others to enjoy. The normal annual price is $140 per mining claim, but if you qualify and are approved, you can pay $10 per mining claim instead of the full amount. If you feel that you may qualify, you need to send in Forms MFC108 (notarized) and Forms 3830-2 along with your renewal paperwork.

The renewal paperwork is just one form – MFC112.

Mail form MFC112 along with a bank check to the BLM.

Once they approve and mail the paperwork back, you need to to send the updated paperwork to the County recorder by December 30. Fail to do so will invalidate your mining claim. (Here is a copy of 43 US Code 1744 to prove that)

That is all you need to do.

Other Notes

– The Bureau of Land Management requires your paperwork to be mailed in by September 1 every year.

– You can file for a load and placer claim on the same location, but the mining claim forms and costs are still separate.

– If you fail to renew your mining claim (like we did recently), then you will receive a notice of abandonment from the BLM and you have to start the paperwork process all over again from scratch by submitting a new Location Notice, Mining Claim Map and Maintenance Fee Form + $189 – just as I explained above.

– If you want to claim some federal public land, but not do any work on it, then you need to file for Notice of Intention to Hold Mining Claims/Sites (MCF110) instead of MFC112.

– Only one person can claim 20 acres of land. Each quadrant of a section encompasses four 40 acre sections. So if you wanted to claim a 40 acre section of land, you need another person to be the co-claimant. Now both people can claim a whole 40 acre section. If both claimants decided to claim more than one 40 acre sections, you will need to give each claim a different name. The claim name does not need to be unique because every claim has a unique serial number that identifies it. Multiple claim names could be like “Lucky Strike 1, Lucky Strike 2”, etc..

– If you want to stake a claim in a national forest, then read the Forest Service Manual Chapter 2810 – MINING CLAIMS. If you intend on disturbing a significant amount of surface resources, you will need to send the District Ranger a Notice of Intention to Operate, then wait about 15 days for a response. The District Ranger will decide if approval of a Plan of Operations is needed. For more details, see the Code of Federal Regulations – Title 36 part 228.4 (November 2010 copy).

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This article was last updated on February 3rd, 2012

Searching for unclaimed land

NOTICE: This article is deprecated – BLM discontinued Geo Communicator

If you are researching areas in Geo Communicator for land that you may be able to claim mineral rights, then you will need to know the following fact before you begin.

Below is a picture of a section of the PLSS grid in Geo Communicator.

Our 40 acre placer mining claim is located in a particular section like this.

Its important to know that the BLM does not store in its database the exact 1/4 of 1/4 section of our 40 acre mining claim.

They only record it as 1/4 section in which I marked blue in the picture below. Thus, you or others might be misled into thinking that there are 4 x 40 acres of claimed land. This is a fundamental flaw in the way BLM chose to record mining claims in their computer system. We discussed this with the director of our local BLM office and found that they offer no way to fix this visually.

This is why you see load or placer mining claims on the map in so many areas. Part of the section may be unclaimed even though it does not look so.

Our actual 40 acre mining claim is marked with a red X in the image below.

So make this a lesson to you. What you see on Geo Communicator that appears to be claimed, may not in fact be claimed.

The way to know for sure is to search for recorded documents at the County Recorder Office and see if there are any Location Notices in relation to a particular area. Look at the Location Notice Map to see which part of a section is claimed. You will eventually figure out what areas of a section are claimed or not claimed. Each claim must have recorded either a Notice of Intention to Hold Mining Claims/Sites (MCF110) or Maintenance Fee Form (MCF112).

For a mining claim to remain valid, it must be staked and recorded by December 30 every year or else it is up for grabs by anyone. If staked, but not recorded, then it is considered abandoned and you have legal right to claim it.

For mining claims in Yavapai County, you can freely search and download any recorded documents on their web site. Use the Advanced search option to lookup a specific Section, Township and Range.

Gold Prospecting Trip 39

Its been a while since our last blog update. We’ve been on many prospecting trips since then and focused our efforts up north in areas of the Prescott National Forest to stay cool.

We have sampled many areas on unclaimed land and found several places where we have found gold in every pan. Most places had very little gold and all the locations we preferred to go were already claimed. Although we have not stumbled upon a bonanza, the adventure itself was worth every penny we put into each expedition.

Today we went to a location in the Prescott Forrest. It is a great day for being outdoors and we are excited because we brought the highbanker/dredge and 300 gallons of water with us. Our goal is to use the recirculating highbanker to process the material of the river bank. Originally we thought the water level would be too low for dredging, but when we arrived I could see plenty of water in the river so I dumped the 300 gallons of water. We found a place to park the vehicle and unload in an open area, but it required us to drive down a steep berm in which we thought was doable. We soon realized that the big truck we thought was invincible had easily succumbed to the nature of physics. It’s quite laughable – so go ahead.

