Ed and the Dirty Jackass

This is a story I came across while doing research on the Harquahala Mine a few years back. There is probably a moral to the story but is escapes me. An old time miner by the name of Ed and his burro, Millie, got along pretty well. Ed knew when Millie was tired and wanted water. Millie knew when Ed was discouraged and needed to be nuzzled a little. Together they traveled the west looking for gold.

One summer they settled in a lush area atop the Harquahala Mountains. Ed had a small stash of gold that kept them in beans and bacon for several weeks. When the pouch began to flatten, he figured on taking a job on the railroad for a while.

Then three government scientists came up the trail to the mountain top. “We’d like to set up an astronomy observatory here,” they explained. “Well sure,” Ed agreed, a little bewildered. “Only I ain’t got a lot of grub here. I was just thinkin’ about gettin’ a job on the railroad.” “Tell you what. We’ll share your mountain and we’ll share our grub, how’s that?”

That was fine with Ed. The scientists brought up their equipment, and sometimes Ed and the youngest man would take an afternoon off and amble around the mountain, talking about geology. Ed had as much practical experience as the scientist had book-learning. They enjoyed each others company.

When the men were called back to Washington, Ed and his friend took one last walk. “I guess me and Millie will do some more prospecting when you fellers leave,” Ed remarked. “Not up here,” the young man said. “You’d be better off trying someplace else like…see…over there. That shiny spot on the other side of the canyon? That’s where you might find gold.” “Yeah? Well if I do It’s half yours” “No you keep it. Call it payment for your and Millie’s hospitality.”

So a few days later, Ed and Millie set off to explore the spot that had been lit up for a brief moment. Not once had the setting sun illuminated the spot again. But he had the location firmly fixed in his mind. The gold was there, all right. Ed posted his claim, loaded some ore onto Millie, and set off to spend the winter in town

Realizing he wasn’t getting any younger, he took in three partners who could do the actual mining while he collected his share of the profits. In the spring they set out for the Harquahala’s again, full of plans. But on the way up, one of the men called Millie a “dirty jackass.”

Ed ordered his partners to get lost. No one was going to insult his burro and get away with it. He’d mine the ore himself, he would, and they could forget it! Stunned, the men trudged back to town and reported that Ed thought more of that burro than he did of working a gold mine.

And no one ever saw ED or Millie again.

While the story of it’s discovery is a bit foggy, the Harquahala Mine is fact. It produced an estimated $1.6 million between 1891 and 1894, and continued to turn a profit until 1908 when operating costs drew even with the value of the gold mined. Today, the Harquahala Mine is known chiefly for the tale of it’s discoverers – the crusty prospector and his beloved burro.

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