The Missing Ratter Claim

We were working a claim at the back of Mintabie Opal Fields. It was in an isolated area and had no adjoining operating claims. It was a part of the opal field that had not been prospected much and we were looking for a new area to mine. The claim had a few shafts on it and had been abandoned a few years previously with only a little work done. We had climbed down a couple of the shafts and checked the walls for trace. The ground looked promising so we decided to spend some time and do some exploratory work.

At the time, a few claims on opal were being ratted (Ratting is when some one other then the claim owner, goes down the mine at night and steals the opal). There were pretty strong indications who this particular ratter was. He had lived at Mintabie for a few years and had never done any real mining. He was what was called a professional noodler. (A noodler is someone who goes through miners left over dirt searching for missed opal) Most suspected his money came from ratting. I can’t recall his name so I will call him George for this story.

Several ratters over the years had gone missing from Mintabie and most miners think they were thrown down abandoned shafts. Mintabie was certainly self policing and some of the local miners had a total distain for ratters. There were rumors that George had suffered this fate. He was indeed missing and not been seen for over a week.

Back at our claim we had just got on to some interesting trace. Although there was no opal, the ground showed promising indications. It was certainly showing us that more work was required. This particular day we had put in a lot of shots and had gone home for lunch. When we returned we noticed a foul odour coming up our shaft and could see the reflection of shallow water at the bottom. When we investigated, our shots had broken through the side of a drive from one of the other shafts. It was about 4 feet deeper than our drive and completely full of water. We peered through the small hole made from the blast and could see right at the end of the drive a disturbing sight. The end of the drive was about thirty feet away and we could just make out something in a large plastic bag floating semi submerged in the water. What looked like an elbow was sticking up from the inside of the bag.

We were convinced we had found George. We didn’t know what to do next. If we went to the police (This would have been a trip to Coober Pedy) and if it wasn’t George we would be the laughing stock of Mintabie Opal Fields. The ground was looking promising so we didn’t want to abandon the mine. We decided we would have to pump enough of the water out so that we could climb into the old drive and check George out. We set up our pump and started to pump out the water. The stench was horrible! You could smell it for a hundred meters. There was a lot of water to remove and it was obvious it would take a couple of days to lower the level enough for us to get in the old drive. A couple of days later we were ready to check George out. Robert and I flipped a coin to see who would have the pleasure of doing the forensic work. In preparation we moved the winch over on top of the old shaft, as it would be easier to lift George out from there.

Robert won the toss, much to my relief, so armed with a flashlight he lowered himself into the water that remained in the old drive. I waited in our drive for the verdict. Robert made his way towards the garbage bag. The water was up to his armpits and he was holding the torch above his head. The odour was almost unbearable and there were maggots floating in the disturbed water. I made the sarcastic remark that he had better keep his mouth shut. By the time he reached George the water was up to his neck. With an opal pick Robert broke away the plastic in a moment that I could only call tense. Inside the bag was the carcass of a very dead large dog!

FOOTNOTE

The smell got the better of us and we abandoned the mine. George was never found

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