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(click on the picture to enlarge it)

Some nice folks came over to help us out. We dug trenches for the tires and were eventually pulled out by a tow rope. I was absolutely exhausted from the entire ordeal and was glad it was over.

After we parked the vehicle, some folks helped us unpack and we brought everything and the kitchen sink down to the river. I setup the dredge in a particular location and began working on top of the bedrock of the river bank where there is a few inches of vegetation on top of the bedrock.

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The gold found there would mean it is flood gold that came from upstream somewhere. The surrounding rocks consist of rhyolite, granite, feldspar (potassium rich), quartz, hematite, chalcocite, magnetite, conglomerate, diorite, mica and pyrite. Overall, the rocks are mostly felsic and intermediate. We also discovered a nearby tunnel site from a previous metal detecting hike, but I was unable to find any information about it. The opening was closed with dynamite long ago.

We only had time to dredge about two hours before nightfall and covered very little ground. We ended up with about 1 gallon of cons.

Next day I stayed up late and classified the cons with an 8 mesh screen, then classified the result with a 30 mesh screen. I ended up with three sizes in which the 30 mesh will be used in the blue bowl and the other two sizes will be panned out by hand because I cannot process anything bigger than a 30 mesh in the blue bowl. I usually separate the material into 30, 50 and 100 mesh. I only did 30 mesh because I was doing a quick sample. Make sure you do at least 30 and 50 mesh material. The blue bowl comes with a manual that will explain everything you need to know.

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The blue bowl is what we primarily use for extracting gold from the cons because it is so much faster than panning it by hand. I always process the cons twice to ensure the most recovery of gold, however, there is the super fine gold that is not visible that will always escape the mechanical extraction processes and the only way to retrieve that is with the use of mercury. We don’t use mercury yet, but we save all the leftovers in a tub for future processing with mercury.

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You start by adding just 3 or 4 heaping teaspoons to the bowl. If you add anymore than that, then it will impair the water flow that creates the vortex and exponentially decrease efficiency.

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As the water swirls, the lighter material is forced upward in a vortex leaving behind the gold in a ring around the bottom so you can easily suck it up with a snuffer bottle. The light material is deposited into a bucket of water beneath the bowl and the excess water is reused. It’s a good invention that someone thought of and I’m glad they did because it sure beats panning!

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After the blue bowl has finished, you will see a ring of gold left over. Use the snuffer bottle to capture the gold. Repeat this process a few scoops at a time until all your material is finished.

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It is mandatory to use a cap full of Clay-Gone and a cap full of Jet Dry in the 10 gallons of water before you start because without this you will lose a lot of fine gold in the recovery process. Both of these are surfactants that reduce the surface tension of the water.

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(click on the picture to enlarge it)

After I “blue-bowled” the 30 mesh material, I panned the 8 mesh and the pebbles by hand. In the end, we ended up with a small amount of gold that is probably not worthy to be put on our electronic scale, but it is sure good to see the gold in all its splendor. Hey Josh – do you still have that magnifying glass? :p

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(click on the picture to enlarge it)

Keep in mind that we did not dredge as much as we wanted, but we have so much more time in the future to go back and enjoy the beauty of nature and its precious minerals.

The Miners’ Ten Commandments

While we were in Stanton, AZ we went into the main office and saw a paper on the wall that stated “The Miners’ 10 Commandments”. Kinda funny. Now I have official guidance for my life as a gold miner. It appears I already broke the first commandment. Well, now that I read on, it seems I broke a few more commandments. Oops!


Thou shalt have no other claim than one.


Thou shalt not make unto thyself any false claim, nor any likeness to a mean man, by jumping one: for I, a miner, am a just one, and will visit the miners around about, and they will judge thee; and when they shall decide, thou shalt take thy pick, thy pan, thy shovel and thy blankets with all thou hast and shall depart seeking other good diggings, but thou shalt find none. Then when thou hast paid out all thy dust, worn out thy boots and garments so that there is nothing good about them but the pockets, and thy patience is like unto thy garments, then in sorrow shall thou return to find thy claim worked out, and yet thou hath no pile to hide in the ground, or in the old boot beneath thy bunk, or in buckskin or in bottle beneath thy cabin, and at last thou shalt hire thy body out to make thy board and save thy bacon.


Thou shalt not go prospecting before thy claim gives out. Neither shalt thou take thy money, nor thy gold dust, nor thy good name, to the gaming table in vain; for monte, twenty-one, roulette, faro, lansquenet and poker, will prove to thee that the more thou puttest down the less thou shalt take up; and when thou thinkest of thy wife and children, thou shalt not hold thyself guiltless—but insane.


