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Terrorist in the Field

By Steve Zahony

In the spring of 1995 Orvana Resources Corp. located mining claims over an area of Tertiary volcanic rocks about four miles southeast of Lincoln, MT that showed scattered low-grade gold values over about one square mile. As a periodic consultant to Orvana I was hired to map the geology of the property at the scale of 1in=400ft, with the help of a sampler and field assistant. I was delighted with this consulting job as western Montana was my favorite place to map and Lincoln is an especially beautiful part of the state with relatively easy topography and ideally workable amount of rock outcrops. The town is famous for being located within a grove of magnificent ancient Douglas fir trees, many of which are over 500 yrs old.

To map the target area required about two weeks of fieldwork. And we started the first day by sneaking a look at the nearby 13 million ounce McDonald Meadows gold deposit of Canyon Resources, which at that time was being explored by Phelps Dodge. In short order we were intercepted by one of their geologist whose initial belligerence quickly dissipated when he realized that we carried no rock picks or knapsacks. When questioned, he proudly described the deposit; that ore was hosted by permeable lithic tuff that allowed oxygenated meteoric water to penetrate and completely oxidize the original deposit to a depth of 1,000 feet, turning sub-ore-grade sulfide-bearing rock to cyanide-leachable oxide ore.

Later that day we initiated mapping on Orvana's property. I was at the age when field senses are at their peak, when one can hear the crack of a twig and the movement of nearby creatures, when moist air helps discern the scent of animals.

About the third day of mapping brought me to the vicinity of a secluded brown wooden cabin that had one tiny window and a bicycle parked by the sole entrance door. There was someone in the cabin and I chose to map the surrounding rock outcrops in silence. Perhaps more than fifty yards away from the cabin I again relaxed to continue my work as before. After a while I felt the presence of some creature behind me. I listened intently as I walked up a gentle open-wooded slope looking back now and then. For an instance I believed I saw something move behind a tree perhaps 200 feet behind me. A short distance ahead in the direction I was moving was a logging road, and I decided to make it up to the outer berm of the road, then turn suddenly and look back at the tree where I had noticed the movement. Was it a bear? I stared at that tree for some long minutes when a man stepped out from behind it and began walking silently towards me. He was a tall thin figure with a scraggly beard and was holding a 6-inch diameter boulder in his right hand. His eyes were noticeably wide apart giving the impression that he was not quite normal.

After greeting him with a firm hello he greeted back, and as he approached he asked me what I was doing.

"I'm making a geological map of the area of our mining claims," I said.

"Could I tag along and see how you do that", he replied. "Sure, but what is that rock in your hand?"

"Maybe you can tell me what it is" he answered and handed it to me.

I looked at the boulder and said. "It is not from here because it is a carbonate and we are surrounded by volcanic rocks". He replied, " Yes it is from up north, it is the Cambrian Meagher Limestone."

I was impressed by his rock smarts and showed him and described my field map, and we moved on to the next outcrop of altered andesite. I was anxiously awaiting my field partner to come around the hilltop ahead to get away from this enigmatic smart but scary person when I heard the rumble of footsteps on the slope above. Indeed it was Scott and after I pardoned myself I ran up to Scott and whispered, " I would like to get away from this kooky fellow, so I'll tell him that we have to meet another crew around the hill." This I did, said goodbye, and we parted.

Almost a year later, just before Easter, I had returned from a consulting job in Bulgaria. It was Good Friday of 1996 and my wife and I were watching world news on TV when it was announced that the Unabomber had been captured; his mailed package bombs had maimed and killed a number of people. When they flashed his picture on the screen I exclaimed: "I know that guy", to which Agnes cynically replied: "Sure, you know the Unabomber; must be one of your buddies!"

It took me a while to figure out from where I knew that face, "yes, it was near Lincoln, Montana". I immediately called Orvana's secretary and said that I believe that Scott and I had met the Unabomber in the field a year ago while mapping near Lincoln. She replied: "Oh yes you did. We have known that for a few days, and in his cabin, around which you mapped, the authorities found a list of his future bomb targets. Orvana's main office was fifth on the list."


 



 

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