Barbara Banta Stakes Mining Claim

First Treasures

Digging is instinctive with children. As a child, all I needed was an old spoon and I'd dig happily in the dirt for hours. If a spoon wasn't available, I'd scrape away with a sharp stone, or a stick.

Although it was many years ago, I can still distinctly recall the reasons for digging and the emotions that accompanied my actions. Growing up before the age of technology, I had heard that if I dug deep enough I would reach China. Well, not ME----I knew I couldn't dig that far with a spoon--but the POSSIBILITY of someone being able to dig that far existed, I was certain.

I gave up on China, (the dilemma over whether the Chinese would be found walking about upside down on their heads was too much for my young mind to face) but there were other reasons to keep digging: adventures and riches awaited, the earth held treasures, knowledge and mysterious stories . I unearthed strange rocks sparkling with mica, flint layered like strudle, red and black pigmented rocks that could draw on cement. A lead soldier, buried in a long forgotten war forced me to ponder who had come before me.

My favorite finds were mud-encrusted marbles. Rubbed on my overalls, they emerged as pristine as the day they'd been lost, but I was quick to hide the milky-white and green or red agate in my pocket before any boy could see or, invariably, my treasure would be claimed as their favorite shooter lost in that precise spot.

My friends and I dug holes with connecting tunnels and called them towns, unknowingly imitating ancient cave-dwelling ancestors. Weeds were left to serve as trees, excavated dirt became hills and look-out towers. No adult needed to remind us of the dangers in our world. We knew that at any minute, a giant spider or centipede could send our lilliputian townsfolk scurrying from their underground homes, or a disgruntled playmate could turn on us and pound our intricate network with a Gulliver heel, bringing it all crashing down.

I began by stating that digging is instinctive with children, but is it still, or are they so plugged into video games, computers and cell phones that a spoon and a a few square feet of earth holds no fascination for them? In my crowded town, how many of them even have the luxury of a backyard?

Children must fit the timeframe into which they're born. I'm happy I was born into mine, and even happier that I still get the chance to dig in the dirt when gardening, as well as to dig metaphorically with thought, memories, and words in the Alluvial Mine at Soul Food. There are always the possibilites of cave-ins and fearful shadows deep in the dark, but there will also be treasures to retrieve and wondrous stories that have lain buried for years.

By Barbara Banta

The Alluvial Mine is the property of Heather Blakey and Miners who have generously shared their work. Please do not replicate any part of this mine without written permission.