Thou shalt not remember what thy friends do at home on the Sabbath day, lest the remembrance may not compare favorably with what thou doest here. Six days thou mayst dig or pick; but the other day is Sunday; yet thou washest all thy dirty shirts, darnest all thy stockings, tap thy boots, mend thy clothing, chop the whole week’s firewood, make up and bake thy bread, and boil thy pork and beans, that thou wait not when thou returnest from thy long-tom weary. For in six days’ labor only though canst do it in six months; and though, and thy morals and thy conscience, be none the better for it; but reproach thee, shouldst thou ever return with thy worn-out body to thy mother’s fireside.


Though shalt not think more of all thy gold, and how thou canst make it fastest, than how thou will enjoy it after thou hast ridden rough-shod over thy good old parents’ precepts and examples, that thou mayest have nothing to reproach thee, when left ALONE in the land where thy father’s blessing and thy mother’s love hath sent thee.


Thou shalt not kill; neither thy body by working in the rain, even though thou shalt make enough to buy physic and attendance with; nor thy neighbor’s body in a duel, or in anger, for by “keeping cool,” thou canst save his life and thy conscience. Neither shalt thou destroy thyself by getting “tight,” nor “stewed,” nor “high,” nor “corned,” nor “half- seas over,” nor “three sheets in the wind,” by drinking smoothing down—”brandy slings,” “gin cocktails,” “whiskey punches,” “rum toddies,” nor “egg-noggs.” Neither shalt thou suck “mint juleps,” nor “sherry- cobblers,” through a straw, nor gurgle from a bottle the “raw material,” nor take “it straight” from a decanter; for, while thou art swallowing down thy purse, and the coat from off thy back thou art burning the coat from off thy stomach; and if thou couldst see the houses and lands, and gold dust, and home comforts already lying there—”a huge pile”—thou shouldst feel a choking in thy throat; and when to that thou addest thy crooked walkings thou wilt feel disgusted with thyself, and inquire “Is thy servant a dog that he doeth these things!” Verily, thou shalt say, “Farewell, old bottle, I will kiss thy gurgling lips no more; slings, cocktails, punches, smashes, cobblers, nogs, toddies, sangarees and juleps, forever farewell. Thy remembrance shames one; henceforth, I cut thy acquaintance, and headaches, tremblings, heart-burnings, blue devils, and all the unholy catalogue of evils that follow in thy train. My wife’s smiles and my children’s merry-hearted laugh, shall charm and reward me for having the manly firmness and courage to say NO. I wish thee an eternal farewell.”


Thou shalt not grow discouraged, nor think of going home before thou hast made thy “pile,” because thou hast not “struck a lead,” nor found a “rich crevice,” nor sunk a hole upon a “pocket,” lest in going home thou shalt leave four dollars a day, and going to work, ashamed, at fifty cents, and serve thee right; for thou knowest by staying here, thou mightst strike a lead and fifty dollars a day, and keep thy manly self respect, and then go home with enough to make thyself and others happy.


Thou shalt not steal a pick, or a shovel, or a pan from thy fellow-miner; nor take away his tools without his leave; nor borrow those he cannot spare; nor return them broken, nor trouble him to fetch them back again, nor talk with him while his water rent is running on, nor remove his stake to enlarge thy claim, nor undermine his bank in following a lead, nor pan out gold from his “riffle box,” nor wash the “tailings” from his sluice’s mouth. Neither shalt thou pick out specimens from the company’s pan to put them in thy mouth or pocket; nor cheat thy partner of his share; nor steal from thy cabin-mate his gold dust, to add to thine, for he will be sure to discover what thou hast done, and will straightaway call his fellow miners together, and if the law hinder them not, will hang thee, or give thy fifty lashes, or shave thy head and brand thee, like a horse thief, with “R” upon thy cheek, to be known and read of all men, Californians in particular.


Thou shalt not tell any false tales about “good diggings in the mountains,” to thy neighbor that thou mayest benefit a friend who had mules, and provisions, and tools and blankets he cannot sell,—lest in deceiving thy neighbor, when he returneth through the snow, with naught save his rifle, he present thee with the contents thereof, and like a dog, thou shalt fall down and die.


Thou shalt not commit unsuitable matrimony, nor covet “single blessedness;” nor forget absent maidens; nor neglect thy “first love;”—but thou shalt consider how faithfully and patiently she awaiteth thy return; yea and covereth each epistle that thou sendest with kisses of kindly welcome—until she hath thyself. Neither shalt thou cove thy neighbor’s wife, nor trifle with the affections of his daughter; yet, if thy heart be free, and thou dost love and covet each other, thou shalt “pop the question” like a man.

A new Commandment give I unto thee—if thou has a wife and little ones, that thou lovest dearer than life,—that thou keep them continually before thee, to cheer and urge thee onward, until thou canst say, “I have enough—God bless them—I will return.” Then from thy much-loved home, with open arms shall thy come forth to welcome thee, with weeping tears of unutterable joy that thou art come; then in the fullness of thy heart’s gratitude, thou shalt kneel together before thy Heavenly Father, to thank him for thy safe return. AMEN—So mote it be.


James M. Hutchings (1818-1902)