Mining Wisdom from a Book and a Movie (Part 3)

 (Howard, the old timer.)

Nuggets of Mining Wisdom

Once again, I have some nuggets of mining wisdom for you I unearthed in literature and the movies. Over 75 years since the book was written by B. Traven and over 60 years since Hollywood produced the movie directed by John Huston,"Treasure of the Sierra Madre" remains the all-time classic about gold, greed, treasure hunting, and adventure.

Gold Concentrates
Gold Pans
Gold Prospecting Books

Our three protagonists are, once again, Curtin and Dobbs…two novices with dreams of striking it rich in Mexico and Howard…the old-time miner and prospector who acts as their mentor and to a great extent, their conscience and voice of reason.

Howard: "I’ve dug in Alaska and Canada and Colorado. I was with the crowd in the British Honduras where I made my fare back home and almost enough over to cure me of the fever I'd caught. Dug in California and Australia. All over the world practically. Yeah, I know what gold does to men's souls."

(Based on this statement, the old-timer Howard was in on some of the last big gold strikes of virgin ground at the end of the 1800s into the early 1900s. None of us today is likely to ever see such gold ground. More importantly, Howard’s experiences in the gold fields enabled him to allude to exactly what gold can do to the human heart, mind, and soul.)

Listener at the Oso Negro (a Tampico flophouse): "You talk as though you struck it rich sometime or other, Pop. How about it? Then what are you doin' in here, a down-and-outer?"

Howard: "That's gold, that's what it makes us. Never knew a prospector yet that died rich. Make one fortune, he's sure to blow it in tryin' to find another. I'm no exception to the rule. Aw sure, I'm a gnawed old bone now, but say, don't you guys think the spirit's gone. I'm all set to shoulder a pickax and a shovel anytime anybody's willin' to share expenses."

(You know brothers and sisters, come to think of it…I’ve never known a single gold prospector or miner in my 30+ years hunting for the elusive yellow metal who died rich either. Of course, that depends a great deal on just what you consider “rich” to be…And, as far as shouldering a pickax and a shovel? At your service, anytime, anywhere.)

 (Howard again..."Say, you boys want some beans?")

Howard: "I'd rather go by myself. Going it alone's the best way. But you got to have a stomach for loneliness. Some guys go nutty with it. On the other hand, goin' with a partner or two is dangerous. Murder’s always lurkin' about. Partners accusin' each other of all sorts of crimes. Aw, as long as there's no find, the noble brotherhood will last. But when the piles of gold begin to grow, that's when the trouble starts."

Dickies Work Clothes

(I’ve always found this particular passage not only very revealing but oh so true in many ways. Nope, I’ve never been partnered up when things ever got to the murderous point, but then, we weren’t getting all that much gold either.)

(Interestingly enough though, I’ve been witness to some pretty bad squabbles that could’ve turned violent over lots less gold than the riches that Curtin, Howard, and Dobbs recovered in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Yep, the “noble brotherhood” only lasts when you’re not finding much. After that, all bets are off…)

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Mining Wisdom from a Book and a Movie (Part 2)"

©  Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2011

Questions? E-mail me at