Short Stories » The Gold Miner
The Gold Miner
THIS picture shows you a. part of one of the processes by which gold is taken from the earth. This miner is working a "placer" mine, which means that the gold found is in grains or nuggets either on or near the surface of the ground. The ; miner shovels earth into a broad, flat pan, then holds it partly under water, shaking the pan gently so that the dirt washes away, while the gold, being heavier, sinks to the bottom. Then he pours out the gold and bell gins with another I pan of dirt. Sometimes a pan will yield only a few cents of pure gold, but even then it pays the miner. He sits patiently all day, week in and out, month after month. Often he has a partner, and they take turns in digging and carrying the earth to the water. Sometimes it is carried in strong sacks on a mule's or donkey's back down a mountain-side.
Sometimes they find large nuggets worth dollars or even hundreds of dollars apiece. Often the nuggets are so beautiful in shape that a jeweler need only to attach a pin, and there is a beautiful and valuable scarf-pin.
If you should see a gold miner traveling, you would not think he looked like a rich man his blankets, flour, bacon, pick-ax, shovel, gold-pan, coffee-pot, and frying-pan, all strapped onto the back of a horse, which he leads, while he rides another, if he can afford two animals. Often the miner is robbed of his hard .earnings and has to go back and patiently work again.
Many a man, tempted by reports of rich mines, has left home hoping to become suddenly rich. They have endured the burning heat and the furious storms of outdoor life, dangers from wild animals, desperate men and sickness, all for the love of gold. Very few have endured so much for religion.
Miners who have met disappointment wander from place to place, always in need but ever hopeful. These are called "prospectors," and many of them have never found the mines of which they talked and dreamed. Many a one has never gone back to the home he left, but has died far away " in camp." They have washed away mountain-sides, turned streams out of their beds, and in the crevices of the rocks found rich streaks of gold. The eye of a prospector is ever looking downward for signs of gold, the color of earth and rock, or for " float." But you do not know what float is. Well, when a prospector finds a pebble that has a sign of gold in it, he looks around for more. If it was on a hill-side, he says, " That rolled down," and he starts up the hill, carefully watching for more of the same kind. He may find the ledge of rock it was loosened from, then, hurrah! Now his anxieties are over, now he is going to be a millionaire, now he is going to make them all rich at home and he is going to put on style. But stop ; he must stake off his claim, put up a notice, and work, no telling how long. Perhaps someone will "jump his claim " and drive him away or rob and kill him. So the poor miner may never realize riches after all, never gladden the hearts at home.
Placer mining is the simplest and cheapest. Quartz mining is where the gold is in clear white rock, some- times in beautiful veins or branches, so beautiful that jewelry is made from the cut and polished stone. Heavy machinery is used to crush and grind this quartz rock, and the fine gold is then by skillful process taken, from it.
Once a lady and her husband ran a race in the gold business. He went to the mines, worked in all kinds of weather, had the rheumatism, was poisoned by poison-oak, bitten by snakes and chased by bears, then was robbed of all the gold he had not sent home by express.
His wife started a chicken ranch and sold eggs for six dollars a dozen, sold milk and butter, melons, also, at five dollars apiece. Then she made dried-apple pies for one dollar each, and cookies one dollar a dozen.
Oh, how good her cooking tasted to the poor fellows who had been living on bacon and flapjacks! When the year was up, the lady had the most money, and hadn't gone from home to earn it. Their property was improved, and everything looked so good to the tired husband that he said, " My home is the best ' claim ' in the mountains."
When the "gold fever " settles upon a man, it is one of the very worst to cure. Years ago when emigrants by the thousand passed through Utah to California, many of the poor pioneers here felt a desire to go also. Pres. Brigham Young advised them to stay here and make good homes. A few who went became rich and returned to their families, but more of them were too poor to get back without help from their friends here, and some died there. Not every man who goes to the mines is sure of making a fortune, and it was proved in many cases that where gold was so easily gained it went fast.
There is a worldliness of spirit, an excitement, and so many influences different from ordinary life, in gold mining, that the heart is slowly and insensibly led away from studious reflections, from Sabbath observances and self-searching of the heart. Among strangers, adrift as it were, and each one for himself, a few months can change a good citizen into another person. Perhaps he will say, "I'm no worse than the rest;" but he may have changed the true gold of a once pure life for the gold of earth, which thieves may steal away and then what is left? Only a gold miner, shabby and poor indeed.