(A singular and solitary breed.)
The old time pocket gold miners were a singular and solitary breed. Of the tens of thousands of aspiring Argonauts who flooded California during the height of the Gold Rush, I'd estimate that fewer than 1% were full-time pocket miners. I'd also hazard a guess that there are few, if any, small-scale gold miners around today who've practiced pocket mining, let alone made it their mainstay approach to getting placer (or lode) gold.
This introductory point is understandable. Pocket mining is extremely difficult...even on the best of days and under optimal conditions. You see, gold pockets tend to be scattered haphazardly about and are extremely hard to find, especially for those with little pocket mining experience. Oh hell...let me be blunt here...pocket gold mining is a tough nut even for those experienced at it. Sure, small-scale miners in the past stumbled across pockets in their day-to-day mining routines and even a few of you probably fall into this category. I know I do. Truth is, I've never found a gold pocket by strictly searching for one...only by stumbling across them as a part of routine mining activities. So just HOW did the old timers practice the art and erstwhile science of pocket mining?
Well, there was a method (if not much science) to their madness. First, the old timers eyeballed gold-bearing terrain using their personal versions of X-Ray vision and then selected a likely looking locale. Again, some of what they were looking for were areas where deposition patterns (stream hydraulics), natural events (mudslides, flash flooding, rock slides, etc.), or large obstacles predominated or at least were key elements in the streambeds, washes, benches, terraces, and hillsides the old timers chose to work. Speaking less objectively here, many of them just had a knack or intuition for "sniffing out" potential gold pockets which is one reason I've gently suggested to you in the past to go with your gut feelings at times. You see, in my mind finding gold is a triadic affair based on both objective and subjective considerations:
1) Knowledge (objective)
2) Experience (objective)
3) Intuition (subjective)
To be really good at anything takes a commitment of heart and mind, body and soul. That's the mining philosopher in me coming out but don't think for an instant that what I'm laying out here isn't a BIG TIP because it is. Question is, are you going to grab it and make it part of who you are and what you do?
A Foolish Pursuit?
OK, enough of that. Let's get back to one of the main approaches used by pocket gold miners in the past. It's called the "fandango" approach (a.k.a., the "fan" approach). A fandango is a lively Spanish dance between two persons, typically a male and female (these days, who knows?). The old timers were very familiar with California's Spanish antecedents and no small number of Spanish miners as well as others from Mexico, Central America, and South America were working the California mines (and many other mines in the West and Southwest). So fandangos weren't all that uncommon. You'll love this next item, however. Another definition for fandango is (and I quote) "A foolish or worthless pursuit." How's that for descriptive power?!
Now it could very well be that a few old time pocket gold miners came to believe that the English translation of fandango was "fan" (like a hand-held woman's fan) but that's not the translation at all. Whatever the case, the old time pocket miners used a search pattern that resembled a woman's hand fan and that puts us back at fandango. It just goes round and round and round. Or back and forth as the case may be. The handle of the fan points away from the pocket miner while the spread of the fan represents the area he or she must search to find golden clues to the location of the pockets themselves. The idea is that if those clues show up within the fan, they will continue as the fan narrows in width, and that at the end of the handle lies the pocket. There is a logic to this approach that we'll discuss as I bring this series on pocket mining to its conclusion in my next post. You've been given some food for thought here...now it's time to digest it.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org