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Fletcher Tweed

Fletcher Tweed

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Published by Gordon Clark
"Fletcher Tweed. Onyx Mine. Trona, Calif." He may be the only miner around here with a business card. He certainly is the only one who also sings opera. And his mine isn’t in Trona, but high on the west slope of the Panamint Valley.
"Fletcher Tweed. Onyx Mine. Trona, Calif." He may be the only miner around here with a business card. He certainly is the only one who also sings opera. And his mine isn’t in Trona, but high on the west slope of the Panamint Valley.

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Published by: Gordon Clark on Jan 12, 2011
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01/12/2011

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Fletcher Tweed, Onyx Miner 
Fletch, Right, Showing Visitors His Workroom
Fletcher Tweed. Onyx Mine. Trona, Calif.He may be the only miner around here with a business card. He certainly is the only one whoalso sings opera. And his mine isn’t in Trona, but high on the west slope of the PanamintValley. An old plywood sign leaning at a precarious angle along the road first aroused mycuriosity. In faded letters it said, “Welcome Visitors”Visitors don’t actually see the mine. He’s pretty cagey about its exact location. What visitorsdo see is his work area and “showroom”.When I walk in to the showroom, I see an older fellow, a bit portly, with thick white hair,dressed in faded dark slacks and what once was a sport coat. He’s not looking too worse for wear considering the ravages of living in the desert. Fletcher and I get to talking. He tells mehe’s 76 years old. He’s says he’s been here for more than thirty years, and most likely will diehere.
 
Mojave Journal
He offers to show me around. The workroom is a long shed of corrugated metal, open to thedesert sky in places, and piled throughout with samples of his onyx work over the years. Onyxin dozens of shapes and colors and in various stages of completeness, from huge, unworkedchunks down to delicate onyx beads, gemstone jewelry, and vases. And it is all for sale. He’sgot dishes and bowls. Telephones mounted on onyx bases. Tables topped with beautiful onyxof all patterns. Broken wooden crates spilling out hundreds of onyx blocks, each about thesize of a deck of cards. Breathtaking translucent onyx slabs lean against the walls, half an inchthick and as tall as a man. Fletch tells me that many Hollywood mansions and prestigious banks are outfitted with decorative onyx interiors and tables worked right here.
Fletcher Tweed 
 Now everything is covered with a heavy coating of dust. I get the feeling he just stoppedworking one day, and left everything to sit.At the far end of the workroom is an upright diamond-tipped circular saw he uses for cuttingstone. It’s about eight feet high, and run by a long continuous belt that loops out to a dieselengine sitting several dozen yards up on the hill.“Want to see how this thing works?” he asks. He flips a switch and the diesel engages with aloud snort. The blade begins spinning up at hundreds of rpm, the cutting edge showered by astream of water.
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Mojave Journal
“Watch this,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. With the blade turning at full speed, he placeshis right hand on it.I gasp. Migawd, this old coot’s crazy and he’s going to kill himself right in front of me. Iimagine blood spattering all over.But he’s not, and it doesn’t. He explains to me, as I am sure he has to hundreds of others, thatthe blade cuts through hard objects such as rocks, but soft objects such as hands ride on thecushion of water. I begin breathing again.I look past him to the wall behind the counter in one corner of the showroom. There areseveral framed 8x10 glossy photos of the kind Hollywood studios used to put out. One showsFletch in a tuxedo, obviously on stage. Another shows a striking woman in an Indian costume.Another is of a child, dressed in Wild West gear, sitting astride a horse. A few show thefamily together. I ask Fletch about the pictures.“That’s my wife.” He points with pride to the woman’s picture. “She was a full-bloodedCherokee Indian. College-educated. A geologist. She could read the mountains like other  people read a book. Learned it from her dad. He was a government geologist working onIndian lands. That boy was our son.”Turns out Fletch and his family are children of Hollywood. Apart from their life in thePanamints, they had a ranch in the San Fernando Valley. His wife was a Hollywood actress inthe 1950s with a successful movie career. Wife and boy often were cast in Western movies,mostly because she was Indian and he was an excellent horseman even as a youngster. Sheused the stage name Delia Marlo; their son was Robert B. “Buzz” Henry.
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