Mining Wisdom from a Book and a Movie (Part 2)

(Howard, the old-time gold prospector and miner.)

Two Novices and an Experienced Old Timer

Once again, I'm veering away from the usual for a few posts to bring you some gold-mining and treasure hunting wisdom from two very unlikely sources, literature and the movies. What book and what movie, you ask? Why "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" of course.

Who are the characters involved? Two bust-out Americans (Dobbs and Curtin, played by Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt in the film version) who decide to try their hand at gold mining in Mexico during the Great Depression under the tutelage of the old time prospector and gold miner Howard (played by Walter Huston). Dobbs and Curtin are complete mining novices who listen intently as the old timer talks about gold in a local (Tampico) flop house called the Oso Negro (some passages edited for brevity and readability):

Howard: "Anyway, gold is a very devilish sort of thing, believe me boys. When you have it your soul is no longer the same as it was before. You may have so much piled up that you can't carry it away; but the more you have, the more you want to add, to make it just that much more. Like sitting at roulette. Just one more spin."

Gold Concentrators
Metal Detectors

(Most of us who are long-term prospectors and miners were bitten by the gold bug once and it's never let go of us since. To a great extent mining is also a gamble, which Howard alludes to. But deeper down, Howard understands and implies that the nature of greed and gold are often intertwined.)

Howard: "When you go out to prospect you tell yourself: 'I'll be satisfied with 50,000 handsome smackers, so help me, Lord and cross my heart.' Elegant resolution. After sweating the hell out of you, going short of provisions, and seeing nothing and finding nothing, you come down to $40,000, then to $30,000, and you reach $5,000 and say to yourself: 'If I could only make 5 grand Lord, I sure would be grateful and never want anything, anything more in all my life.'"

Bystander at the Oso Negro: "$5,000 wouldn't be so bad, after all."

Howard: "It's not all that easy as you fellers think. You say you'd be satisfied with 5 grand. But I tell you here and now if you did find something, you couldn't be dragged away. Not even the threat of miserable death could stop you getting just $10,000 more. And if you reach $50,000, you want to make it an even $100 grand. When you have $150,000, you want $200,000 to be on the safe side."
(Here Howard points out that human nature, greed, and gold are a potent and potentially addictive combination.)
Dobbs: "That wouldn't happen to me. I swear it. I'd take $20,000, pack up, and go. I'd do that even if there were still half a million bucks' worth of gold lying around howling to be picked up. I wouldn't take it. It's just 20 grand I'm after to make me perfectly happy and healthy."
(Dobbs, the bust out and novice.)
(Even on a much smaller scale this is easier said than done in gold prospecting and mining.)
Yep, there's still more to come. If you haven't purchased a copy of the book or movie yet, you might want to. It should be part of every mining and treasure hunting library.
If you liked this post, you may want to read: "More on Gold Prospecting: Modern Methods (Part 1)"
(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2011
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