For Once You’ve Panned the Speckled Sand and Seen the Bonny Dust

“It’s wine and painted women and the things that do me hurt . . .”

The Prospector

by Robert W. Service

I strolled up old Bonanza, where I staked in ninety-eight,
A-purpose to revisit the old claim.
I kept thinking mighty sadly of the funny ways of Fate,
And the lads who once were with me in the game.
Poor boys, they’re down-and-outers, and there’s scarcely one to-day
Can show a dozen colors in his poke;
And me, I’m still prospecting, old and battered, gaunt and gray,
And I’m looking for a grub-stake, and I’m broke.

I strolled up old Bonanza. The same old moon looked down;
The same old landmarks seemed to yearn to me;
But the cabins all were silent, and the flat, once like a town,
Was mighty still and lonesome-like to see.
There were piles and piles of tailings where we toiled with pick and pan,
And turning round a bend I heard a roar,
And there a giant gold-ship of the very newest plan
Was tearing chunks of pay-dirt from the shore.

It wallowed in its water-bed; it burrowed, heaved and swung;
It gnawed its way ahead with grunts and sighs;
Its bill of fare was rock and sand; the tailings were its dung;
It glared around with fierce electric eyes.
Full fifty buckets crammed its maw; it bellowed out for more;
It looked like some great monster in the gloom.
With two to feed its sateless greed, it worked for seven score,
And I sighed: “Ah, old-time miner, here’s your doom!”

NPS/Josh Spice

The idle windlass turns to rust; the sagging sluice-box falls;
The holes you digged are water to the brim;
Your little sod-roofed cabins with the snugly moss-chinked walls
Are deathly now and mouldering and dim.
The battle-field is silent where of old you fought it out;
The claims you fiercely won are lost and sold.
But there’s a little army that they’ll never put to rout —
The men who simply live to seek the gold.

The men who can’t remember when they learned to swing a pack,
Or in what lawless land the quest began;
The solitary seeker with his grub-stake on his back,
The restless buccaneer of pick and pan.
On the mesas of the Southland, on the tundras of the North,
You will find us, changed in face but still the same;
And it isn’t need, it isn’t greed that sends us faring forth —
It’s the fever, it’s the glory of the game.

For once you’ve panned the speckled sand and seen the bonny dust,
Its peerless brightness blinds you like a spell;
It’s little else you care about; you go because you must,
And you feel that you could follow it to hell.
You’d follow it in hunger, and you’d follow it in cold;
You’d follow it in solitude and pain;
And when you’re stiff and battened down let someone whisper “Gold,”
You’re lief to rise and follow it again.

Yet look you, if I find the stuff it’s just like so much dirt;
I fling it to the four winds like a child.
It’s wine and painted women and the things that do me hurt,
Till I crawl back, beggared, broken, to the Wild.
Till I crawl back, sapped and sodden, to my grub-stake and my tent —
There’s a city, there’s an army (hear them shout).
There’s the gold in millions, millions, but I haven’t got a cent;
And oh, it’s me, it’s me that found it out.

It was my dream that made it good, my dream that made me go
To lands of dread and death disprized of man;
But oh, I’ve known a glory that their hearts will never know,
When I picked the first big nugget from my pan.
It’s still my dream, my dauntless dream, that drives me forth once more
To seek and starve and suffer in the Vast;
That heaps my heart with eager hope, that glimmers on before —
My dream that will uplift me to the last.

Perhaps I am stark crazy, but there’s none of you too sane;
It’s just a little matter of degree.
My hobby is to hunt out gold; it’s fortressed in my brain;
It’s life and love and wife and home to me.
And I’ll strike it, yes, I’ll strike it; I’ve a hunch I cannot fail;
I’ve a vision, I’ve a prompting, I’ve a call;
I hear the hoarse stampeding of an army on my trail,
To the last, the greatest gold camp of them all.

Beyond the shark-tooth ranges sawing savage at the sky
There’s a lowering land no white man ever struck;
There’s gold, there’s gold in millions, and I’ll find it if I die.
And I’m going there once more to try my luck.
Maybe I’ll fail — what matter? It’s a mandate, it’s a vow;
And when in lands of dreariness and dread
You seek the last lone frontier, far beyond your frontiers now,
You will find the old prospector, silent, dead.

You will find a tattered tent-pole with a ragged robe below it;
You will find a rusted gold-pan on the sod;
You will find the claim I’m seeking, with my bones as stakes to show it;
But I’ve sought the last Recorder, and He’s — God.

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Mapping It Out

I’ve moved from organizing my rocks and minerals to getting my maps and pamphlets together. Thought of this solution last night.

The black fiber-backed over the door organizers were $4.88 each at WalMart. The individual pockets normally hold shoes so multiple maps will not be a problem. The garment rack was $14.88. It has wheels!

