The Grass is Always Greener...

 (Gold mining history is chock full of lessons if you're open to them.)

I've spent quite a bit of time over the years studying the mining history of the American West and an informational item that comes up frequently in those studies is that many old timers were infected with a particularly virulent disease. No, it wasn't gold fever. That's a forgone conclusion and not even worth jawing about at this stage of the game.

Take a Bow
Miners or not, we as human beings have a tendency to always believe that the grass is greener over (or on) the next hill. Yes, I know I written about the "grass is always greener" syndrome in the past here in Bedrock Dreams, but what I have to say bears repeating on many levels and not all of them have to do with gold mining or prospecting. So open your mind and your ears, and you just may learn something valuable. I give no guarantees in that regard though. One thing I've learned over the years in terms of mining and life in general is that you can't force others to learn, change, or grow. That task is up to them and not up to you. But here's the good news. By and large, my readership (that is, you fine people out there) is typically one step ahead of the competition and pretty perceptive to boot. I am constantly gratified by the quality of the people I've come to know here over time. Your generosity, your comments, your e-mails, and your words of encouragement and support underline the better side of human relations and a finer bunch of folks would be hard to find anytime or anywhere. By the way, that includes greenhorns, veteran miners, and every step or level between those two mining experience points. Despite a few bad apples that get tossed quickly from the barrel, small-scale gold miners and prospectors are, by and large, damn fine people. So take a bow and tell yourself that YOU ARE a good person. Who cares what others say anyway?  Or to put it another way..."What others say about me is none of my business."

On the Flimsiest of Evidence

As I tend to do quite often, I digress somewhat here. So I beg your pardon and ask for your patience as I ramble on again about the grass being greener on the other side of the hill. Getting back to the issue at hand, during the California Gold Rush a few lucky Argonauts found themselves digging on unbelievably rich ground. How rich, you ask? Well, for some like the Goodyear brothers, as much as $30,000 a day in placer gold (with gold at $16.00-$22.00 per troy ounce at the time). Of course, this sort of gold ground was exceptional indeed and a highlight rather than the down-and-out situation many miners faced at the time. But a substantial population of would-be Argonauts found themselves on good gold ground that not only "paid wages" but allowed them to salt pokes of yellow away as long as they worked hard and with due diligence. But as you already know having been there and done that, miners are NEVER satisfied. So when some half-inebriated yahoo came staggering along shouting out that a newer, richer strike had been found in the next ravine over, many of these stolid mining types rushed to grab their gear, abandoned their current claims, and stampeded like mindless cattle for greener grass on the flimsiest of evidence. When the new strike was found to be a "humbug" and nothing more, these same miners returned to find their previous claims usurped by newcomers who were more than content to follow up on the hard work already done by the previous tenants. This cycle repeated itself over and over again in the California Motherlode (and elsewhere for that matter) with predictable results. Granted, some of the new ground touted as being "as rich as King Solomon's mines" actually did contain better gold and those who rushed those new locales and were first on the scene did pretty well overall. And so it went during the Gold Rush and then later in the California deserts. Eventually this same sort of greener grass virus infected other miners and prospectors in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Washington, and South Dakota. Even into the 1900s legendary single-blanket, jackass prospectors like "Shorty" Harris kept the faith when it came to the "grass is always greener" syndrome. You see, there was always something better waiting over that next hill.

("Shorty" Harris was the ultimate "grass is always greener" gold prospector.)

What I'm Getting At

So now we come back to you, my friend as both a real person and a miner and prospector. Take care that you yourself don't fall prey to the "grass is always greener" virus. It's easier to do than you think and it can happen even on that hardscrabble little plot you're currently dry washing or highbanking. Now that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to go racing off to some other location that "looks" or "sounds" better based solely on a whim or hearsay evidence provided by some questionable source like the local town drunk. It doesn't even have to be that extreme really. It could mean instead of thoroughly sampling or working that current spot you've been hitting half-heartedly, that you're itching to move upstream or down that dry wash to another "better" spot that probably holds the gold you want and maybe...just won't have to work as hard to get it. See what I'm getting at here? But don't misunderstand me. It's perfectly fine to cut your losses (mining or otherwise) IF you know with reasonable certainty that what you're digging is a dry hole. Why beat your head bloody against that wall, right? Well, there's a fine line to be addressed here and only you can make that assessment. I guess the main qualifier in this regard to is to ask yourself one of the following questions:
  • Have I sampled the area I'm currently working thoroughly and in a consistent fashion?
  • Am I employing the right kind of mining gear for the task at hand?
  • Is my mining approach targeted toward maximum efficiency and gold recovery?
  • Can I honestly say that the locale I'm working is a dry hole and a waste of my time?
  •  Did I truly bust my hump and put 100% effort into sampling/working my current spot?
  •  Do I have a good reason for heading to newer pastures or am I just bullshitting myself?
Unless I miss my bet this should provide some food for thought from the prospecting and mining standpoints.

