It's time for another pearl of wisdom from the all-time great dispenser of wisdom. That would be me, if you hadn't already guessed. I'm a legend in my own mind after all. Anyway, enough delusional self-promotion...let's move on.
Beware who you choose for mining pards: This is one potential pitfall I've managed to avoid for the bulk of my small-scale mining career with the exception of the first eight-10 years or so. How, you ask? I work alone, that's how. It's not that I have anything against teaming up with a good pard or two...in fact, I welcome it. I've had some good pards in the past and and a few who weren't so good. In fact they were royal pains in the ass or worse. But more on that later. Since I moved to New Mexico from California 25 years ago, I ended up going it alone simply because I was...well...alone (there's that word again). I knew no one at all when I landed here with my small family so I was pretty much stuck on the far side when it came to mining pards. Not by choice necessarily, but by the nature of the situation itself. These days I do more mentoring as opposed to partnering up. I guess I'm a teacher of sorts at heart and if I can help newbies get going, I'll do it. As long as they listen, are willing to work, and are trustworthy and have color running through their veins, that is. If they fail in one or more of those areas then I toss in my cards and leave them to their own devices. It's just the way it is with me. Ditto for prospective mining pards.
(Use caution when choosing mining pards.)
OK, that out of the way, you should take great care in selecting your mining pards (or treasure hunting partners as well). The reasons for this admonition are myriad and range from simple annoyance to getting ripped off and every step between these two poles. For most of us, prospecting and mining are not full-time pursuits and the time we DO have to get out and about is truly quality time. A trustworthy mining pard is an asset and can increase the overall quality of that time, not to mention having another pair of hands to pitch in and get the job done. There's also the safety factor. Like I've said numerous times before, I don't recommend you work alone if you can help it. Bad ju-ju can be lurking about and a simple fall or some other type of accident can leave your ass in the wind if things really go wrong for one reason or another. Having a good pard around in these types of situations could be a life saver, don't ya know? Generally speaking though, when you're only getting out to mine and prospect on an occasional basis the personal quirks or character flaws of a pard don't loom as large simply because you're not around that person all that much.
On the other hand, if you're working a claim or decent gold ground on a regular basis you best know the person or persons you've teamed up with. Once you're camped out there in the desert or mountains for extended periods and working to get the gold each and every day, the quality of your mining pards looms large. Very large at times, as a matter of fact. For that's when the overall character of that pard (or pards) really comes through loud and clear. And if things start going south conflicts will arise. Conflicts concerning the shared work load, who's doing what and how much, the overall pissing and moaning going on, and discussions (arguments) over the gold split. Yes, the latter does happen, so be prepared for it if those pards of yours get greedy on you. Some do and that's a fact. When a decent nugget or two show up you better have a plan for dealing with those nice finds. When I was dredging and working California's North Yuba River back in the 1980s I had anywhere from a single pard to two or three others. The way we solved the nugget issue was that if you were in the water running the suction dredge nozzle you got that puppy. I've also been involved in instances where we drew cards and the highest card got the prize. There's any number of ways to approach this issue...all I'm saying is you need to have that method or plan going in and known by all BEFORE you start mining. The rest of the gold split should be based on an even divvying up of the take, providing your pard or pards carried their weight equally. If they don't then they don't get an equal split. And boy oh boy, that's when the baby cry shit will hit stellar proportions.
(Splitting the take is only an issue if you let it become one.)
What do I look for in a pard? Here are a few things:
- Honesty and integrity (without these in a pard you're just asking for trouble and rest assured trouble will rear its ugly head somewhere along the way).
- Sense of humor (mining is a grind and being able to joke and laugh lightens that load. Sometimes you just need to laugh about how bad the gold take is!).
- Willingness and ability to work hard (lazy asses need not apply in my camp. I don't need any bird watchers, nature hikers, or deep thinkers sitting on a boulder meditating. I need help and that involves someone who works their tail off).
- Doesn't whine or complain much, if at all (there's nothing worse to listening to a whiner or complainer all day...it's like dealing with a small child and when I'm out there I don't need or want that sort of crapola).
- Knows his or her shit (a pard must have a modicum of mining and prospecting experience and equipment knowledge. I'm not big on starting from ground zero when I'm doing serious mining, nor should you be. However, if I run across a greenhorn who shows the right aptitude and can hump it, I'll give that person a chance).
(I'll always give a hard-working greenhorn a chance.)
- Isn't a heavy drinker or uses drugs of any sort (as a reformed addict/alcoholic myself with over 21 years of being clean, I know the score with these poisons. I don't mind someone having a few beers or a shot or two around me, but I won't tolerate drunks in camp. Drugs? I have zero tolerance for drug users and that includes smoking mota. I like having sharp people around me, not the "Hey dude, let's fire one up" types whose brains always run in low gear).
- Loves gold mining no matter what (these are the true color-in-their-veins types of individuals who love every aspect of small-scale mining and exude that love, no matter how frustrating things get).
- Shares the load equally (helps around camp, pays for his or her share of the travel and operating costs, and just generally mans or womans up).
Like they say, "Character counts." In small-scale gold mining, that trite little phrase becomes paramount.
Have a safe and happy 4th of July my friends!
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2016
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org