The three door organizers span four feet and the top bar is at six feet.

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Desperately Trying to Organize

I put off organizing my rock collection until two weeks ago because I was too busy writing. It got to the point, though, where I couldn’t find things, much still wrapped up, never opened, or else sitting in cardboard boxes everywhere around the apartment.

I’m still organizing, although not in alphabetical order. Or any order at all. I got wire frame shelves since they are light weight, cheap (WalMart), and wouldn’t have to be dusted. I put the individual shelves at different heights to accept different things. The three shelves are zip-tied together.

The wire frames accept “S” hooks and hanging baskets.  Note the UV lamps hanging down in the last photo. Not everything can be seen in these pictures, especially individual collections within their own cases. Like my mad rare earth mineral collection and the lead sheets I have on top of it.

I’m happy the way the shelves are working out.

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Book Submitted!

I submitted my MS and related images to my publisher this morning. This marks 14 months of work but there is much to be done to turn a raw document into a book.

Over the next several months the editor and I will discuss revisions and additions and all manner of changes. The publisher’s design team will go to work and I may have to reshoot many images that I took. Their marketing people will also be getting involved as we all push toward an early 2020 release.

Posts here will now be more frequent. Thank you to everyone who has helped me so far and to all of those who will help me in the future.

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Drew Barkoff: Friend of The Book

Drew Barkoff is a Ph.D. student at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. He has been extremely helpful in all of my conversations with him, tolerating the questions of an unschooled writer. In his own words he describes some of the geological journey he has taken so far . . .

As for what part of the American Southwest interests me the most, the truth is all of it. Learning geology in NJ (effectively a massive sandbar) made me long for mountains and actual rock outcrops that weren’t a multiple-hour drive away. People living in the SW are geologically spoiled whether they know it or not, but I would argue that the Las Vegas, Nevada region is as good as it gets.

The LV region is centered between the Colorado Plateau and the Sierra Nevada, and situated within the Basin and Range province. This means that we have access to not only to rocks from a very wide range of earth’s history, but a number of different tectonic environments as well, ranging from the high-grade metamorphics of the coast belt in CA, to the middle- and upper- crustal sedimentary rocks in NV, to the igneous- and metamorphic core complex-rich rocks of Southern UT. Additionally, NV is the #1 state for mining, highlighting the fact that NV has some of the best mineralization in the county.

As for how I got interested in geology, it was a long-time coming. I have always been interested in the sciences, and chemistry in particular, something about how the complexities and processes of the natural world can all be described in a very ordered, logical manner through chemistry really appealed to me, it is the link that brings all the other sciences together.

When I first went to college, I thought I knew what I wanted to do for a career, and started my undergraduate Biology degree at Ursinus College, a small school in central PA. Within about a year, I realized that I was struggling and not enjoying the material at all, so I decided to search for another major in another field I was interested in. That summer, I took three classes at the local community college that interested me: Business and Economics, History, and Geology, with the goal of going the direction of whichever class I liked best for my new major. Needless to say, the geology class blew the others out of the water and I enrolled at another local school that Fall, Stockton University in NJ, and started my geology undergraduate degree.

My grades went from straight C’s and B’s to straight A’s, with seemingly little hard work, because I loved it that much. During my Junior year, my professor, Matthew Severs, asked me if I was interested in taking part in a research project, without thinking too much, I said yes. This critical moment is what changed the course of my life and academic career, and I am very grateful to Prof. Severs for the opportunity and seeing my potential. My research project involved determining the temperatures and pressures of pegmatite formation at the Oxford Pegmatite Field, Oxford Co., ME, using fluid inclusion thermobarometry, as well as determining the petrogenetic order of pegmatite formation.

Pegmatites, being some of the most spectacular sources for mineral collecting, really got me interested in the geochemistry behind their formation and what processes are capable of enriching them in many rare metals such as Be, Li, U, etc.. This project was successful and I felt confident enough in my research capabilities that I applied for a number of graduate schools during my senior year.

I was accepted to start a Master’s project at the University of Arizona, under Prof. Matthew Steele-MacInnis in the economic geology program. My Masters project focused on further developing a novel technique of using internal pressures developed by trapped mineral inclusions during cooling and exhumation to back-calculate the pressures and temperatures of formation. This method requires using Raman spectroscopy to quantify the internal pressures of the mineral inclusions (Raman peak location of different bonds are pressure-dependent) which can be used in combination with the compositionally-determined physical properties of the mineral phases involved to determine possible P-T conditions that may have produced their rocks, also using field relation constraints.

