A Short Rant on the "Romance" of Gold Mining

 (Admiral David Farragut, USN.)

Well, you know how it goes with yours truly if you've been reading Bedrock Dreams long enough. I get something stuck in my craw and I'm like Union Admiral Farragut at the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay..."Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!"

Can't Say it Any Plainer

I'll tell you right now that I don't watch much television, reality or otherwise. In my view, most of what's on the boob tube is unadulterated crap and there are more turds floating around in that particular punchbowl than I care to mention. Granted, there are a few decent shows on the flickering screen and my tastes tend to be pretty eclectic in that regard. I like survival type stuff, well-done historical programs, and as much as I hate to admit it, I watch the two reality TV gold shows on the Discovery Channel. If that surprises you, please don't be alarmed. I'm like the worst junkie when it comes to all things gold mining, no matter how bad or good those things may be. It's that "moth to the flame" thing in me.

Well lo and behold while viewing one of these gold shows last Friday, I heard someone say that "Gold mining is romantic." Excuse me? Romantic as in romance? As in being on some sort of higher inner or spiritual plain? An idealistic enterprise or romantic adventure on the same level as the creations of the Romantic artists and writers of old? What a crock of shit. I can't say it any plainer that that.

Noble What??

What that idiotic statement reminds me of is the "noble savage" rage of the 1800s in Europe and the United States. Back then primitive peoples (including cannibals, headhunters, and our own warring Native American tribes) were viewed in a highly romantic light by the city bound aristocrats, writers, journalists, and intellectuals of the day. Never mind that these folks rarely left the perimeters of their mansions, studios, or newspaper offices. They knew with absolute certainty that the aforementioned savages were...well...noble and lived lives of peace, contentment, harmony, and absolute freedom out there in the wilds.  More recently, the film "Avatar" presented a 21st Century version of the whole "noble savage" routine. Interesting isn't it? How people continually see what they want to see and ignore the not-so-nice things. Things like cutting off and shrinking someone's head, chopping someone up and cooking him or her for dinner, or scalping some poor soul and then flaying him alive. Real romantic ain't it?

 (A 19th Century artist's view of the "noble savage.")

(The 21st Century version of the "noble savage.")

Damn Straight

I know some of you get sick and tired of hearing me say it, but I've been at small-scale gold prospecting and mining for over three and a half decades now. I've prospected and placer mined in the high mountains along rushing streams, dry washed in deserts and other assorted arid wastelands, dug test pits in grassy highlands, and slogged my way through marshy lowlands in various locations throughout the U.S. and Old Mexico. I've had my share of fun in this regard as well as plenty of frustration, failure, and success (not to mention my own ongoing dream of finally hitting the "big one"). I've been banged up pretty good but never bad enough to lay me out permanently; I've been sicker than a dog at times with chills, fever, and dysentery; I've ached all over and hardly been able to close my hands because they were so cut up and swollen; and I've literally slaved away like some Third World coolie on more occasions than I could possibly count. If that sounds romantic to you then I suggest you remove your head from your ass and get real for a minute.

Do I love small-scale gold prospecting and mining (and just about anything else connected to gold mining)? You're damn straight I do. I loved it from the get go and still do. It's a great pursuit whatever the downside and I'd recommend it to almost everybody (notice I said "almost"). There's great natural beauty involved in or near many mining locations, you can find your own personal "space" and sense of peace, and there are many good people out there who'll help you along the way. But here's the deal. Gold mining on any level is not for the faint of heart, the indolent or lazy, the whiners and the complainers, folks lacking drive or ambition, weak asses, blowhards or braggarts who can't back their play, and most of all...IT AIN'T FOR ROMANTICS!

 (Just imagine this "romantic" as your pard in the goldfields...hoo boy...)

So if you're a modern-day version of one of those romantics of yesteryear day dreaming away the hours bout the "romance" of gold mining, do us all a favor and stay right where you are in that heated or air-conditioned mansion, office, or studio of yours. Keep that airhead of yours in those romantic clouds because gold prospecting and mining is definitely not going to be your cup of tea ol' chap.

The rest of us "realists" will carry on for you though. Not a problem...

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015

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


  1. The thing I like about prospecting is there is no romance involved. It's hard ass work in extreme cold or hot conditions.It's often dangerous and I feel most conformable often with a gun by my side. I suppose the peace and solitude of the locations can be romantic for some. But for me there just places to test my manhood. Be leave me I respect mother nature.She could win every day you go out. Enjoy working hard every day to not be part of the over pussifcation of the American Male. So for me prospecting fits the bill.

  2. Hello JR, Romantic? I guess it depends on your meaning of the word. I picture guy/gal stuff......roses and heart shaped candy boxes. I have always wished I was born in the Old West, a hundred years before I was. When I was a kid, my Uncle Fred told me " The Old West is dead and gone, you can't live there." So, I set out to prove him wrong. I have spent most of my life as a cowboy doing ranch work. I am also a saddle maker, a trapper and a hunting guide. I worked as a butcher for a year........all Old West jobs. Gold prospecting is one of those Old West jobs. I worked one winter staking mine claims for a big company (they never did anything more than that). I guess some folks would call this "Romantic" but I didn't set out and do it for that reason. It has been a good life, but a lot of hard work for little pay. I read somewhere years ago some one asked " If you wrote a book about your life, would anyone want to read it?" I would like to think they would. At least more so than if I'd chosen my Uncle's advice and got a high paying office job. Romantic?......maybe, maybe not.......


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