Craig Avey tracked the semi-antique mining cart stolen from his Phoenix Lake Road home last week to a San Andreas antique store and a home in Mokelumne Hill on Sunday.
“You feel violated, that thing has been sitting out there for over 20 years,” he said. “But we didn’t get into it too much with them because we were just happy to have gotten it back.”
Avey, 76, said he received a picture on Sunday from a friend, a California Highway Patrol officer, of an antique gas pump at a San Andreas antique store storage yard near the Highway 49 and Highway 12 junction.
Avey was confused for a moment until he saw his stolen, semi-antique mining cart beside it.
“He had read the article and knew it was stolen,” Avey said. “Sure enough, that was my ore cart.”
The 150-pound steel-and-iron box set on an antique bottom was installed as yard art approximately 20 years ago, as a gift from Avey to his wife. It was wheeled away from the home and dumped of its contents early on Wednesday morning.
Avey raced up with family to the storage yard from Sonora, but the cart was gone when they arrived.
They tracked backward to a downtown San Andreas antique store to talk to the owner, who said he bought the mining cart and the entire contents of a trailer from a man with “a buzz haircut and bad teeth” for $2,000, Avey said.
The owner then informed Avey he sold the mining cart to a woman that morning. Refusing to leave without his cart, Avey demanded that the man drive to the home while he and his family followed.
“We pulled right up and the cart was up on the ground,” Avey said. “They sanded off Avey Mining Company from the side and beat the internal bars out with the sledgehammer.”
The mining cart is 2.5 feet by 2 feet, and stood about 4 feet tall while sitting on homemade tracks outside of Avey’s house.
A person who answered the phone on Monday at the San Andreas antique store declined to comment and said there was an active law enforcement investigation to determine who stole the mining cart.
He said he did not realize the cart was stolen when he purchased it.
Avey said he would now do restoration work to re-stencil “Avey Mining Company” on the side and re-install the internal bars.
When the mining cart is back at home, it will be chained to something that is cemented into the ground, he said.