What the Old Timers Taught Me About Gold Mining (Part 6)

(It may not look like it, but the old timers were here too.)

Here's the sixth installment in this series of posts. Read on and you may just learn a thing or two.

Do What Others Can't or Won't

A major lesson my two old-timer mining mentors taught me early on was that many miners (recreational, small-scale, and commercial) quit when the going gets too tough. In the commercial mining realm this is often associated with bad decision making, unreliable equipment, or simple lack of funds to keep mining. The first two factors here can contribute to lack of success on the part of small-scale miners too, but operating costs typically aren't a big factor overall for most of us.

Gold Pans  Gold Panning Kits
My understanding of this admonition by my mentors is a bit different however. I always interpreted it as a lesson about not being lazy, remaining persistent, and pushing your mining efforts to the maximum. "Do what others can't or won't" means that you need to carry your efforts forward in locations and situations where the other small-scale miners around you are throwing in the towel and exclaiming, "Screw this! I've had enough."

"Never Give Up"

Now this doesn't mean those other miners are necessarily incompetent or lazy asses (although this is true in some instances). It simply means they've reached their personal limits in terms of physical effort and frustration. It's sort of like sports or life in general...you can just get by with minimal effort, give up when you hit those barriers, or push yourself even harder to overcome the obstacles and difficulties facing you.

Another way to put this is, "Never give up." I believe this statement is related more to mental and emotional strength than it is to physical prowess. Like myself, anyone who served in surface, air, or ground combat ops in Vietnam (or any other war, for that matter) knows how this works. Those veterans out there who've been in the deep doo-doo can tell you that once your heart, mind, or spirit throws in the towel in a combat environment you are not only placing yourself at risk but risking the lives and well being of your buddies. Thankfully however, small-scale gold mining is typically not a life-or-death situation.

(In some environments giving up is NOT an option.)

That said, some small-scale miners fall into the "can't" category not because of a lack of will or spirit, but simply because they are hindered by physical limitations or disabilities that are age, illness, or accident related. Any time you come across an individual like this out in the field (and I have on occasion) you should take the time to ask them how they're doing and if there's anything you can do to assist them. They may say "no" or they may say "yes"...either way you've done the right thing and are practicing the principles that'll eventually make you a miner's miner...if you're not that already.

The "Won'ts"

Then we come to the "won'ts." These are the miners who use their knowledge and experience correctly but stop short of carrying things through to their obvious conclusion. Here's a small example. Over the years I've practiced my personal version of crevicing (above and underwater) on numerous occasions. On just as many occasions I've come across cracks or crevices that had already been "worked" before by someone else. (Notice here I say "worked" and not "worked out.")

In quite few of these instances the person who came before me had identified a good potential placer gold collection point but had failed to clean this same crack or crevice out thoroughly. In some instances they were within inches of getting some nice gold if they'd continued on or done the work necessary to clean that puppy out properly. Why did they stop short? Typically because they weren't willing to exercise the patience and more importantly, the effort do so. I've seen similar things happen in a different context when it comes to suction dredging, high banking, dry washing, and so on.

As my old timer mentors liked to say, "Mining is hard work. It ain't for sissies or lazy asses. So if you can't work hard and won't do things right, stay the hell outta mining."

There it is...

Best of luck to you all.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "What the Old Timers Taught Me About Gold Mining (Part 5)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

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


  1. As my Dad used to say..." Can't is for quitters who won't even try." Good advice, no matter what you are talking about.


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