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One Thumb Gold Miner - Scotty's C-Note Sham
I've remain in correspondence and phone contact with Jim Harris, who just turned ninety years of age in September and who appears to be the last surviving gold miner of Death Valley. He is sharp as a tack and must have a photographic memory because he cites times, dates, locations better than Google Search.  Smile

Here are two snippets from my last encounter with Diamond Jim Harris. (His father, Mike Harris liked to call his King Midas Mine,  The Diamond Jim Mine in honor of his only son who helped him mine the site.) 


Jim's father, Mike worked in a redwood sawmill in California prior to mining in Death Valley. While milling the redwood planks he was distracted by his supervisor and accidentally severed his left thumb and nearly bled to death before someone figured out how to tourniquet the wrist. Reattaching the thumb was not even considered in those days and Mike eventually healed.

For those who have visited and hiked up to The King Midas Mine and seen the mile long tramway line and the mine works just imagine working these extremely difficult and technical aspects "without one of your thumbs!" This really does blow me away. Jim and Mike engineered and installed that tram by themselves. Other miners told them that the tram had to have a straight line but in order to reach the mine from the anchor location it required a turning bypass around a jutting butte standing in the way. So Jim engineered the first tram cable "bend" bypass in Death Valley which still stands today and the tram cable is still taut and could probably still function carrying ore today. 

BTW - Jim would ride up to the mine in the ore bucket to save the long hike up the old mule trail. More on those adventures later. (Better than any amusement park ride ever!)


I asked Jim if he ever met Death Valley Scotty. He said he had not met him but had seen him in Beatty, NV in 1949-50. Jim's father, Mike had met Scotty but did not share a "glowing review of his character."  Here's Mike's story.

"It has been said he'd (Scotty) order drinks for everyone at a bar and then pay with a $100 dollar bill, which the bartender couldn't break (Drinks probably cost 15 - 25 cents) so the drinks were on the house. But once a bartender was wise to him and had enough $ in the till to break his $100 dollar bill. That was the end of those all-hands drinks ordered by Scotty." 

When time permits I have permission from Jim Harris to share more of his colorful history of mining gold in Death Valley. 

For more context to these stories here are two videos:


Life begins in Death Valley
"Jim's father, Mike had met Scotty but did not share a "glowing review of his character." "   Big Grin

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