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RDIndio, a remembrance on the anniversary of his passing


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Sorry if this is long.

During the first year I began to prospect out in the Dale Mining District near 29 Palms,

I began hearing bits and pieces of a story concerning a place called Area 51.

When I started hunting with Joeforthegold, Mick, Denny and Bob29Prospector,

I heard more of the story.

Area 51supposedly was the location of a haphazard and very rich gold strike

made by a well-known visitor to the Pinto Mountains named Richard Delahanty.

More often he was referred to by his online name, RDIndio which everyone shortened to RD.

Around the campfire at night one of the things we sometimes talked about was how cool it would be

to meet RD and hear the story of Area 51 directly from him.

But no one in our little group had ever met him or even seen him.

Late that spring, Joe, Mick, Denny and I met in the Dale

to spend the day detecting in the hills above a road that lead into the Pinto Placers.

As we were taking a short break for something to eat we saw a truck pulling a pop-up camper

gunning up the dusty road toward where we were parked and then pull off to the side and stop.

We watched a lanky tousled-hair guy climb out and gave us a quick once-over.

We all gave a little wave of welcome and he sauntered toward us.

"Hey, how's it going? My name's RD, you guys having any luck?"

We looked around at each other and grinned.

Here out in the middle of nowhere Richard Delahanty had just driven straight up to us, unbelievable.

Over the course of the afternoon we pretty much forgot about detecting and sat around in camp chairs talking with RD.

It was obvious that he was suited to this desolate and mysterious place.

He was rather shy but very strong minded and told us he lived to be in the desert, one of the few places he felt normal.

I can't remember quite how it happened, but the topic of Area 51 came up almost of it's own accord.

Soon, as we all leaned forward in our chairs, RD leaned back against the tailgate of Denny's truck with his eyes focused on the distant mountains behind us,

and told us just how it was that he found Area 51.

He was not a robust man and the bout of flu he was recovering from at the time had left him weak, gaunt and pale.

It was his wife that suggested he take a couple of weeks and go out to the Dale to recover.

He told us that she knew better than he did what was best for him.

He saw right away it was a smart suggestion and began packing.

When he got to the Pinto Placers he opened up the camper, climbed in and slept for the whole first afternoon and night.

He had pitched his camp just down the hill from where we were all sitting

and from then on everyone referred to the little flat as RD's Camp.

A couple of days later he took his VLF detector, a small pack with lots of water

and began a day-long hike to the east of his camp.

It was an involved trek across steep hillsides and deep arroyo's

but there was an area he had been interested to look at and this seemed like a good day to do it.

Several hours later he reached his destination and after looking around a bit,

he suddenly realized he was completely exhausted.

His strength still had not fully returned after his illness

and now here he was faced with a three hour hike back to his campsite.

He sat down and rested for a few minutes, but still feeling shaky and weak,

there was nothing else to do but start the long walk back.

After the first hour he was having trouble walking.

He told us he was literally staggering under the weight of the backpack and the pick fastened to his waistbelt,

he was dragging the detector behind him, too spent to even to carry it over his shoulder.

A short while later as he was crossing a gentle saddle between two hills the detector went off.

He walked on for a couple of steps before he registered what had happened.

He stopped, trying to decide whether to go back and check the signal.

The odds were it was an old piece of metal, the place was loaded with debris from earlier times,

but the habits from years of prospecting kicked in.

He turned back and began to wave the coil in smooth measured swings over the area.

Bang, the detector sounded off again, a big signal.

Bang, another hit and then another.

He knew this was probably another old can dump.

His whole body hurt as he swung the pick into the ground over the biggest hit.

The pick pinged as it hit solid rock just under a thin layer of dirt and grass.

He took a few more swings to loosen up some of the rock

and then got down on one knee to rake it off to the side of the little indention in the hilltop.

He swung the coil over the scrape again, Bang!

He slowly moved the coil over the pieces of rock and dirt he'd raked into a pile,

Bang again. There were hits everywhere.

He chipped away at the rocky ground until dusk settled in and it got too hard to see.

He didn't tell us what the walk back to his camp must have been like.

The next morning after a restless sleep he made his way back over to the windswept dip on the ridge.

By noon, RD had cracked out 51 ounces of gold from a weathered vein of quartz

that had been upthrust to just below the surface of the ridge.

After carefully smoothing over all the traces of his work, his pockets and backpack brimming with gold,

he hiked back to his camper, packed up and drove home.

Shortly after he returned home RD called the only man he hunted with that he trusted enough to call a partner

and outlined what he'd found.

The two men had spend months together in the desert sharing their efforts and pooling their knowledge.

They immediately made plans to meet out in the Dale and take a closer look at the discovery.

Some time later the two of them hiked up to the dip in the hills

where RD showed his partner the barren little spot that hid his gold bearing quartz vein.

They worked the ground that morning and found another few ounces of quartz and gold

but the vein was trending downward and it became too difficult to work with pick and shovel.

They sat for awhile on the edge of the hill discussing the best way to approach the next phase of work

and then later they drove home.

RD told us a couple of weeks passed before he was able to find time to get back out to the Dale.

It must have seemed like a lifetime I thought to myself.

He drove out alone, parked his camper and set out over the hills toward his spot.

