Mining Wisdom from a Book and a Movie (Part 1)

(The two gold mining wannabes, Curtin [left] and Dobbs.)

I'm going to veer away from the usual here for a few posts and bring you some gold-mining and treasure hunting wisdom from two very unlikely sources, literature and the movies.

One of the greatest gold mining, treasure hunting, and adventure books of all time is "Treasure of the Sierra Madre," written by a very mysterious figure known as B.Traven way back in the 1930s. Also released as a now classic Hollywood film in 1948 (my birth year), "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" starred Humphrey Bogart as "Dobbs," Tim Holt as "Curtin," and Academy Award winner (Best Actor) Walter Huston as the old-time gold prospector, "Howard."

(Howard, the old timer.)

There's little doubt that B. Traven knew that of which he spoke and wrote about...small-scale gold prospecting and mining and what greed and gold can do to the human soul. This fact is brought forward time and time again in both book and film in the form of direct quotes by the characters in question and the storyline as a whole.

Gold Pans
Gold Panning Kits
Mining Equipment

Who are these characters? Two bust-out Americans (Dobbs and Curtin) trying to find work in the oilfields of Mexico during the Great Depression and the old time prospector and gold miner (Howard) they turn to as a means of reversing their bad luck. Dobbs and Curtin are complete "newbies" when it comes to gold mining and their ignorance and inexperience shines through early on (some passages edited for brevity and readability):

Dobbs: "I'm sick of it. Sick of oil. That's it. Sick of oil. I want to see something different, want to hear somebody talking of something else."

Curtin: "Same here pal. Exactly the same.Why not try gold digging for a change?"

Dobbs: "You said it buddy. Prospecting...that's the word! Did it ever occur to you that this is the country where the heaps of gold and silver are just calling to you to help them out of their misery, help them out of the ground; make them shine on the fingers and necks of swell dames?"

(Again, let me remind you that these are two of the greenest greenhorns you'd ever hope to come you see, book; movie; or real life; the dream is often vastly different than the reality. Next, Curtin mentions the risks involved:)

Dobbs: "In fact, the risk isn't so big. To wait here until you land another job is just as tough. If you're lucky you may make $300 a month. And what is the risk anyway? If we don't touch gold, it may be silver. If it isn't silver, it may be copper or lead or precious stones. Life is cheaper in the open than it is here.Our money lasts longer and the longer it lasts, the greater our chance of digging up something."

Curtin: (After long pause.) "Say Dobbsie, have you ever looked for gold?"

Dobbs: "Er, me? No, can't say I ever have. How about you Curtie?"

Curtin: "Nope. Never..."

(It's perfectly obvious that Curtin and Dobbs don't have much in the way of gold mining, prospecting, or treasure hunting resumes. Like I have to tell many novices, gold isn't going to jump into your pan just because you want it to. Without some prior mining knowledge and experience, you are essentially digging blind.)

There's more to come and some valuable lessons to be learned from all this, believe it or not. So stick with me.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "10 Tips for Smart Miners: Network With the Locals"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2011

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