It's All Relative

Over the course of four decades as a small-scale gold miner, I've used just about every tool in the book to get at and recover gold. From metal detectors to dry washers, and suction dredges to highbankers. I've picked and shoveled, detected, panned, creviced, name it. I've dug or dredged little holes and lots of big ones too. I've busted my hump clearing heavy overburden by hand and cursed the fact that bedrock was so damn deep. But I've never slashed or stripped the earth using heavy equipment...I leave that stuff to the commercial mining operators or reality TV "stars" who go for the piles of gold. You see, I'm a small-scale, old-school guy. That's how I started mining and prospecting, and when the time comes that's exactly how I'll cross over the final divide.

A Parallel

Nowadays if you were to ask me if I could go back in time and change a few things in my small-scale mining approach I'd have to be truthful and give you a resounding "You bet your ass I would!" Ditto for my life's course in general. But we learn as we go and hindsight is always 20/20. Most importantly, we can't go back in time and rearrange or redo things. We can only pick up on the lessons we've learned, apply them, and continue moving forward to the next likely spot in that wash or bend. Just like you, I've been on the shitty end of the stick at times and at others I've come out grinning like a Cheshire cat with crescents of yellow trailing across my gold pan. I've been up, I've been down, and I've even been caught sideways at times during my mining career. Again, this holds true for my life as well. There's a parallel here if you take the time to ponder it a bit. Not just a parallel for me...but for you too. Like they say, "Gold is where you find it."

Change Ain't Easy

You younger guys and gals just starting out in small-scale mining take heed and remember that I too walked in your boots at one time. So did the rest of us who are old timers or journeyman miners now. We didn't start out knowing it all. As a matter of fact, we still don't know it all. Your mining journey (just like your life) is a learning process with the end idea being that you'll get more experienced along the way and hopefully become a better miner (and person) in the process. That said, the worst thing you could do is to NOT learn and apply those lessons coming your way. If things aren't working out for you and the gold isn't hopping into your pan the way you think it should, maybe you need to change your approach. Hell, maybe you need to change your attitude as well. Gold mining (and life as it is) ain't easy. You can't be inflexible or rigid in dealing with your problems out in the field or at home. At some point you'll need to reassess things and flex and bend a bit, just like a tall tree in a wind storm. It's always better to bend than to break. To flow with those river currents and not against them. If you're doing the same things over and over again, and not getting the results you want then it's time for a change. A change in attitude, a change in thinking, a change in approach...maybe a change in the gear you use or how you use it. Ma Nature ain't gonna give you anything for free, nor will the universe at large if you remain stuck and rooted in the wrong spot. And yes, I know change ain't easy...but neither is gold mining.

Get All the Gold You're Entitled To

I'll tell you this. I fully realize that I am now in the winter of my life, both from a mining standpoint and a philosophical one. When I was in the spring and summers of my life (mining and otherwise) I was always pushing, pushing, pushing. Pushing for more gold (not a bad thing, necessarily), pushing life to conform to my view of how things should be, and to tell the truth...pushing just for the sake of pushing. Rarely did I take the time to sit back, relax, and really look hard and long at my surroundings and the possibilities that existed within my own reach and view. Had I done so, I probably would've scooped up a lot more gold minus a lot of self-inflicted pain and misery. Gold mining is a tough gig and I've said that dozens of times before. Life is too. You don't make either one easier by constantly fighting your surroundings or the people in those surroundings. Staying steady and thoughtful and consistent will bring more yellow into your poke over the long haul. Sure, fight when you have no choice or something or someone backs you against a wall. Otherwise, be the calm center of that storm swirling around you. That way you'll get all the gold you're entitled too and you'll walk away smiling all the while.

Take Your Pick

I've known many damn fine people during my time as a small-scale miner. People who loved what they did and weren't driven by selfishness, willfulness, or uncontrolled ego. Most of you out there fit this bill perfectly. On the other hand, I've known some shitheads and full-bore rear ends too. Loudmouths, blowhards, manipulators, scam artists, lazy asses, and so on. Take your pick. Thankfully they've made up the minority, not the other way around. That said, be very wary of "toxic" people like this or of any variety, whether they remain close to you by family or relationship bonds, or you come across them in your mining endeavors. One thing I've learned over time is this...the more time you spend around toxics the more poisoned your own thinking will become. And the more "clouded" your thinking, the more likely you'll miss out on the gold glowing bright right at your feet. Why? Because you'll be too busy thinking about why things can't happen as opposed to why they can.

Be Grateful

Sure, I'm beginning to become an old coot now. My lower back, feet, hands, and neck are full of arthritis and the cause of all that has a lot to do with my small-scale gold mining activities over the course of 40 years. The rest has to do with my DNA and abusing my body in myriad ways when I was a young stud (or thought myself one!). But I'm blessed. I survived a brutal war, I didn't kill myself with drugs or alcohol, I've never had a major disease or disability (knock on wood), and I'm still able to get out and about and look for gold. Sure, I pay a small price with aches and pains afterwards, but the body and the spirit are still willing. So I have nothing to bitch about. In fact, I'm grateful for all that I have and those around me. So learn to be grateful too. Your life as you know it ain't that bad because the guy or gal next to you (or myself for that matter) could tell you horror stories that'd make your hair stand on end. It's all relative brothers and sisters. It's all relative...

Be good to yourself, OK?

(c) Jim Rocha 2018

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. JR...........Of all the things you have written over the years, I think this is your very best. They say gold makes people greedy. Greed makes people greedy, not gold. Gold is just pretty dirt, that's all. It can't feed you or do anything unless you trade it off. Like most everything else in life, it's all in your mind. We have all been told gold or money has value, so we believe it does. People everywhere, each and every one of us, really need to sit back and ask "What is really important" once in awhile. It sure ain't money in any form, gold or otherwise. It's nice to have some, but it is not "all important". Attitude is contagious. If you are around nasty, bad attitude people long, it makes you that way too. Happy, fun to be around people, make you that way too. Why is the choice so hard?

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comments Gary. You've been as steady a a rock in the decade I've known you.

  2. Some of the best advice I have ever read, I also feel your pain,,ha ha

    1. Well, advice is cheap they say. Hopefully there is value here. Thank you for the kind comments my friend.


Post a Comment