Fate Always Intervenes When You Find Good Gold (Conclusion)
It's no mystery to most of you that small-scale gold mining has its share of ups and downs. But when you find something good and it disappears on you shortly afterward, that's an "up and down" that's...well...hard to take.
As I said in my previous post, this sort of up and down situation has reared its ugly head more times than I like to admit in my four decades of prospecting and mining. Again, call it bad karma, fate, or luck taking a hike on you. Whatever the cause, these sorts of events have brought me some of my highest highs and lowest lows. You know the score...you land a solid punch on your opponent's jaw and he staggers and seems to be on his way to the mat when out of the blue he sucker punches you and you're the one seeing stars and hearing little birdies sing. In all truth, these situations have spawned a deep love/hate attitude in my cynical miner's heart but just like the rest of you, I do my best to take them in stride no matter how disappointing they may be. Still, I wonder why Ma Nature messes with me this way. Once or twice is OK, but getting the bad ju-ju time and time again is a bit much methinks.
A Well-Knit Community
Imagine yourself back in the mid-1980s suction dredging along one of the most beautiful gold-bearing rivers in Northern California, the North Yuba. This is long before the pasty faced little weasels who call themselves "green warriors" put a stop to your activities and made dredging a criminal enterprise on California's streams. In fact, back then these types of pot-addled shit birds pretty much left us alone...at least in the direct or one-on-one confrontation sense. They knew we'd drop them on their asses if they f'd with us. End of that story. But that's the way it was as a small-scale gold miner "back in the day." Those of you who were too young to be mining back then (and the late 1970s) missed out in case you'd like to know. Times were good in those days and you could do pretty much as you damn well pleased as a small-scale guy or gal (within reason, that is). We miners had a small but well-knit community back then and most of us knew one another even if we lived and worked hundreds of miles away from each other. In fact, I still interact with some of the miners I met and felt a bond with back then. Those were good times and I miss them greatly.
(Ahhh...the North Yuba.)
Hitting the Good One
As usual, I digress as most old timers tend to do. You and two pards are doing the dredge thing at a hard-to-reach spot along the North Yuba. So hard to reach, in fact, that a near vertical climb up and down the sides of a steep ravine was the cost of working a spot with damn good gold. You have to pack everything down that ravine..the dredge in pieces...gasoline...food...tools...camping gear...you name it. It's an ass buster (and it was for all of us despite the fact I was much younger than I am now). It doesn't take long for you and your pards to get onto good gold in a stretch of the river that splits off from the main flow. The gold gets better and better as you work your way closer and closer to bedrock, especially behind a huge boulder on the inside bend of a gravel bar. Your hopes are high and rightly so. Well, you and your pards finally hit bedrock and that afternoon when you shut down to check the riffle boxes lying there gleaming in the bright sunlight among nice showings of flakes, coarse gold, and smaller chispas is the biggest nugget you've ever come across in all your mining days! It ends up weighing 8.4 grams (over a quarter ounce). Scattered close by to this beauty are other gram-sized nuggets with the largest running 3.4 grams. Well, you start jumping around and shouting and slapping each other's backs flushed with the high of success and the knowledge you've finally hit a good one. Like your pards, you know the "big one" is just waiting for you around the next corner.
A Good Laugh
So for the next few days you and your pards hit it harder than ever before, freezing your collective butts off in uncomfortably cold water, trying your best but the showings start slipping off after each run, with less gold and smaller gold. Everyone wants to get UNDER that huge boulder but it's far too big to mess with and you know if you undermine it then you're putting your ass on the line for bad things to happen. You decide to follow the "V" downstream from the boulder itself hoping a good paystreak was deposited downwind. You get some gold but things taper off quickly. After that you spend days prospecting with the dredge, moving it around here and there hoping to get more of that good, good stuff. But Ma Nature just sits back and has a good laugh at your expense. It's the worst frustration you've ever felt despite the good fortune that occurred earlier. Well when it comes time to leave and head home you hump all that gear out of that ravine...lesson learned. Reno, Nevada is where you sell your gold because you get more bang for your buck there as opposed to the "buyers" in those Northern Motherlode hick towns. After all, they have a captive audience and can pay you what they think is "right." You want to hang onto the big nugget...maybe sell it as a specimen since you can't cut it up three ways, but your pards are adamant. They want their cash so the nugget is sold simply for its melt value (by the way, never DO this if you have a choice). End of story.
Again, why does this happen? Why does the good stuff never stay good? Sure, it's nice to have success no matter how limited that success may be, but why, why, why? Why doesn't it ever seem to hold up?
I'm still trying to answer that question for myself, 32 years year...
(c) Jim Rocha 2017
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