©Bert Gildart: In a different life, 150 years ago, Ballarat Bert was “a single blanket jackass prospector.” In the harsh land he wandered, those days were all about prospecting; and those of a like mind were “Shorty Harris,” Pete Aguereberry, and Seldom Seen Smith, all of whom Ballarat occasionally encountered.
His principle consort, however, was Panamint Jane, and she had become known for her brave heart, gracious ways and desert knowledge. Granted that made for some differences, but these were complementary differences, depending, of course, on where we are. She knew her challenges were great for Ballarat Bert had also gone by the sobriquet of Bourbon Bert and Blasphemous Bert. Graciously, Panamint Jane stuck to interpreting nature and not the sordid implications of names.
L to R: In another life Panamint Jane and Ballarat Bert wandered the rugged West, searching
for gold and the hidden meaning of desert life.
Out here in the desert each morning provides new stories in the sand, and this is where Panamint likes to let her imagination run wild. “Here’s where a kangaroo rat almost bought it,” says Ms. Panamint. “See, it’s racing for its burrow, trying to evade the kit fox. See this! Here’s the tracks of a fox. And here’s the tracks of our kangaroo rat, which just barely made it. It’s all here!”
Ballarat likes other Death Valley stories and one recalls Aguereberry Pete and Shorty Harris, both of whom Ballarat and Panamint had trailed into some of the valley’s harshest lands.
In, of course, their other lives.
At the time, say about 1880, Aguereberry had just meet Shorty Harris and the two struck out for the “fleshpots” of Ballarat, an old evolving mining town. Ballarat Bert wanted to trail along behind Harris and Aguereberry, but Panamint Jane was insistent, saying, “No-sir-ree. Not if you want to stick with me… We’ll find places on our own, without any of the silly sashaying that goes on out there in Ballarat.”
L to R: Panamint Jane says the colors look like peppermint, strawberry and lettuce. Tracks in the desert sands. Amaragosa Opera House.
True to her word, our wandering turned up rocks and dirt the color of peppermint, strawberry and lettuce. Panamint, whose knowledge seemed to embrace future knowledge, said that she bet the colors were the result of “pigments, such as iron, mica and manganese.”
HARRIS HAMMERED, PETE PISSED
Panamint’s decision to go it alone turned out to be a good one, for Shorty Harris really pissed off Aguereberry Pete. They found gold alright, but a night or so later Harris got his-self all liquored up, and he began boasting of stuff they found in the Panamint Mountains. This could have resulted in gun play, but as luck would have it the pair reasserted their claim. And that’s not all: Even though these two men tested the flesh pots of Ballarat, fate still smiled kindly on the lives of the two men, for they became Death Valley legends.
Well Ballarat Bert and Panamint Jane have more to add, for their adventures have pointed them toward an old famous play house and a big, big desert known as the Mojave. But you’ll have to return to find out what they go prospecting for next.
AIRSTREAM ADVENTURES TWO YEARS AGO:
4th ed. Autographed by the Authors
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.
Big Sky Country is beautiful
Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State
Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.
$16.95 + Autographed Copy
What makes Glacier, Glacier?
Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent
Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons
$16.95 + Autographed Copy