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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nancy Twinkie and the Pan of Frozen Gold

Back in the last time when the price of gold took off in 1980 in the coldest day in February I got a call from NBC-TV asking if I could give a demonstration of gold panning for NBC News.  I agreed to meet them the next morning to put on the demonstration under the Satan’s Kingdom Bridge in New Hartford one of the few places in Connecticut where you can always find some gold. The gold here is flour gold, and darned sparse, but enough to show people what it looks like.

If it was cold, below zero when they called the next morning so it was positively frigid.  The temperature was way below zero with a wind blowing straight down from North Pole gusting up to fifty miles per hour.  The camera crew was waiting for my grand appearance at the local coffee shop just up the road from the bridge.

How Satan’s Kingdom got its name was it was there in a deep gorge through which flows the Farmington River where the stagecoach robbers used to hide whenever they wanted to waylay the Hartford Stage in the days when the Wild West was back East.  The gorge is walled with steep rock on both sides through which the river makes its way. 

The old bridge at Satan's Kingdom that was destroyed in the Flood of 1955 at the entrance to the gorge.  It is under this bridge where small amounts of gold are found in the gravel providing just enough to show what gold looks like. 

When the wind is blowing like the Bull of Barney these steep rock walls channel the winds through the gorge causing a venture effect.  Nancy Twinkie, the newscaster was a pretty little blond, and the rest of the crew were not dressed for what they were about to get into.  Since I was going to be on national TV the best thing to do is make a good show, so I was dressed up in a Hudson Bay jacket, a fur hat, rubber boots and a pair of bight red waterproof gloves while carrying a gold pan and shovel.

We all left the coffee shop and advanced on the river, we made quite a spectacle no doubt, all the cars and trucks slowed down to have a look at this wild looking bunch heading towards the river with all kinds of strange looking gear.  It only takes an announcer and cameraman, but when you are dealing with a TV network it always looks like an army platoon on the march.  There must have been about a dozen friends, well wishers and passersby in that parade.

When we finally made it to the river containing vast riches in gold the cameraman set up his minicam, and Nancy Twinky took up her position next to me while I was trying to dig a hole into the gravel.  The gravel was frozen solid and it took some hard work to dig out enough gravel to fill up the goldpan.

The sign for the State Recreation Area at Satan's Kingdom

While all this was going on the wind was blowing down the gorge so hard it was actually blowing sheets of water off the surface of the river.  By that time I was ready to demonstrate the proper vway to pan for gold.  Everything would have been fine except the water in the gold pan kept freezing from the bottom up in the gold pan every time I lifted the pan out of the water.

We never found any gold that day, but at least we had put on a good show for national TV.

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