Turning the Mining Behavior of the Old Timers to Your Advantage (Part 1)

I've been talking a lot lately about the old time gold prospectors and miners' ability to "see" where the gold might be, but now it's time to talk about a different aspect of the old timers you may not be aware of. What's that, you ask? Read on and you'll eventually find out.

For starters, did you know that gold prices in the old days ranged from around $16.00-$22.00 a troy ounce during the California Gold Rush to a high of $35.00 per troy ounce during America's Great Depression years when many "down-and-outers" returned to the gold fields to try and eke out a living? Yes, you probably do know this...but I'll bet you have little idea of the impact those gold prices had on the mining "behavior" of the old timers and how you can turn that to your advantage today, do you?

Back in the Day...

In the past I've mentioned that I had two excellent mentors when I was still green behind the ears and didn't know shit from Shinola when it came to gold prospecting and mining. Both of the fine "gentlemen" who mentored me were born in the early part of the 20th Century, both knew the value of hard work, and both survived the Depression years by prospecting and mining. Lest anyone seize on this last declaration like a life preserver and assume making a living at mining is an easy thing, you need to know that neither of these two individuals struck it rich. In fact, they barely survived off the gold they recovered. You see, times were tough and there wasn't much in the way of government assistance or welfare back in those days so if you wanted to eat...well...you pretty much had to work. Vastly different mindset back then, wasn't it?

Still, back in the day you could roam the old gold districts freely, pitch a tent or build a crude cabin in most spots, and do your small-scale mining thing without much in the way of interference or hassles from mindless bureaucrats spouting rules and regulations straight from the book. Additionally, there weren't any metro-sexual machiatto sipping pseudo-intellectuals or dope-smoking hippie wannabes "boo-hoo-hooing" about the environment and trying to shut your operation down every five minutes. So I think it a fair statement when I say the old timers had a lot more freedom back then than we do today...in just about all respects. 

Small Tips and "Secrets"

You know, I spent many hours asking my mentors questions about what they did back then and how they did it. Sometimes they answered me patiently and at other times they simply gave me pitying looks, shook their heads slowly from side-to-side, or burst out laughing like hyenas. As somewhat of a life-long hothead, I didn't always respond to this treatment calmly but for the most part I shut my mouth, swallowed my pride, and took it because I truly wanted to learn what they knew. 

 (Depression-era "down-and-outers" lining up for donuts and coffee. Some of these men turned to gold prospecting and mining to get through the hard times.)

I also spent many more hours laboring under their personal instruction, something that taught me volumes about gold prospecting and small-scale mining, including many small tips and "secrets" you won't find in those expensive books and videos the dream merchants are always trying to sell you. Having the opportunity to work alongside these old timers is something I treasure today but that said, it wasn't always easy. I took my fair share of abuse in the form of screaming, yelling, sarcastic comments, and other forms of metaphorical ass booting. Eventually I learned a measure of humility along with solid prospecting and mining knowledge.

So what's the point of all this rambling? As always, there's a method to my madness...I'm setting the stage for the next post where you'll learn a thing or two that I was taught along the way. Who knows, it's knowledge that may prove handy for you as well.

(c)  Jim Rocha  (2013)

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


  1. Jim, Your lines below.....made me laugh so hard!! About peed my pants!

    "I took my fair share of abuse in the form of screaming, yelling, sarcastic comments, and other forms of metaphorical ass booting. Eventually I learned a measure of humility along with solid prospecting and mining knowledge."

    I think you have met MY father!! You see, he did Kicked my butt on a constant basis. Usually not physically... but verbally. Although I did get my share of "whuppin's" when things I did were really bad. (his opinion)

    Anyways...as I've said before he was a coal miner for many years...and went with me a few times...
    when we were looking at caves and mining tunnels. I think he was concerned....but had a strange way of showing it. Safety was first and foremost....and it was at his urging that I become more of a placer miner / nugget shooter.

    He also bought me my first pan / screen classifier and helped me with my suction dredge. Although he's passed no....I still hear his words in my ears. Even in the quietest moments.....I could hear him guiding me...providing the words of wisdom, that I thought were true BS when I was young and "stupid". Thanks for providing those words of proverbial wisdom...to those who still have a dad....and think he doesn't know sh*#!.

    It's easier to hear those words of wisdom...from a stranger....and take them seriously. So keep it up...for the dad's who have given up on their children...and the children who have given up on their dads!! It may take many years...but eventually you will know his voice...in your ear...long after he passes! Be safe out there!

  2. I'm not getting any younger so I better get this stuff out while I'm still around to do it! Thanks for your support and for commenting. Best, J.R.

  3. I hope you cover one behavior that sometimes left a thin strip of virgin ground unless Chinese miners later played clean-up. The line separating adjoining claims. Back in the day last thing most miners would do is risk is digging on a neighboring active claim by accident.

    Was an easy way to find yourself shot full of holes, or having your fellow miners giving you the fish eye!

  4. You're a step ahead of me! But your perceptive comments are right on the money. Stay tuned...Thanks for commenting, J.R.


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