Some of you may have known Skip Mendenhall who passed away last Thursday after a long bout with cancer. He was 82 years old and was survived by Sally, his wife of 62 years, and his daughter Charis. Skip was very active in the Roadrunners Prospecting club in the 2000's so many of you may have run into him along the way. He was my old prospecting buddy and like a second father to me. In fact he came into my life just before my father died. We talked several times a week every week and we adopted each other's families. We first met about 20 years ago at Rich Hill and hit it off like we had known each other for ever. It turned out that we had some of the same "secret" patches in the area around Wickenburg so we started going out together. He never had grandchildren so we made sure they had the chance with our daughters and everybody was richer for it. Skip was a kind good man but took no BS from anybody. He gave me lots of good life advice, whether I asked for it or not, but he was almost always right. He adored Sally and Charis and another daughter, Charneth, they had lost to Cystic Fibrosis when she was just a teenager.
Skip was still on his feet and working around his house until only a few of weeks before he passed. He never let up. I was able to talk with him in his last hours and he was still 100% sharp and even in his weakened and pain filled state he made some jokes, ordered people around and as I held his shaking hands we talked about the same old crap we always did. He had been trying to give/sell me his quad and trailer for the last couple years but I wouldn't take it because it was a symbol of who he was and a hope that we would get out again. He loved running around in the desert on his quad with his drinking buddies, exploring old town sites, cemeteries and mines. He was worried that Sally would be stuck trying to get rid of all of his crap, so finally, to give him some peace, we made a death bed deal on the quad that made him happy. That was when we both knew it was time to let go.
One of my favorite memories of hunting with Skip was when we were cleaning out a trashy wash in which we had both found several nuggets in the past. We agreed that he would work his way down stream and I would go upstream until we met in the middle. It was very trashy but had good gold so we decided to dig every last piece of rusty trash out of there because we knew there were nuggets being hidden in all the noise. Before long the early May temperatures started to rise so Skip decided a couple of beers and a nap in the shade was what he needed (something he often did) and he would let me dig most of the trash. I finally got to his last dig from where I could also see him under the shade tree sleeping, out like a light. I was kinda pissed because he had quit so early and left me to do all the work. I passed my coil over his last half finished only 3" deep dig and it screamed like another big old piece of trash... again. With my boot I scraped off the last 1" of sand on top of the bedrock and staring back at me was a 1/2 oz. slug of shiny gold! I walked over to him and woke him up giving him a mock tongue lashing for making me do all the work then dropped the 1/2 ouncer into his hand. Of course his eyes bugged out and he said, "Where the hell did you find that?" "Out of your last unfinished hole you lazy old man! Dig every target!", I said as I snatched it out of his hand and laughed and laughed. It took him years to get over that one and you can bet I brought it up every chance I had. RIP Old Buddy.