What the Old Timers Taught Me About Gold Mining (Part 1)

(Now I'm an old timer myself.)

As I've mentioned before here in "Bedrock Dreams," I consider myself fortunate (if not blessed) to have been mentored as a gold prospector and small-scale miner by a couple of old timers who have since crossed over that final divide. I often think if the Pearly Gates truly do exist and contain a bit of gold in them, these two individuals are doing their damnedest to mine it all out.

Dumber Than Dumb

I'll tell you something right here and now...I was as green as they come when I first started out in the prospecting and small-scale mining realm. In fact, I was dumber than dumb, to put it bluntly.

Gold Pans
Gold Panning Kits
Mining Equipment
I'm a bit more knowledgeable and experienced 33 years later and I owe a great part of that expertise to the gentlemen in question here. Neither of these old timers was a commercial miner per se, although both worked stints for wages at one time or another in hard-rock mining operations in southeastern California and parts of Nevada and Arizona.

Cutting Their Mining Teeth

As a very young man during the economic Depression of the 1930s, one of the pair was a "down-'n-outer" who ran small scale, do-it-yourself mining equipment in various locales in the West and Southwest where he was able to recover enough yellow metal to feed and clothe himself until Word War II came along and carried him off to the Pacific. The other old timer cut his mining teeth in the late 1940s and early 1950s and actually became part of the uranium prospecting craze and boom of that time period here in the southwestern United States. Still, his first love was always gold prospecting and mining.

Both of these old timers climbed up the mining ladder at a time when much (if not most) of the gold ground in the Lower 48 was still available and accessible. Sure, gold prices were only running around $35.00 a troy ounce until the early 1970s and I'm sure that had an impact on the accessibility issue.

Passing of the "Old Guard"

That said, I shudder to think what these two men would say about the state of affairs in the U.S. today politically, socially, and from a small-scale mining standpoint. Undoubtedly, both would be absolutely fed up and disgusted, and one would curse a blue streak that could make a drunken sailor (or marine) blush.

 (That gold will still be carried downstream long after we're gone.)

Anyway, one point I'm trying to make here is the passing of the "old guard" that's reflected in the lives and accumulated gold prospecting and mining knowledge of old timers like these men fills me with a certain type of sadness. Not only because of the f'd up mess we find ourselves in these days, but because I fear the "inside" or intuitive knowledge these old timers had will eventually be lost forever.

Do One Thing for Me

In this series of posts, I'll do my best to pass along some of that info (and mining philosophy) to you so it won't be lost down the road. After all, I'm nearing 65 years of age and am an old timer myself with the end of the road a lot more real to me than it was when I was in my 20s and 30s and still full of piss and vinegar.

You have to do one thing for me, however. Pass along what you learn from these gentleman and myself to those "newbies" who'll be looking to you for answers and mentoring when you wake up one morning and find that you too are an old timer.

By the way, that day will come much quicker than many of you realize...Peace.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Finding Nuggets the Old Fashioned Way (Part 1)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com


  1. Will do, JR. I'm taking my boys, ages 9 & 4, out with me this afternoon!



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