Arsenic and Schist


As I finish the last of my sarsaparilla phosphate, the matron of the General Store starts another rant,

“… they’re trying to block off all the trails. And anyone who knows anything about gold mines knows there’s going to be leftover arsenic in the soil. But the only way it can cause problems is by ingesting it! Not by breathing it! Now they’re talking about blocking off all the entrances to Randsburg and telling us we’re all going to see deformities …”

Her rebuttle to the arguement is not unlike that of the smoker, “Well, my Grandma Lou has been living here for 70 years and she’s still fit as a fiddle.” However, given the small desert town temperments (Ron Paul bumperstickers and posters around every corner) its hard for the people to realize that it isn’t difficult for poison to travel by wind or water to coastal cities.

Regardless of the argument, the desert certainly seems even more threatening than usual. Everything I touch is laced with a certain degree of arsenic and even though the effects are only lethal over long periods of exposure or through the drinking water I can’t help my tendencies towards morbid romanticism.

Spent last night throwing back a couple cold ones with two gents from the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Geological Society. The former is an ex-athlete and military man with a 500+ wine collection who loves hunting and wine – the latter, a pseudo-intellectual from the Bay Area who loves geology and wine. The work isn’t so bad, and with the right hat, sunglasses, bandana-scarf and the ability to use words like “trowel” “tailings” and “waste rock,” one appears (or at least feels) like a seasoned professional.


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