Al Jones: Recall offers path back to picture rock
In recent weeks The Union has printed several “Other Voices” columns on reopening the Idaho-Maryland Mine. Except for those written by Rise Gold President Ben Mossman, these commentaries typically recite the same reasons for why the answer should be “no.”
Mr. Mossman is no doubt inspired by Nevada County legend Errol MacBoyle, last operator of the Idaho-Maryland. As described by Gage McKinney in “MacBoyle’s Gold,” financial interests from New York had run the mine for years, poorly. They stopped pursuing any gold-bearing vein that pinched down despite evidence from the Empire and the North Star that it paid to follow pinched veins until they opened up again.
As soon as MacBoyle took over, he directed his men to drive a crosscut through the pinched-out zone. On Christmas Day 1927, Errol and his wife, Glen, were sitting at a spartan dinner when his foreman ran up to their house. “Mac! Come down in the mine, Mac”! The miners had fired the miracle round, reconnecting the played-out workings with the Dorsey Footwall and the rich Eureka-Idaho-Maryland vein that lay above it.
The Idaho-Maryland thrived through the Great Depression, employing hundreds and keeping local businesses alive amid the economic catastrophe afflicting the world. Occasionally the blasting uncovered “picture rock” — huge nuggets of gold embedded in the quartz, suitable for photography and display.
MacBoyle’s kind of entrepreneurial spirit combined with our most marvelous climate built the state of California:
— It began with mining in the Gold Rush.
— The railroads came next, paid for in part with the gold.
— Agriculture grew rapidly, using the railroads to make California into America’s garden. Grapes grown in California rival in quality those of the greatest wine regions of France.
— Oil, California’s black gold, exceeded in production only by Texas.
— Hollywood, drawn from the frozen East by the mild climate. You’re beautiful baby — don’t ever change.
— Aerospace. Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, built in San Diego. Douglas airliners. The upper stages of the Saturn V, built by North American and Douglas in California.
— Technology, inventing the microchip, turning San Jose into Silicon Valley and bringing Charles Litton to Nevada County.
— Tourism. The little cable cars climbing halfway to the stars. Space Mountain at Disneyland. The Pacific Coast Highway and Big Sur.
Most states would be glad to have one bonanza industry. In 1975, California owned several. Embracing both staid cattle ranchers and Haight-Ashbury hippies, we were the envy of the nation, the most dynamic and innovative and creative society ever seen in the United States.
A steadily mounting burden of taxation and regulation has dimmed our state’s golden luster since then.
Money for infrastructure disappears into pension costs for an enlarged cadre of government employees.
Environmental statutes become weapons to preclude building of any kind.
In our desire to be compassionate, we allow homeless people to live in squalor rather than bringing them to safety.
Each policy might be well-intentioned, but cumulatively they have changed California from a place that welcomed innovation to one that appears hostile.
Mineral mining has stopped. Drilling for oil is threatened. Mergers have reduced the aerospace footprint. The Silicon Valley hardware makers make their hardware someplace else. Hollywood shoots its movies someplace else. Tourists tell stories of smash-and-grab break-ins. Agriculture is threatened by the perpetual water shortages.
Many quality middle-class jobs have left our state. Instead, in a reminder of feudal medieval Europe, we have super-rich lords living in gated Palo Alto mansions and serfs eking out a living in the Marysville rice fields.
It took decades for California to descend from the shining star of the West into a government-engineered morass. We will not dig out in a day.
We could begin, though, by signaling to our political leadership that we don’t like things the way they are. The tool lies before us right now — the upcoming recall election.
Recalling a Democrat governor runs no risk of turning California Republican. Still, even the year until the 2022 election under a young and ambitious Republican governor would give our state government the shakeup that it needs.
It would be the miracle round that unveils the picture rock, a path to restoring the golden luster to our state.
Al Jones lives in Grass Valley.
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