There's a Kernel of Truth in Every Tall Tale

 (We're a lot like gamblers.)

Gold miners and prospectors are a lot like gamblers. They tend to overplay their "wins" and down play their "losses." This said, when you hear someone spinning a tall tale about placer or lode gold don't discount their story offhand. Why? There's usually a kernel of truth in what they say.

A Basis in Concrete Fact

As a small-scale gold placer miner and treasure hunter I have nearly 40 years of experience behind me. I've had my share of small successes (and a few bigger ones) and I've also had my butt kicked by Ma Nature more than once in my career. I'm sure the same holds true for you, the reader. It is what it is, right? During my time, I've come across quite an array of spinners of tall tales when it comes to gold and other treasures. Some of these folks were blowhard posers whose egos couldn't fit inside the bed of a rock truck while others were as tight lipped as they come about their finds. (The "loose lips sink ships" approach is the best way to go, by the way.) But even the silent types can allow their tongues to slip at times. Often there is a gem of valuable information to be gained from these two polar opposites and from those who fall in between. That's why it's important you don't discount any tall tale out of hand. Each and every BS story you hear, those over-inflated claims about mining success or the recovery of large gold or lots of it has a basis in concrete fact. If you remember nothing more about this particular post then remember that point. It can lead you to the yellow.

 (Mind those blowhards.)

Don't Sit Idly By

There are those people who just love the limelight. You know the types. "I did this, I did that, I found nuggets everywhere, I'm the hot shot, the best, the greatest, etc.," ad nauseum. These folks are a consternation and a vexation to the spirit of course. Now I'm not suggesting you spend a lot of time alongside them but if you're sitting around a campfire up in the mountains or on the dry and dusty desert floor and they start spinning their tall tales keep one eye open and one ear cocked to the side to hear better. Ditto for the "mum's the word" characters who rarely say anything. Get your BS detector up and running and listen. Listen closely. Sooner or later the story teller is gonna let something of value slip and when they do you need to pounce on it like a bobcat on a rabbit. File that general info away and if you have to research things further then by all means do so. Don't sit idly by gulping down that cold beer or swigging from that whisky bottle. The more you dull your mind the less likely you're able to pick up on subtle nuances that are often found in tall tales. Remember, there's a kernel of truth in even the most outlandish of stories.

No Guarantees

When you do capture one of those little gems of information amidst the pile of horse manure surrounding it, file it away for future reference. Say nothing to no one and keep thy own counsel. You've just been given a potential lead and that small tidbit may mean good gold for you. It may make the difference between a another bust-out day or a sweet pile of coarse gold. I can't stress this point strongly enough. There are no guarantees in this life but I can guarantee this: if you don't act on a good piece of carelessly dropped information then you're dumber than dumb. Sorry. But that's the gospel truth according to the Book of James (me, in other words). And now the question that is burning its way through your miner's brain right now is "Well, have you yourself come across good gold or a find this way?" You're damn right I have. Not in every instance but in enough to make things interesting.

 (Don't be dumber than dumb.)

Extract That Kernel

There's a lot to this gold mining thing (and treasure hunting in general). You should be well-versed in all aspects of it. Each and every bit of information you glean points the way to yellow. More of it, larger pieces, or perhaps even the "big one." Ya just never know. Keep your mouth shut and your mind open. Especially when it comes to the spinners of tall tales. Learn to cut through the BS like a hot knife through a block of butter. Extract that kernel of truth, develop it, research it, and most importantly...act on it. And when you DO finally hit something good because of someone else's out-of-control ego or slip of the tongue, maintain your dignity as a person and as a miner. DON'T sit around that same campfire spinning tall tales to stroke your ego all the while dropping hints about how, when, and where. Got me?

I'm smarter than I look.

(c) Jim Rocha 2017

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. JR, I have a small book about lost treasures in Idaho. It's fun to read and think about. Most, I bet are just tall tales started in bars to get folks to buy them drinks, but some could be true. Several are stage coach robberies. There should be info on those somewhere if it really happened. Others are the old "He struck a rich vein, but couldn't find it again" stories. True? Maybe, maybe not. Since some of these things are supposed to be in my area, it doesn't hurt anything to keep an eye out when I'm doing other things. I won't spend a lot of time or money looking, but I'm out there anyway. Things like this are more interesting when they are close to home. If even one story, out of a dozen is true,....well why not? It's fun to think about, and who knows? It could pay off in a big way. If nothing else, it gets you out in the hills, and that is treasure all in itself.

  2. You're right on the money Gary.

  3. Doug, The book is called "A Guide to Treasure in Idaho" by H.Glenn Carson. It's only 127 pages, but interesting and written in a fun to read way. My copy was given to me, but I did see it for sale on Ebay. I thought about buying a second copy to "loan out". If you buy it, good luck! Maybe you'll be the guy to find something! Muskrat


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