Dreamed 1989/1/4 by Chris Wayan
It's already hot at dawn--an ominous sign. I'm a cowboy in a posse tracking a fugitive through the desert. We slowly climb into stony hills. Around noon, we find a old mine, and duck into the shade of its mouth. Explore a bit. It's dry, and seems sound--just empty halls. My friend whales away at a support column and gets one little chip. Tough stuff! Granite? A gold mine?
But the rock's full of tiny veins of lavender crystals. Amethyst, I think. Pale, though--no wonder the miners left it. Find a tiny vein of deep purple, more valuable stuff, but the crystals are just too small to be worth chipping out. As we walk deeper, the veins turn feathery, ferny. Even some spirals, like fern fiddlenecks. Collect a handful of loose samples.
Then we meet a woman who welcomes us as new miners, ready to sign up! We look at each other and don't mention our manhunt. Why not go along with it and sign on for the day? We need to find out if he's hiding here anyway.
She shows us a sample of good ore, the real stuff: deep purple fiddlenecks. She looks at the paler samples I collected and says happily "Oh, wonderful! The pale kind is like lettuce. Now Mr. Big will have enough for LUNCH!"
We were wrong. Not miners. Underground farmhands.
And I don't think I want to meet Mr. Big.
A NOTE FOR NON-CALIFORNIANS
Miner's lettuce is a plant in the purslane family. During the Gold Rush, miners ate it to prevent scurvy; it's common here in the rainy season, but dies back in our dry summers. The leaves look bizarre, but are quite tasty.
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