I loved the heavily analytical nature of this study but being in the Economic Geology department exposed me to the type of work the other students were working on, and needless to say, that interested me too. I knew I wanted to go in the direction of economic geology next because they are the ultimate example of crustal geochemical anomalies, so I applied to a few programs across the US and Canada that offer this program and I was lucky enough to be accepted to start my Ph.D. at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, under Prof. Simon Jowitt. Currently at UNLV, I am working on gaining a better understanding of the petrogenesis of evolved, topaz-bearing rhyolites in SW UT and their economic potential to be low grade, high tonnage resources of many rare metals such as the REE, Be, Li, and U.

As for what classes aspiring geologist can take to quickly gain a better understanding of geology, I would suggest physical geology (101 level class, might be too basic) and especially mineralogy and igneous petrology. Mineralogy gives you a very good (probably over the top for most people) understanding of mienrals, how they are constructed and the effect this has on what elements can make up their structures. Igneous petrology is a 2nd or 3rd year course but is easily understandable by anyone with a physical geology-level understanding. Igneous petrology really focuses on how crustal or mantle magmas form and how their evolution affects the geochemistry of these rocks. I think it best to start with igneous processes, then potentially moving onto sedimentary. And metamoprphic petrology because igneous petrology is the most applicable to most types of rocks, but classes exist for whatever your specific interest may be.

Regarding the fluorescent minerals, I don’t know too much about them specifically but many minerals can be UV fluorescent and it really depends on the formation conditions, and more importantly, geochemistry of the fluids that formed them. From what I know, the energy of the UV light is enough to excite certain transition metals within the mineral structure to jump to a higher energy state and then instantaneously dump this energy in the form of light as the electrons try to reach equilibrium again. I can actually look into some research on this if you would like an even more scientific explanation, this is quick-and-dirty explantion.

~Drew Barkoff

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Book Update

June 14, 2019

My overall eye health judged good to very good, notwithstanding my poor vision to begin with. Major change in that vision since last my last eyeglass prescription. Eye strain has resulted from trying to focus with glasses which are now distorting everything I look at. New glasses are due in two weeks.

Doing my best to carry on in the meantime. My writing and revising partner has begun her chores and work is proceeding between the both of us.

June 9th, 2019

All unfinished parts of the book have been completed, save for the writing on Southern Utah and Southern Colorado which will take place in the first week of July. I have been working across 38 files which have now been assembled into one document with 13 chapters. I have a book!

I am under word count and am now proceeding with the book’s final revisions. My eyesight is failing, however, and I can only work in short stints. I am spending most time in dimly lit rooms. I have an eye appointment on June 13th to see if my condition is simply overuse or something else. I am enlisting help at this point, with some writing being sent off to others for revising, word count reduction, and final editing.

August 1st, 2019 remains my deadline which I am confident I will meet. Thank you for your continuing support.

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Wikipedia is A Starting Point. Only.

Wikipedia is best for references, not its original writing.

Compare these two paragraphs:

Wikipedia:

Promethium is a chemical element with the symbol Pm and atomic number 61. All of its isotopes are radioactive; it is extremely rare, with only about 500-600 grams naturally occurring in Earth’s crust at any given time.

Los Alamos National Laboratories:

Searches for the element on earth have been fruitless, and it now appears that promethium is completely missing from the earth’s crust. Promethium, however, has been identified in the spectrum of the star HR465 in Andromeda. This element is being formed recently near the star’s surface, for no known isotope of promethium has a half-life longer than 17.7 years.

Wikipedia wasn’t dependable when it began but it is much better now. It has to be checked, though, like all research sources. Today, I see magazine articles written solely from online materials. This is disastrous. You need information from online resources, research from authoritative books and magazines, and personally gathered quotes from experts.

Anything else is lazy.

Double check.

Another research problem. Promethium’s density is likely undetermined, despite what this graphic and most sources state. I do not have enough certainty of that, however, to commit to this in print. When in doubt, say matters remain unsettled. A writer is not required to answer all questions.

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Another Tool of The Trade: The Falcon MD 20 Gold Tracker

The Falcon MD 20 Gold Tracker is a good tool but it often produces uncertain results.

As depicted in this video, here’s how the detector should work. The detector sounds when going _toward_ gold, silver, copper and so on. Non-ferrous stuff. Which includes aluminum and, unfortunately, too often, strong iron targets. Those overwhelm the detector.

This pet wood shown probably contains iron oxides, giving a signal when the probe moves _away_from the target. In the field it is often difficult to tell which direction in which a signal is coming from.

Rocks need minerals in enough quantity to test reliably. The detector responds better when something singular is presented, not a mix of different, weak, conflicting materials. Never-the-less, even with a conflicting signal, one knows a rock is metalliferous.

I do like it for many reasons, though, particularly when pawing through ore samples at a rock shop. There may be a bucket of rocks advertised as silver ore, for example. If those rocks are from a named mine then I am interested. I’ll use the Falcon to test each rock for a signal. Finding none I pass.