As he walked over the crest of the last rise he suddenly stopped.

Tire tracks criss-crossed the flat spot around where he had been working.

In front of him a huge gash had been opened into the hillside.

A lumber railing had been put up around the trench

and on one end a ladder lead down into the fifteen foot deep, six foot wide opening.

Beside the opening there were piles of broken rock and quartz.

Off to one side, stacks of unused lumber.

We all sat quietly without moving as RD paused to relight his pipe.

By now it was mid-afternoon.

He straightened up and motioned back toward his truck.

"That little hole in the ground bought me a new truck, that camper and a top-of-the-line MineLab detector."

"But it cost me the best partner I ever had. Sometimes I'm not real sure it was worth it.

But never mind that, come on lets take a little drive I'll show you where it is."

We climbed into our vehicles and drove a few miles over to another set of foothills.

There we parked and followed him single file up a long gentle incline

to the small saddle in the hills where Area 51 was located.

The wind was blowing from the south.

We could see for 50 miles down into Joshua Tree National Park.

We stood around the edges of the hole in the hillside and peered down into the darkness.

There wasn't much to see, just some old boards and broken rock, a few cigarette butts and crushed up coke cans.

RD died of cancer a few years ago.

When I heard he was ill I tried to call him a few times but his wife told me he didn't want to talk.

When you stand on that saddle in the hills with the wind coming up late in the day

and look south over the Pinto Mountains into Joshua Tree

it's easy to imagine him standing there off to one side, leaning against his pick,

looking into the distance with you, out over the places he spent so many years roaming,

the places he loved even more than the 51 ounces of gold he found by accident out there one afternoon years ago.


RD telling us about Area 51- from L To R: Joeforthegold, Denny, RD, Mick


Mick and Denny looking at the remains of Area 51


The view south into Joshua Tree from the edge of Area 51

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Hi Flak,

Thanks for this great story of your recollections of RD.

We are all enriched by this shared knowledge.

He is truly an icon in gold detecting lore.


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Flak: Superb piece of wordsmithing about a super character and super prospector. For those on this forum who are unaware, check out Bill Southern's Store site. There you will find three articles written by RD -- each containing priceless bits of insight for those who wish to master the art [click "My Main Website" at the upper left hand corner of this page, then click the articles and stories features].

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Great story.

I'm sure most if not all of us have had the partner that did us wrong. The thing I never want to be is "that" guy.

Sounds like RD had the right mindset about the whole thing.

Says a lot about you guys that you saw the treasure in him and his story--not the gold.

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Thanks for that, Flak. I always remember Bob talking about RD and I am glad you took the time to fill us in now that Bob can't.

I have my own 'mini' Area 51 going on right now... I was out yesterday and got a nice faint signal with an 18" mono on my GPX4500. 3 hours and 3 feet later straight down through caliche I still had not recovered the target. I was too physically busted up by the effort to do any more, so I covered up the hole and left it for another day. And like RD, I have one partner who was with me that knows the location. He's a stand up guy and assures me that he would never tell anyone or come back to dig it without me... I believe him. Besides, if he crosses me, I will make sure he's a stand up guy... I'll bury him standing up in that hole!

I'll post a picture or two if this doesn't turn out to be a can in a packrat tunnel under the caliche.

Lucky Joe

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That was a great story, Flak, about a great guy...I had the great good fortune to spend time prospecting and visiting with RD out in the Rich Hill area over a few years...It was amazing how methodical RD was when hunting a patch...Sometimes he would take several hours gridding a very small area and generally find some gold that others had walked away from ...Thanks for the remembrance! ... Cheers, Unc

PS...someone mentioned something about Potholes Bob ... Did something happen to him?

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G'Day Flak

Wow, what a story and what an incredible guy. Life is so short, but we seem to cram what we can into it. Never met RD, my loss. In fact I've never met a lot of people on Bill's great site. I do hope I will.

And you Flak, are definitely on my list. A brilliant remembrance. Thank you for that

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Cool recollections Dave. First time I met RD was when Hawkeye and I went to Pinto to bag few more bits of the elusive yellow metal. When we got there this guy had an amazing camp set up: carpet, awning, two ice chests, comfy bed, etc. Hawkeye said "Now THAT'S the way to prospect." (She is sort of into creature comforts) Anyway, this pipe-smoking guy turned out to be RD, he already knew of me. We detected together many times after that. After he had "worked out" Area 51, one day he took me there, we had a "shoot out," my Goldmaster 4/B versus his Supertraq. Score at the end of the day was 84 to 1, but he didn't show the least bit of jealousy, that was the kind of guy RD was. Just a happy, kind-hearted, good-natured guy. I sometimes gently chided him on his constant pipe smoking, knowing that it wasn't improving his health. He would good-naturtedly state that he didn't intend to live forever, but personally I wish he hadn't been a smoker, he might still be with us. Yep, gettin' maudlin here, sorry. HH Jim

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Jim, you probably got to know RD better than i did.

I still remember you taking me around the Pinto's in your 2 wheel drive car,

that was a heck of a tour buddy. You taught me a whole lot about

one of the most evocative and hauntingly beautiful places I have ever been.

I should have thanked you more than I did at the time.

So thank you again Jim

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