I Met a Prospector Today

Most of the people I met during a political campaign are supporters or candidates. I might be at a news conference, out in the field, or in my office greeting visitors. When I meet someone out of the ordinary, it is a special event. Such was the case when I came across a candidate on the opposing team who billed himself as a “gold prospector.” A what? Are there such animals these days? The gold rush in California is long over. I voiced my thoughts and he promptly laughed. “We still exist,” he offered. “Do you pan for gold in the local creek on weekends,” I said. He didn’t sneer at the sarcasm. “I actually travel to locations known for gold nuggets. They are few and far between, but if you are in the know, you can have some fun, and maybe a bit of profit – enough to pay for your pick, shovel, and gold sluice.” Ha!

I was fascinated and posed innumerable questions. He was an odd duck with more than his share of quirky traits. I could understand why he would choose such an old-fashioned hobby. A million queries ran through my mind. I should have been thinking about his political platform as this was the nature of my job. I didn’t even pay lip service to it as he was willing to continue the conversation in the prospecting direction.

Prospecting has a long history but is known first and foremost for certain gold rush eras: Sacramento California, the Klondike, and Australian. It is an esoteric interest for sure in spite of the fact that gold is always rising in value over time, even when the price experiences a few short-term dips. How does one become a miner of sorts and how is it done?

It is not associating with salespeople calling you on the phone as a lead or sending you messages on Facebook. The word is historically linked to looking for precious metals. If you were early in the game in the gold rush years, you had no doubt of Finding a Fortune. Now it is unlikely to yield much. You might have to travel far and wide and find some untouched obscure mines. If it is for a pastime, you go where you can drive. At the beginner level, you take a pan to a stream and shake it to weed out rocks and silt. At the advanced stage, you may use a gold sluice. You can also use a pick to extract it from hard rock in open pits and underground mines, but to me that seems like a major effort. My new friend has done all types of prospecting and likes them all. He isn’t into modern machine methods that are more effective.

He calls what he does “recreational prospecting” and it is popular around the world from New Zealand and South Africa to Wales and Canada. He is an example of the type that exists in the U.S.