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» Morgan

BY MARCIE STUMPF/FOLEY

In the town of Tollhattan, Sweden, lives a goldpanner named Morgan Bjarne Zakariasson. There he works and enjoys his life with his girlfriend Ingela Kvist, and a group of gold panners of the Guldgravarnas Forening (Golddigger’s Association).

When Morgan was 23 years old, he was told about the Goldpanner’s Association, and soon developed a severe case of gold fever. Still active in the club, he is now their “cashier” or Treasurer. The group has more than 500 family memberships and is very active.

Each September they hold a large, weekend-long “Gold Rush Days” meeting at the site of the oldest gold mine in Sweden, located in the southern part of the country. One of the high points of the weekend is when they each show the gold recovered for the year and tell about their experiences.

Several years ago, a group of young men who had come to the U.S., and to Happy Camp, were at the gathering, and Morgan was very interested in their story. He talked to them in detail, finding out all he could about The New 49’ers, whose club they’d joined, the claims, the gold, living conditions and expenses; and it became his goal to come to Happy Camp and join The New 49’ers himself.

By trade, Morgan is a lathe operator in a factory where hydraulic pumps are manufactured. He is allowed five weeks vacation a year; and if he wants, can put one week in a “bank” to save for a long trip. He is also allowed to work overtime, saving that also. In this way, he can save up a two-month vacation every two years.

In the intervening years, Morgan made trips to Norway and Italy prospecting for gold. In Italy, he met a gold miner who showed him a place to dredge at the base of the Alps, and Morgan did well there.

In 1993 Morgan and his girlfriend Ingela made the trip to Happy Camp and stayed for a month. They joined the New 49’ers on arriving, and set up Morgan’s 2-1/2” dredge on the East Fork of Elk Creek. Soon they met Floyd and Donna Parker, New 49’er members from North Carolina who were also dredging on the East Fork of Elk Creek. Floyd, after seeing how Morgan was doing, said, “That’s not good enough! Move your dredge down here below us-I’m sure you can do much better!” Morgan took his advice and did do much better after that. Floyd and Donna remained good friends, providing a lot of helpful assistance, and have kept up a correspondence with Morgan ever since. While Morgan was happy with the gold he was finding, he looked with envy at the four-inch dredges while he was in Happy Camp. He was determined that he would have a dredge that size before he returned again.

When Morgan arrived again in Happy Camp in the late spring of 1995, it was to pick up a brand new four-inch dredge he’d ordered ahead of time, and he beamed from ear to ear as everyone helped him pack it into and on top of his rental car. He was so excited, he could hardly stand it!

This trip was made without Ingela. She had to work, so Morgan was here on his own. Their first trip they’d flown into San Francisco, and driven up from there. This time he flew into Seattle, visiting with his mother’s cousin, and making plans for the cousin to visit while he was in Happy Camp.

It was so late on that first day, by the time he was ready to leave with his new equipment, Morgan drove up to his old camping spot on Elk Creek and pitched his tent in the dark, leaving everything else for the morning.

Early the next morning, he quickly cleaned up and then headed for the creek to look for the ideal spot to put his new dredge. He was almost skipping along; everything was right in his world. He was where he wanted to be, doing what he loved most; the weather was beautiful, and the scenery was gorgeous, when he found he was not alone.

It seemed he and the bear had seen each other at the same moment, and they both paused while they sized each other up. Then the bear began walking toward Morgan.

Morgan was thinking…”I’ve seen the bears at the dump here in Happy Camp, and they looked very friendly down there below me. This bear does not look so very friendly. I think he is going to tell me it would be better for me to find another place to dredge.” As he finished this last thought, he began slowly backing up. Once he put a tree between himself and the bear, he turned and sprinted the short distance to his car. Morgan decided to move camp.

He had thought he might dredge on the creek until the high water went down, and while he acquainted himself with his new, larger dredge. Spring rains were hanging on, and rainy weather kept him from the water much of his first two weeks. He spent the time looking around, however; and found many places right on the river where he could be out of the current with shallow bedrock while he familiarized himself with hookah diving and the larger dredge.

Already an experienced scuba diver, it didn’t take long to master the technique involved; and Morgan grew more and more enthused about this new adventure. He loved being able to process more streambed material, and felt he was really accomplishing a lot for the time worked, in comparison to the smaller dredge.

And, it didn’t take long to find out that his rewards were going to be much greater with this equipment. He was able to find much, much more gold.