Make it Happen

On a more personal level, this "grass is always greener" routine applies in much the same way. It can relate to jobs, money, the search for inner peace, relationships, or whatever it is you're currently seeking. Yes, sometimes we have to head for the other hill or patch of grass because where we currently reside is stagnant and taking us nowhere. This is that miner's "dry hole" I already mentioned. Unless you're some sort of a masochist your best bet in this instance is to cinch up your belt and your moral resolve and make things happen in the smartest way possible. Failing that, just get off your dead ass and make it happen, regardless. Anything is better than the constant unhappiness generated by going nowhere fast. Be advised, however, that if you drag along the same old tired emotional or mental "baggage" with you or the same false expectations that have never brought you anything positive in the past, then your physical surroundings might change but the results you want so desperately will still go missing in action. That green grass you're seeking will quickly turn dead and brown, right before your very eyes. Remember above all that YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK. So think positive at all times. And while you're at it, please make sure that you've used up all your usual excuses before finally standing tall and making that move over the next hill.

(It's what you make it...)

 Best of luck to you along the way.

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

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Great advice JR. "They are always digging it up in chunks....someplace else." One of my favorite movie lines, and very true indeed.

  2. Interesting wisdom here, I live within the Bullfrog mining district, a minor strike compared to Goldfield or Tonopah, many miners and prospectors up and left the Bullfrog to work the bigger strikes, we know this from historical record, they simply did it for the money they think they would potentially make, many found out that supposed richer grounds would also be more expensive to operate out of, and find out that all the ground was already staked up for miles surrounding the paying mines.perhaps that old claim was not so bad after all. Back to the Bullfrog, mostly microscopic gold here, not really that appealing or economic to work, so they claim, just read the pubilc records, now if one was to put absolute faith into that, maybe the grass would appear to look greener somewhere else, then why all the holes and mines then? Practically all the dirt here for miles around assays the presence of gold and silver, but when you pan it, you will probably see no color, and move on to greener pastures, by putting all your faith in this notion, there is the possibility of passing up a rich or even dream strike that you have based your own model on, people have the tendency to have a closed mind while prospecting, sticking strictly to what was taught to them, only going after what they are familiar with, and spend precious time looking for the same exact thing countless other people are looking for, if so many people say so, then how could they all be wrong? My own experiences can explain, I am hardheaded as it gets when it comes to believing expert advice, Early on I knew nothing about prospecting, but I knew that if I was to examine and repeatedly research every rock type around a potential prospect, eventually I would know the valuable ones from others, after many many lab results, a pattern would be seen, that would indicate where the goods were hiding, or so I thought, turns out, I got some real equipment, tested 8 100 lb samples, 6 had paperwork, four of the six said there was no gold at all, after a thorough and methodical run, all 8 showed the money, well, how could this be? And why would I even test dirt the experts tell me is worthless? Because somehow I knew better, since then I have been approached by highly respected associates in the mining industry to dump my piddly claims to work with them on there supposed extremely rich properties in the Congress district of Arizona, promises of millions of dollars, fantastic riches lie just beneath the gravels, basically all the bullshit a used car dealer would sell a used car with, or say a mining promoter would bilk a poor soul for a life's saving with, first off, if its that good, then what do they need me for? Now if I was in my first year of prospecting, perhaps I would have packed it up for greener pastures, I said, thanks for this once in a lifetime offer, but I am never going to leave my piddly claims, I am happy with them, actually, I do this because I love to, I enjoy going out into this vast desert and sampling and exploring every hole and scratch mark there is within reason 50_miles around, if I did it for the money, I would have never known what I have today, and would have given up way to easily looking and looking for what countless others have been seeking for who knows how long, nope, take it from me, highly unlikely there is some magical wonderland with gold easily found and processed just over the next hill, even less likely someone is going to tell you where it is, if at all, If you happen to find gold, then there you go, learn to work what you got, nothing beats what you already got unless you got nothing, I read every single thing you post, I love your general lack of bullshit, and call it like it really is. You teach, I learn, thanks, John in Nevada.

  3. Ironically, it was the same Shorty Harris along with an Ed Cross that staked the original Bullfrog strike. That now sits just inside the Nevada triangle of Death Valley NP.


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