You search the net looking for a lovely opal ring and you see something for $500 and at first you think: Hmmm…that seems a bit expensive! Well, spare a thought for the poor old miner!
When I first arrived at the opal field called The Sheepyards just 70 kilometres on a dirt track from Lightning Ridge in NSW,
I started to take some photos of a few mining camps and another old miner asked me what the hell I thought I was doing? I said I thought the camps looked quaint and wanted a photo or two. He told me that was the easiest way to get shot!
So, they were two of the easiest things to find out on the opal fields and I now began to find out the hardest things but that would take years.
After spending the first $100,000 searching for elusive opal I knew that first old miner’s advice had been sound and not the usual scare tactic that I thought it had been.
It was the middle of a seven year drought and we had to buy water which was delivered by water cart. There is no electricity so you have to make your own using a generator which takes diesel fuel which you have to buy at probably the premium price in the entire nation.
Was it a dangerous place? Well, the last major town before you arrive at the field is Walgett and as you enter the town a sign on the bridge declared that you had to give way to horses. That was an indication that the area had a bit of catching up to do. Then I noticed another sign that declared the city was under constant video surveillance, and they weren’t even making a movie here! I noticed that every shop had bars the full length of every window and door. Something was seriously wrong in this place and this place was the last outpost of civilization!
I was intent on buying an old mining lease which had been mined for some time. During the inspection the vendor was pointing out where he had found opals. At one point he nonchalantly mentioned that he had found about $15,000 worth just up near the dead man. I thought I didn’t hear him right and I asked him if he, in fact, had said “near the dead man.” He said yes that was true. I exclaimed I was amazed that there had been a dead man there. He chuckled and said well he is still there. I walked around the bend in the drive and here was a skeleton buried under many tons of dirt. We were forty five feet below ground. Now, that was no ordinary burial!