Mariposa County, California  History, CALIFORNIA
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Charles Hillinger
LATimes-Washington Post News Service
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, May 31, 1988
Sweetwater Ridge- Mariposa, California.
Sweetwater Clyde is 50 years behind the times.

He drives a faded white, rusted, beat-up 1937 half-ton Mack truck.
He operated the Sweetwater Gold mine his dad bought in 1933 with the same mining equipment that his father used.
"This old mine has been worked continuously since 1862.  Never abandoned.  A few got rich here. A lot went broke.  I've donE both, hit it a few times and other times it's been a long time between drinks," recalled Sweetwater Clyde, whose real name is Clyde Foster.
He's 77.  His father was a lifelong California gold miner.  So was his grandfather, and so is he.  For 55 years he has worked the Sweetwater Mine, except for time out for a couple of wars.  He was an Army sergeant in the South Pacific in World War II and later in Korea.

"Wouldn't swap this life for anything.  If I struck it rich, I'd never leave.  I'd just keep digging deeper and deeper and further into the mountain plowing all the money into the hole looking' for more.  It's the lure of gold that keeps me goin', and the thrill of findin' it," he explained, his sharp blue eyes brightening with excitement.
Sweetwater Clyde has a solid copper tombstone among the clutter in his 1896 gold miner's shack of weathered boards and corrugated tin roof.  The inscribed tombstone, ready for the moment he gasps his last breath, reads:

"Clyde T Foster. Sweetwater Clyde. 1911-Not Yet!  It wasn't the gold he wanted so much as just finding the gold.   Future miners, as this place you pass, turn down an empty glass."

"My friends will chisel off the 'Not Yet' and bury me under the lilac bushes over yonder." said the 5-foot-6, 150 pound miner.  "But I'm no leaving soon.  I've got 20 years of planning already roped out for developin' the mine."

He noted that the Sweetwater's best years were in the 1880's and 1890's, when more than $500,000 in gold was recovered.  His own best years, he recalled, were the early 1950's, when for four years straight he pulled out more than 1,000  ounces of $35-an-ounce gold.
"that was only $35,000 a year then, but it would be $450,000 a today;'s prices.  I'd like to do that again," he mused with a mellow grin and dreamy eyes.
Sweetwater Clyde took a 15-ounce bar of gold (worth $650 ) from one of his pockets and told how it was a recent recovery from 30 tons of crude.
To get to his mine at the 4,000-foot level in a remote region of the High Sierra- about 10 miles from the tiny town of Midpines in Mariposa County requires navigation of three miles over a bumpy, one-lane dirt road. 

At the entrance to his 10 claims on 200 acres is a sign proclaiming : "SWEETWATER MINE.  SHOOTING WILL BE RECIPROCATED."

"Sign's been there 20 years.  Nobody shot a hole in it yet.  I haven't had to shoot back at anybody, " he said.
His mine shaft is a horizontal hole half a mile into the mountain with 2,000-foot shafts branching in four directions.  He enters and leaves the mine in his tiny ore train.  Some of the track leads out of the mine and over a 40-foot-high, 125-foot-wide trestle he built out of trees to carry his waste materials to a dump site.

Sweetwater Clyde has his own sawmill for cutting shring timber.  He processes what he digs from the mine through a 90-year-old machine called a Chilean jaw crusher.  Its three stone wheels, each weighing 3,00 pounds, grind a ton of crude to fine sand.  The crusher is driven by a 1926 Studebaker engine.

An American flag flies from the porch of his sturdy old shack, which is heated by an ancient potbellied wood stove.  He cooks his beans and other grub on a 1925 gas range.  His floor is covered with a layer of filth dragged in over the years an never swept away.
Rusty old mining equipment is all over his diggin's.  "I don't throw anything away.  Never know when I'm gonna need it," he said.

(transcibers note, 2012- scavengers and looters have removed the old artifacts from the property.  At the time of Clyde's death promises were made by the Sierra National Forrest and the local Clampers to keep the property guarded from theft.  The Chilean mill  has been removed to the Mariposa History Center.  Not sure if items from the Sweetwater Mine on displayat the Calfiornia State Mining and Mineral  Museum were stolen in a recent robbery. Information on what was stolen has yet to be released.  Currently five suspects are in custody for the robbery.