While Morgan was mastering his new dredge, he took time to attend several of the training events sponsored by The New 49ers. He attended the two-day electronic prospecting seminar. He wanted to broaden his knowledge of methods; and before investing in a metal detector, he wanted to learn the right way to use it from the first. He was so impressed with the method, that he ordered an underwater detector to take scuba diving with him in Sweden.

Morgan also attended the weekly potlucks sponsored by The New 49’ers and found that he was warmly welcomed there by many gold prospectors from around the world.

With all these other activities going on, Morgan found that he had a hard time pulling himself away from dredging, because he was enjoying it so much. Even so, Morgan made time to attend one of Dave McCracken’s week-long Group Mining Projects. This is the most comprehensive training available anywhere in the world on modern small-scale gold mining, and he didn’t want to miss out on it.

Morgan really gained a lot from the week of training. Floating the river with Dave was very educational, as Dave helped him understand how to look for pay-streaks in the river and the materials that make up the layers of the river. Learning how to process material through a suction nozzle at optimum speed was a big help.

Armed with all his new information, and a tip from Dave about where to do some testing, Morgan set up a daily routine that seldom varied. Up by 7:30, he quickly ate, cleaned up the gold from the previous day, and prepared to leave camp, arriving at the dredge by 9:30. He wanted to be “suited up,” have the dredge filled with fuel, and into the water before 10:30. This first dive was a 21/2-hour dive. After frilling the gas tank, he took his lunch break. He then went back to dredging; and except for refill and short breaks, he dredged each day until 7:00PM. It was not full-dark until 9:30 or so in summer, so he had long days, and he wanted to pack just as much into every minute that he could.

At the end of each day, Morgan cleaned the dredge, but did not clean up his “fines” — the gold too small to pick out. He then made sure his dredging area was all cleaned up and neat, and headed back to camp, where he most often had a canned meal for dinner, out under a canopy of a million stars and a brilliant moon, then climbed into bed to be soothed by the sounds of the nearby river as he drifted off to sleep.

Some Saturdays, Morgan took a break and either did chores in town or quit early to attend the potlucks held by The New 49’ers. These were lots of fun, and the food was really great!

While much of his time was spent alone, Morgan could always find someone to visit with when he was ready for some company. That was one of the things he most enjoyed about The New 49’ers and his experience in Happy camp. He had met people from all corners of the U.S. here in this one little town. And all of them were friendly! He hadn’t met even one person who was not friendly and helpful.

On the days he was alone, Morgan didn’t feel lonely. The river was so alive with wildlife, he drew great pleasure from being a part of it. The plentiful deer and the Great Blue Heron that frequented his dredging area were a joy to watch. Ducks, geese, and other birdlife, and the playful otter in the river, kept his time above water occupied. The relaxed atmosphere in the town, and the spectacular scenery of the Klamath River Canyon and the Siskiyou Mountains gave him a feeling of peace and contentment.

His mother’s cousin came to visit, and Morgan proudly showed off his new dredge and all the gold he was finding. The cousin was very impressed, and he and Morgan spent the rest of the weekend panning and relaxing. Morgan drove back up with him as far as Grants Pass, Oregon, where they went rafting on the Rogue River, and then parted until time for Morgan to Leave.

Morgan called home each week, and kept everyone informed about his trip. Ingela told him all his friends had given him two nicknames. One was “Morgan More Gold” and the other was “Bear” from his bear experience ”Morgan More Gold” was winning out as the favorite name. Morgan was pleased — he liked that one better, also.

At long last, his trip came to an end, and Morgan had to go home. He delayed so long, in fact, that his mother’s cousin became worried and called, trying to locate him. Morgan really didn’t want to leave.

His last stop was to the New 49’s headquarters to weigh his gold. He had kept it all separate; and his best day totaled 8.8 pennyweight. The total found on the Klamath River was 47.3 pennyweight, almost 2-1/2 ounces; and another 6.6 pennyweight he’d found while visiting in Seattle his first two weeks. As he posed for photos with the gold, he regretted having to leave, again; but then he thought-the sooner he was home, the sooner another two years would arrive, and he could come back again. And, what a great trip he’d had! He’d learned so much he no longer felt like a beginner. “Wait until next time!”

With this cheerful thought, and already-forming plans for his next visit. And, with the sensation he would make at the September outing with his story (and his gold), he made his way toward Seattle, and a long, satisfied trip home to Sweden.

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