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Homeless 0-38: Prospecting

prospectoringAt a picnic last night, a friend demonstrated how to pan for gold. He explained how to quickly determine likely spots, sieve and winnow, and, finally, how to pan. This is one meticulous process, apt to bore anyone to death before paying off. The flecks produced in a day might sell for to a thousand bucks, but you’ll earn every penny the tedious way.

I’m impressed by the difference between the myth of prospecting and the actual practice of it. The myth insists that dedication produces results. The actual practice requires more brains than brawn. Learning how to quickly determine likely spots is worth immeasurable effort; an ounce of technique seems worth more than a pound of gold.

These same principles might hold true for any sort of prospecting.

Yesterday, I visited an exhibit on the history of uranium prospecting at the Colorado School of Mines. Some made fortunes in the fifties scouring the Southwest desert with Geiger counters. The exhibit explained how many poisoned themselves inhaling radioactive gasses. Most went bust trying to get rich. Almost nobody had the slightest idea what they were doing.

Most prospectors start out naive and as enthusiastic as lambs, and most of them never get any smarter than ewes. They practice the myths, focusing upon acquiring quick wealth while slowly forfeiting their future. We jump in forgetting to go slow at first to gain speed later.


I’m a prospector now. Like prospectors throughout history, I expected to quickly master a skill I’d only read about in glossy adventure novels, as if my very presence would spawn success. I sidestepped learning how to quickly assess potential in favor of hair-ruffling motion, when an ounce of technique might produce tons of result.

Thirty eight days and counting until we have to be moved into home #.0. I feel as though I’ve spent the last forty days panning unlikely digs. I feel the pressing need to slow down and get a bit smarter now. Any process that first relies upon dumb luck had better leverage dumb luck first, but luck might not be half as dumb as she seems. Where might my potential for success improve? I’ll focus upon finding that creek next, then sift and winnow before setting to the tedium of panning for anything.

©2012 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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