Gold Diggers of '97

The TV star, the fortune-teller, the gun-toting miner and Captain Ecology: Meet the loopy cast of characters feuding over a tiny Colorado gold mine.

"Durango is an honest, straightforward company trying to make a dream come true," says Randy Levin, a Wisconsin doctor who owns shares in the company. "Tim Hartley has been libeled by people who are dishonest and greedy. I'm very angry about what has happened to a company that was successful."

However, Maher and other Durango critics say people like Levin simply don't want to face the facts. "I've never seen such a group of lying, cheating people in my life," says White of her former colleagues.

Emotions grew so intense during one of the hearings in the lawsuit between Rugg and Durango that Hartley's wife reportedly started yelling at Sasha White, and several bystanders in the courtroom, including Rugg's daughter, had to intervene.

"Cindy had to stop that old lady from hitting Sasha," says Rugg. "She was screaming at her, 'How'd you like to be sued three times?' Our lawyer had to break the fight up."

After he began to suspect that he was being cheated by the Mogul promoters, Rugg confronted Tatman one day in 1994 at the Gold Hill Mill.

"He was bragging to me about what a great mill man he was," says Rugg. "I said, 'I think you're bullshitting me,' and he pulled a gun on me. I went up to him like I was going to bat it out of his hands, and he backed off."

After that, Rugg began sleeping with a loaded gun at arm's reach.
Rugg still holds fast to his dream of seeing the Mogul reborn. But now he fears he may not live to see it happen. "I have hopes Cindy and my grandson will reopen it," he says. "But I don't know if I'll see it."

For now, the mine is shut down, and if the residents of Eldora have their way, it will stay closed. The townsfolk have made it clear to Boulder County officials they don't like the idea of having a working gold mine in their backyard, and the county has responded by passing new regulations that make it harder to open mines near residential areas.

Rugg says the newcomers who've arrived in Eldora over the past twenty years have no respect for the mining industry that created Eldora in the first place. "People are moving here from Boulder and bringing their city ways with them," he says. "We've got a bunch of chickenshits up here now. All they do is fight me."

Rugg remembers Eldora in the 1920s, when he and his family were the only people who stayed through the winter. "One time my folks went to California, and I was the only one in town," he says.

Today things are more crowded, and Rugg butts heads with his new neighbors over everything from his collection of rusting mining equipment to the thirty or so horses that he and his family allow to roam freely through town. Summer residents complain that the horses eat their flowers, and they've asked the Ruggs to fence the animals in.

"They want this to be a pristine little town," adds Rugg. "There was a woman living on a dirt road near here. She came to me to say a horse had shit on the road, and she wanted us to bring a shovel and scoop it up. I said, 'Put on rubber shoes and kick it off!'"

Between fights with his neighbors and unending battles in court, Rugg says he's grown tired of it all. He misses the old days, when Eldora was proud to be a mining town and people liked living in a place where a horse might walk across their front yard.

"These people coming from California want to keep you off their property and boss you around on yours," says Rugg. "I just get so sick of people.

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