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Fleetfoot O'Hare

By Steve Zahony

Inspiration Gold controlled a large package of unpatented mining claims over a puzzling gold occurrence in the Big Belt Mountains near Canyon Ferry, Montana. Within a handful of square miles, each larger and smaller gulch had produced significant placer gold, about 100,000 ounces in all, by either "boom"-type hydraulic methods or shaft sinking through gravels to the bedrock interface. Old timers had prospected the hillsides for the source of this placer gold without much success. Gold seemed to be everywhere in small amounts, but only one of the endless dug pits found enough to be considered mineable. The gold occurred in quartz- carbonate veinlets central to bedding-parallel seams of apparently silicified mudstone. Silty shale of the near-horizontal Grayson Formation of the Belt Series hosted the mineralization. Despite the flat nature of the host rock much tectonic activity had taken place as remnant masses of the overlying Paleozoic rocks showed extreme folding and faulting.

Inspiration Gold's exploration manager believed these vein-like, gold-bearing, discontinuous zones to be exhalative in origin and we settled on the term "reef" for their description. However, detailed geological mapping clearly showed the reefs to be parallel to cleavage, not bedding. Rock cleavage was between 5-10 degrees to compositional banding (bedding). Petrographic work by Sid Williams reversed the previously believed, silicified nature of the light-salmon-colored reefs but showed that they were thermally metamorphosed shale with substantial orthoclase contents. Follow-up age-dating of the K-spar resulted in a Laramide age for these thermal metamorphosed and veined fault zones. The entire local Belt rock package had been thrust to the east, perhaps fifty miles, from atop the batholith located to the west.

Inspiration Gold allocated just one core rig to the project that summer as the emphasis was on producing a geological map of the entire property at the scale of 1in = 200ft. The excellent Ruen Drilling crews produced much drill core in two shifts and a preliminary examination of the core was made at the drill site each morning.

Driving up to one particular drill location in mid-July, I couldn't help noticing a solitary jack rabbit with unusually long legs. The varmint noticed the approaching truck but stayed unperturbed about ten yards from the road. He was roughly in the same location the following morning when I drove by. On the third day, about the same time in the morning, he was there again, but on the edge of the road with his stare fixed on the truck.

"Watch him bolt", I said to myself as I sped up and took aim for his side of the road. For an instant I lost sight of him but then noticed that he was running ahead of the truck. I followed at decelerated speed for a short while not to run him down, to give him a chance to run sideways, but he stayed on just ahead. Determined to push him off the road I accelerated to the full speed what the road allowed, but there he was. After a while a split in the road appeared ahead and I sped towards the left fork to make him take the right one, but it did not work. He sensed which fork was my route. Other forks showed up and I sped up at each one, but to no avail. At several places where the road had longer straight stretches I stepped on the accelerator as much as possible but he stayed comfortably ahead. It was bizarre, surreal, as he slowed and accelerated as needed. The race seemed endless; the hare was not to be muscled off the road.

A green grassy spot appeared ahead and the rabbit opened the lead to about 100 feet when he finally left the road and turned to watch me go by. He was breathing hard and was staring straight at me. I had never seen a rabbit smile before but this was much more - there was an enormous and unquestionably wide grin on his mug.

I made a note of where that rabbit had decided to end the race, and thought about this incident most of that morning. On my return trip in the early afternoon I stopped at that green spot and zeroed my odometer, then drove to the exact place where the race had started: it was just over 1.1 miles.

The drill rig moved to a new site the following day and the access route was different. I do not remember the calculated gold resource which we came up with after the drilling that summer, it was not of economic size or grade, but I'll never forget that long-legged, smiling hare.


The DREGS collection of memoirs from this page can be found at www.dregs.org/memoirs.html