Fate Always Intervenes When You Find Good Gold (Part 1)

 (A broken-down hard case.)

I'm a broken-down hard case now but don't you think for one minute I can't carry my share of the load and get to work with the best of them. I've seen and done a lot when it comes to small-scale gold mining and prospecting over the course of 40 years and one thing I've learned is that fate always intervenes when you find good gold. That's what this post is all about.

 Call It What You Want

Now you can call it fate, luck, karma, or whatever but in my mining career it always seemed that one of these ill-defined universal mechanisms would lead me on and then drop me down hard when it came to getting good gold. I can't tell you how many times over the years I got into something good and thought I was well on my way to hitting the "big one." Isn't that what drives many of us anyway? But I'll be damned and bamboozled if Ma Nature or the fates and furies didn't leave me scratching my head in dismay each and every time I got into a decent pocket, paystreak, or section of bench gravels. I'm talking desert dry washes as well as mountain streams here. And every other small-scale mining context I've ever been involved in. Now you can call this bad luck on my part or suggest I somehow missed the boat when it came to successfully exploiting a good find. Either one or both of these theories may hold some water but the main point I'm throwing out here is that for whatever reason when I came upon something good it never lasted very long or simply pinched out. And when it did, my disappointment was palpable...especially after the heady rush of the initial discovery.

Every Trick in the Book

Let me give you a couple of good examples, one related to dry placering and one connected to wet placer mining. I've mentioned the first one before but I'll bring it up again because it speaks directly to what I'm talking about here. Now put yourself in my place for a bit. You're sampling a dry placer wash using a five-gallon bucket, a shovel, and some hand tools. You know, trying to get the drift before committing yourself to setting up and running motorized gear (in this case a dry washer). The area you're sampling is known as a good gold producer, including large flakes, coarse gold, and medium and small nuggets. You're applying every trick that experience has taught you along the way and you're no greenhorn. You're working behind (downstream side) larger obstructions in the wash and you collect half a five-gallon bucket of material taken from the first six-eight inches behind a large boulder. You lug the bucket back to your panning tub (a must for clean ups and sampling in dry areas) and start working it.

Almost Tragic

Well it's Hallelujah and praise Jesus time! By the time you finish panning that small sample of dirt you've turned up over a quarter troy ounce of coarse gold including two small nuggets. With adrenaline racing through your system and a wide grin you set up that motorized puffer and start shoveling like a S.O.B. behind that boulder. You go deeper and wider. Hell, you even check the upstream side of it. You feed that material onto and through the hopper screen and then await the results. You shut off the "puffer," snap out the riffle tray, and start panning the concentrates heart pounding all the while. The result? Virtually non-existent...a few small flakes and nothing else. Not to be deterred, you go back to work and dig and dig and dig, trying to find more gold like the stuff that ended up in your first sample bucket. The gold goes missing in action. Like an over-inflated balloon, your high hopes are dashed and consternation alters your smile into a grimace. You realize you only found a small, erratic pocket (not uncommon in dry placers, by the way). Ma Nature has had her way with you and those visions of gold and more gold around and down deeper near that boulder were just a pipe dream. The let down is...well...almost tragic. You'd been anticipating ounces of coarse gold from the spot, a major pocket or paystreak that would sustain you for days, maybe even weeks. Now that dream has been shot to hell. Sure, you're grateful for the score as is, but the golden visions you had about the gold that remained to be gotten from that spot have been whisked away yet again.

 (The direction  I was dreaming in.)

Like Romeo and Juliet

This is what I'm talking about in this post. The good gold never lasts. Not for me at least. You think you've hit something extraordinary and then fate intervenes, wagging a "no-no" finger at you, all the while chuckling to itself. The laugh is on you, of course. You spend the rest of your time at that spot sampling every obstacle in the immediate area with zero results. What the hell? It's like the universe dangled the prize right in front of your eyes and when you made a grab for it, well...it just disappeared on you. Again, I was no newbie, greenhorn, or cherry boy at this time. I had nearly 20 years of mining behind me and knew what's what. But I swear before God and all humanity that each and every time I came upon a good score initially, it just never sustained itself (or me) for very long. This is as tragic a tale as that of Romeo and Juliet. Will Shakespeare himself couldn't have written the plot better methinks.

 (Just like Romeo and Juliet.)

I'll give you another example in my next post. Meanwhile, muse a while on what I'm saying here. Maybe you can come up with a theory or conclusion, or perhaps tag me as "ill fated" overall. Better yet, I'd like to hear from you about those occasions when the good gold you thought was there ACTUALLY was there!


(c) Jim Rocha 2017

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


  1. thanks -
    wonder-filled way to say it = most excellent way to put it-all in perspective
    ==== BUT = IT SURE WAS FUN -the gettin' and the 'high' = AND even the 'call-it-what-you-will'

  2. Yep. Love to beat gold at it's own game. But rarely ever happens. Like being stood up for Prom.
    On a club outing for a long weekend. Digging with my buddie. Finding nice gold all weekend. Fines,flakes and a few match heads. Saturday night head in for the potluck.
    Head back Sunday. A new member show up and asked if he could dig along side. Sure always willing to teach. Help him set up his NEW drywasher. Help him set up dead air space...the whole good lesson.
    Lol end of day we were a little more than a pennies weight. Him...well I guess the match head pocket was more where he was digging. Over a 135÷ in all. He cought the fever that weekend. I guess we just made a new friend. My wife has a saying she uses all the time. All good.

  3. It's uncanny how the newbies can stumble on good gold at times. I've seen similar things happen numerous times along the way. But it rarely lasts for them either!

  4. JR, I guess this is why so many early prospectors went crazy. If this was your only income and that happened.....wow. It would be hard to take! Like the poet Robert Service wrote "It's not the gold that I'm wanting, so much as just finding the gold".


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