More Mining Wisdom from an Old Movie (Conclusion)
Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a classic movie with many memorable quotes about gold, gold mining, and the search for gold. The three main characters are Howard (the old prospector), and Dobbs and Curtin (greenhorns down on their luck in Old Mexico during the Great Depression in the United States). There's a lot of wisdom in the movie (mining-related and otherwise) so read on as I comment on some of that wisdom.
Howard: "Of course I'll go. Any time, any day. I was only waiting for one or two guys to ask me. Out for gold? Always at your service."
This statement reflects the true nature of those who have color running through their veins. When it comes to gold those of us who've been at this small-scale mining thing pretty much maintain a similar attitude. Gold or gold mining? You bet...anytime and anywhere. But there's a secondary theme in Howard's words here. Taking along a pard or two. Sometimes this can be a very good thing and sometimes not.
(Having a pard or two can be a good thing...or sometimes not.)
Dobbs: "Why not try diggin' for gold for a change? Well, it ain't any riskier than waiting around here for a break. And this is the country where the nuggets of gold are just cryin' for ya to take em' outta the ground and make 'em shine on the fingers and necks of swell dames."
What Dobbs expresses here is the fundamental outlook of many greenhorns...that gold nuggets are out there just waiting to be picked up or pried from between rocks. Getting good amounts of gold out of the ground or finding nuggets is not anywhere as easy as Dobbs believes and both you and I know that. And risk? Well, the farther away from "civilization" you go in your search for gold and the longer you're out there in a remote area the greater the risks you'll probably face...logistical, physical, and yes...even mental, emotional, and psychological.
("Where the nuggets of gold are just cryin' for ya to take 'em outta the ground...")
Howard: "We gotta go where where there's no trails at all...where you can be positive that no surveyor or anybody who knows anything about prospectin' has ever been before."
This is the voice of an experienced prospector and miner. Howard knows that they must find an area or location where no others have been before. This is the only way the trio (Howard, Dobbs, and Curtin) can have any chance of hitting the "big one." Remember, the movie centers around a time when gold was spot priced between $20.00 (USD) and $35.00 a troy ounce, not today's four-figured price.
(Howard the old timer dancing a jig after finding what they're looking for.)
Howard: "This stuff wouldn't pay you dinner for a carload. Next time you fellas strike it rich holler for me, will ya, before you start splashing water around. Water's precious. Sometimes it can be more precious than gold."
Here Howard is rebuking the two greenhorns for wasting water as they're transiting an arid or desert zone. Dobbs and Curtin think they've hit the Motherlode because they've found rocks and boulders full of iron pyrites, or "fool's gold," and have been splashing water around to get a better look. Heed Howard's words here because they have underlying importance...yes, water can be more precious than gold if you're dying of thirst but there are many other things in this life more precious than gold too. In a roundabout way this reminds me of an e-mail message sent to me not long ago. The poor soul who contacted me alluded to the fact that he or she was on to something "big" until I studied the rock photos this individual had sent. The rocks were chock full of pyrites, or "fool's gold." Now don't get me wrong here. Pyritic ores can be good carriers of gold but this individual thought those brassy and cubic crystals were the real thing. Ditto for Curtin and Dobbs in the movie. Experience and knowledge pay off brothers and sisters. Experience and knowledge.
(Dobbs and Curtin after wasting water on "fool's gold.")
Dobbs: "I sure had some cock-eyed ideas about prospectin' for gold. It was all in the findin' I thought. I thought all you had to do was find it, pick it up, put it in sacks, and carry 'em off to the nearest bank."
Dobbs is no longer a greenhorn. Now he realizes the full amount of the work involved not only in prospecting for gold, but in getting it out of the ground. As I've said many times before here in Bedrock Dreams, small-scale gold mining is a tough gig...you'll work harder at it than most jobs you've ever done or will do. There are no "quick fixes" or getting rich quick schemes in mining. You greenhorns or newbies out there will soon realize this, if you haven't already.
You know, when I first saw Treasure of the Sierra Madre I was in college and the movie was presented as part of a classic film festival. This was a good six-seven years before I actually started my treasure hunting and small-scale mining careers. But there was something about the movie and its theme that stuck with me deep inside. I didn't know exactly what at the time but I would years later when I was actively dry washing in the desert or dredging in the Northern California Motherlode region. The gold bug bit me right on the ass at the moment I first saw Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I didn't know it then, but I sure as hell know it now!
Best to one and all.
(c) Jim Rocha 2017
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