Consider that we’re in an extremely arid region, and even though it has rained lately, only the surprising amount of vegetation and bird life gives clue to the unusual ‘wet’.

As soon as the wind picks up, the dust blows into every pore of your body, and when it only gusts, the flies come out of the ether to absorb any moisture like from your perspiration, and even from your breath. These flies are absorbing the water vapor coming from Milton’s shoulders.

I don’t have the conditioning of the average opal miner, and don’t at all mind the silly looks I get when others see me wearing a net over my head. My sissy excuse is that I can really see better without a dozen flies grazing on the moisture around my eyes… and in my nose and mouth.

It can cause a 5 minute delay of operations if the checker or the machine operator ‘inhales’ a single fly…:-)

If you’re thinking that this is a lucrative profession, then consider that this might just be another form of a gambling addiction, and that you win back just enough to keep you going as long as your credit holds out…

You can consume as much as $130 per day in fuel, and you may go for days without finding anything, and often decide to give up the claim and find another place to dig. And another creditor or partner !

Given the base line costs of the machine, and the investment, and the labor, there is the problem with physical discomfort and disappointment.

With no wind, you get flies, and dust kicked up by the excavator, but if the wind is up, the dust is choking and unavoidable, and the flies are fewer and you sometimes drop your guard!

Here is what it looks like to be at the face of the mine, looking up at the excavator and the pounding sun…

Keep in mind that you have to really trust Kent who is operating the excavator…often he is scraping a bit within a few inches of your head !

Kent has had 5 seasons of operating the machine now and is quite competent and even sometimes ‘playful’, best of all, he doesn’t dump dirt on you….!

If you’re one of the lucky 1% of the miners, you do find a wonderful cache of opal, perhaps worth a half-million dollars. And when you do, it’s easy to forget all of the hardships and the costs that preceded this parcel.

So what’s this all about, and why do those few miners scattered across so many thousands of square miles of opal fields are forever driven to ‘move the dirt’ once bitten ?