By Jeff Jardine
One of the perils left over from the Gold Rush era in the Mother Lode is the number of mine shafts still exposed.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 2011 determined there were more than 47,000 of them statewide and began working with California’s Department of Conservation to seal as many as possible, including mines near Columbia and Big Oak Flat, both in Tuolumne County.
They missed one, or haven’t gotten to it yet, as a 1,200-pound Brahma cow named Molly discovered in Tuttletown last week. Tuttletown is an old mining community along Highway 49, near New Melones Reservoir.
Molly fell into a 35-foot-deep shaft and spent more than three days down there while local vet Dr. Wes Wittman, Tuolumne County Animal Control Officer Jennifer Clarke and UC Davis’ Veterinary Emergency Response Team worked together to extract her Thursday.
It certainly helped that the animal, raised from a calf by owner Antoinette Nichols, is very friendly with people, making it easier for the vets to go down into the confined space and get her into a harness.
Randy Selesia of Sonora’s Vic’s Towing company hoisted her out of the shaft. Miraculously, she suffered only a couple of bruises, he said.
“That was pretty neat, to see her come out of there alive,” said Selesia, who in his 50-plus years in the towing business also has extracted horses, goats and, of course, vehicles from some pretty deep and steep places. “It was one of those circumstances where everybody worked together. That’s what it is all about.”