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There’s Gold in Shingle Mill Creek

Rod Thurston and his wooden bike. Courtesy of the Vashon Heritage Museum
Rod Thurston and his wooden bike. Courtesy of the Vashon Heritage Museum

It was first whispered at school that there was gold in Shingle Mill Creek.  So, Kit Bradley and Mike and I jumped on our bikes to find Rod Thurston to see if he might know.  Rod was older than dirt, rode a bicycle with a bunch of dowsing sticks clamped down tight behind his seat, and lived in a tar paper shack down Ridge Road.  Rod dug wells for a living and if he didn’t hit water in 20 feet, he would give you your $25 back.  He told us kids that dowsing was divining water and how he could feel the pull of the forked stick as he searched a person’s property for water.  It sounded kind of religious to us, but we were respectful and listened.  When we asked him about the gold in Shingle Mill, he said that he had heard that a long time ago some Chinese were running a shaker box up the creek a ways.  We didn’t know what a “shaker box” was, but if the Chinese were using one, we thought it must have been making them money.

Captain Weideman was a Captain in the Grace Lines and made regular trips to Peru and Ecuador, always bringing home souvenirs for friends and neighbors, such as a stack of copper gold pans  which he gave to Mom, who everybody called Corb, because her maiden name was Corbaley.  We guessed that the smaller pans were used for creeks and the big pans for rivers.   Either way, we borrowed one of Mom’s gold pans and headed for the creek.  The cards on our bike wheels were ready to go and announce our presence all the way from Cove to Cedarhurst, where we were going to start the Shingle Mill  gold rush.  We gained speed on the straight-of-way through Colvos and headed for the blind curves of Cedarhurst where we drove on both sides of the road because there were no cars coming the other way.  

There was a lot of sand at the mouth of the creek, so we hiked into the canyon to find those glittering little specks that told us we had gold.  I watched Kit as he found a back eddy and scooped some of the black sand from the bottom of the creek.  Rod had told us to look for the black sand, because that was where you found gold.  Kit was swishing and rolling the sand around the bottom of the pan when Mike yelled: “There’s gold, I see it,” as another swirl rolled by the bottom of Kit’s pan and the gold disappeared.  “There it is again,” Mike said, and Kit stopped to stare at the fine line of black sand between the edge and side of the pan.  “Eureka,” Kit yelled, “We’ve found gold.”  Kit had a little glass pill bottle and a pair of tweezers to pick the flakes out of the pan with.   After three hours of panning, we headed home with four little specks that weren’t worth a penny at $35 per ounce and Dad said they were probably pyrites or fool’s gold.