This is especially important when testing gold specimens. A flashy specimen labeled as gold may be pyrite. If so, it won’t trip the Falcon. In either direction of the probe. Pyrite doesn’t register on any quality metal detector. Or it is cancelled out. While pyrite is iron related, it is what’s called a sulfide and not fully iron by any means. It is too different in its  makeup to signal a metal detector.

Pyrite is often mixed in with gold but if one can’t see gold, and if a detector doesn’t register gold, then proceed with tremendous caution with any purchase.

If a mineral isn’t visible, I want that rock to at least respond to a detector. You’ll read nonsense about how a seller’s material contains a metallic mineral above the crustal abundance. How do they know?

The Falcon is also good for testing rocks brought home from the field, ones not considered as metal bearing when collected. All finds should be eventually tested with UV lights, a Geiger counter, and a metal detector.

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Burro Creek Campground Near Wikieup, Arizona

Burro Creek Campground, about ten miles or fewer from Wikieup, Arizona. This campground is base camp for rock clubs from as far as Utah. Agate is the main draw in the surrounding area, not at the camp itself. Potable water, first-come, first serve, the small group camp by reservation. $14 a night for the individual camp sites. Good pull throughs. Would advise smaller vehicles, ideal tent camping. No day use fee!

Creek is pretty but access is past narrowly spaced pipes, a nasty barbed wire fence encloses the entire campground. Good, clean water flowing right now. Great canyon setting, about 1,900 feet. Didn’t check cell coverage, I assume none. Anybody not enjoying rockhounding would still enjoy this campground.

View from the bridge over Agate Creek. Canyon invites exploring although get a BLM surface status management map of the area to show public land ownership.

The bridge abutments are  nicely done in Southwestern Art Deco style.

Don’t drive across the bridge with any large vehicle or a trailer in tow. Single lane dirt road beyond the bridge, I don’t know at what point you could turn around. Ask first. Logical place to turn around is the campground with its pull throughs in the Day Camp and regular campsite areas. Group camp looks tricky to turn around a large vehicle.

All 4X4 owners want a picture of their rig. It’s a thing.

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More From Rolf Luetcke in St. David, Arizona

Hi Tom,

I had said I would send a photo of one I was taking and a little story.

The Ludlockite is a piece I had only read about in a big “Worlds Best Minerals Book we have. It was a piece that a mineral dealer had seen on a porch of a guy in Namibia that sold specimens from the Tsumeb Mine, one of the most famous mines in the world.

The piece on the porch was being used to hold open the screen door. The dealer asked if it was for sale. The guy sold it to him and he sent it right off to his US business and it turned out to be a new mineral and that one chunk on the guy’s porch was all there was.

I had no idea when I saw one for sale for $10, the piece I took the photo of, that it had been discovered in the mine after that first piece was studied. They traced the associated minerals with it and found the place in the mine it had come from.

More was brought out but it was never very common. I got this one for so little and am very happy with it, as much for the story as the piece and as pretty as it is.

The other two I took photos of today too. The Ludjibaite is a rare species and I paid a bit more for the piece, $45 but it is very nice.

The last one of Ludlamite from Mexico we got many years ago and I paid only $10 for it as well and it is a well crystalized piece.

So, that is my recent material.

Now to post them on Mindat.org

Later,

Rolf (Sunshine Gallery and Gifts, St. David, Arizona — S of Tucson)

Ludjibaite with Pseudomalachite 4mm fov Shituro, Katanga Prov. D. R. Congo (Blue)

Ludlamite 7mm fov Santa Eulalia, Chihuahua, Mexico (Green)

Ludlockite, Germanite, plus 5mm fov Tsumeb Mine, Namibia (Red)

More on the famous Tsumeb mine comes from this text at Mr. Kerry Day’s excellent website, he being the owner and proprietor of KAYGEEDEE MINERALS, a Canadian vendorship devoted to the mineral collecting hobby. He was an economic geologist/mineralogist/SEM-EDS operator for many years. “Selling off my vast collection of mineral specimens, gemstones and lapidary rough has become my retirement hobby.”

It’s a truly fascinating site that I recommend you visit immediately, for a sensational trip around the world while staying right at home. Thousands of great pictures.

http://kaygeedeeminerals.com/home_pagecanadian_minerals

“TSUMEB MINERALS – Last updated April 12, 2019

The Tsumcorp polymetallic ore deposit was a near vertical ore pipe located near the town of Tsumeb, Namibia. A unique feature was three oxidation zones at various depths – the result of groundwater flow. The combination of oxidation(s) and unique chemistry created a vast suite of well crystallized minerals that are treasured by collectors worldwide. Unfortunately, mining ceased in the 1990s but neighboring ore pipes are now being explored/mined.”

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