Don't Crap in Their Nest

 (Ernie busting his hump crevicing.)

My erstwhile mining pard (Ernie Martinez) and I did a bit of mining yesterday...the first time I've been out and about in quite a while since landscaping tasks have been taking most of my time this summer. Trying to keep things clean, beautiful, and upgraded on nearly two acres of high desert terrain ain't easy for an old coot like myself...just so's ya know. So yesterday was a needed break despite the somewhat bleak results gold-wise.


Ernie's still a newbie to the small-scale gold mining and prospecting game but he's a quick learner. Most importantly, like so many of us he's hopelessly hooked on all aspects of gold mining. He absolutely loves seeing yellow in his pan but what he loves even more is the hunt for that yellow. He's a born miner and will never be the same because of that. With that said, what provides a thrill for him is not necessarily what floats my boat any longer. I've been at this small-scale thing for just about 40 years now and my expectations and overall thrill factor with the process are still solid, but if I'm perfectly honest with you they're a bit jaded as well. You see, I've been through nearly every aspect of the small-scale gold mining grist mill and what excites a newbie doesn't faze me much these days. It's hard to get excited about very sparse and very small gold returns when you've been on the other end of the gold recovery spectrum in numerous instances. Now this doesn't mean I don't still love gold prospecting and mining...I do and that's a fact. It just means I'm more "tempered" regarding the overall process and its results.

 (A good day for me here in New Mexico...all this came from a half-filled five-gallon bucket of material.)

Smell the Roses

Now here's a tip for you newbies/greenhorns out there. SLOW DOWN. Take your time, remain observant at all times, and knock off the "Chicken Little" routine where you rush hither and tither digging holes in random-ass fashion, never spending enough time at any one spot to gain solid info on anything! Yesterday I found myself admonishing Ernie in this regard numerous times, albeit in a much more gentle fashion than my old-timer mentors did me back in the day. Here's the deal. More than likely that gold you're so frantically looking for isn't going anywhere unless someone like myself whose been around the mining block for a while comes along and scoops it away right in front of your gold-struck eyes. So slow down and smell the roses. Be methodical and logical in your approach and let that area you're working tell you its secrets. It will if you use your eyes and intuition and, yes...what knowledge you've already gained.

Noble Pursuits

It's amusing to me when a newbie (like Ernie) gets all excited by a tiny speck of gold in their pan. I'm not being cynically judgemental here, just telling it like it is. On one hand that newbie excitement is a measure of that person's love for what he or she is doing and on the other it's a glaring example of the fact they're not very far down the path of their own mining career. But hey, that's the nature of the beast, so-to-speak. I just don't get excited by minimal color these days. That may be on me but it's the truth none-the-less. I guess what I'm finally realizing these days is that I'm a less a miner and more a mentor and teacher. Those are noble pursuits...both of them. And those of you worth your salt out there who've reached the autumn years of your mining careers are probably finding yourself in a similar situation. In truth, I embrace my role as a mentor and teacher and so should you. Why? Because you're training the next generation of hard-core prospectors and miners who will, in turn, repeat that same process when their careers are drawing to a close. It's a worthwhile cause, brothers and sisters, so embrace it as I do.

It's All Finite

Still, I find myself drifting back through memory lane to all those good (and occasionally not-so-good) times I've had out in the field over the course of four decades. Those memories hold great value to me these days. I just wish I'd been a bit more appreciative of them when they were actually taking place. Mostly I did love and appreciate them just as I have the many fine people I've known along that winding mining path of mine. If I can dispense another piece of cheap advice to you mining newbies out there it is this: treasure every single moment that you're out there in Ma Nature's wonderland digging for gold. Every shovelful of gravel you dig, every hour you spend fussing with that dry washer, and every time you reveal the yellow in your pan. All of it flies by so quickly you'll end up at some point shaking your head in wonder and wondering how the years got by you so quickly. Life is finite and so is your mining career. So make the most of it. Each and every time.

(Make the most of it.)

Appreciate It

There's no "get-rich-quick" hustle to small-scale gold mining. Believe the opposite and I'll sell you some prime real estate in Afghanistan or set you up with a Taliban broker. You either love this thing of ours or you don't. There are no two ways about it. So appreciate what you're doing while you're still able to do it and don't forget to slap that newbie on the back and say, "Well done my friend." Guide those newcomers, bolster their confidence levels, and correct them when they need correcting. That's all you have to do. And if, like me, the sight of a speck of gold in a newbie's pan doesn't get you jumping for joy along with them, NEVER downplay their happiness. They're on the front end of things just as you were once. You know, like back when a speck of gold in YOUR pan had you jumping up and down for joy. You can shit in your own nest if you like but don't crap in theirs, OK?

Peace out...

(c) Jim Rocha 2017

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. JR, Great advice! Very true in all aspects of life as well. My Grandma Thomas passed away last year at 102 years old. She told me "Everyone thinks a hundred years is a long time. It's not. It go's by fast." As I get older, I realize she was right.
    Sadly, kids today want everything right now. Most get impatient if things are much of a challenge or take longer than they think they should. As you know, I am a trapper among other things. I have taught several kids to trap, yet none kept with it....too much work for too little pay. I expect gold mining will be the same. It is a thrill when you find some color, but when you realize what those tiny specks are really worth, and how much time and effort it took to get them....well, you have to like what you are doing.
    Your picture of that pan of gold, WOW! Good job! I would be thrilled with that, but then again I'm not on the best gold ground either. This area produced a lot of gold, but has been worked over pretty hard. I'm glad you are finding more time to get out again. My summer is not doing as well. I have not had a weekend off since April, and have not had a chance to go yet. It's looking unlikely that I will.

  2. Well get out there when you can Gary. It's good for the soul for sure.

  3. David In Red RiverAugust 16, 2017 at 9:32 PM

    Great advice, Jim. Hope you're doing well and that you'll get up here to Red River one of these days. I'm hoping I can get back over to the spot I wrote you about soon, too. I finished "Guided Steps" last week and have already recommended it to several good friends. Take care, buddy.


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