Gold fever makes a rough day for dad
It was definitely not my finest moment. But as I snatched the pan out of my daughter’s hands, causing the poor kid’s lips to quiver and tears to form in eyes that pleaded, “Why daddy, why?” – all I could think of was the gold.
My daughter Isabell and I were hanging out at Burro Days – Fairplay’s annual tribute to its gold-mining history – when she spotted the Gold Prospectors of Colorado’s (GPOC) booth. Along with maintaining their own mining claims and educating the public on the art of gold-panning, the members of GPOC set up booths at events like Burro Days where adults and children can pan for gold on long tables filled with water and dirt from local streams.
Yep there’s real gold in some of the dirt.
This, however, wasn’t my first encounter with a pan and gold. In reality, I’ve had an affinity for the substance for as long as I can remember, and of all the colds, flus and diseases I’ve survived in my 40 years, none has ever taken over as much as my almost terminal gold fever.
My love of gold turned into an obsession – strangely enough – on an outing in Breckenridge. And even though gold isn’t exactly what Breckenridge is known for these days – with all that white gold in the winter months – it’s the real gold, free gold, wild gold hiding in icy streams, rivers and creeks that caught my eye.
The first time I saw Colorado gold, my wife Bev and I had relatives visiting from Florida, and we were looking for some mountain activities to keep them entertained. After doing the usual side trips up and over mountain passes and through the shopping districts of Summit County, we took a run to the Country Boy Mine, located just outside of Breckenridge.
The mine was interesting in itself, but it wasn’t until we tried our hand at the panning pool that I felt the now familiar and insatiable lust for gold. At first my wife and I held back with that kind of indifferent attitude that comes from showing out-of-town relatives all the supposedly touristy places where you live. But then something wonderful and special – much like love at first sight – happened.
My mother-in-law uncovered a slice of yellow.
You could see the color in the bottom of the pan from about 100 yards away, but actually finding a piece of gold was more like a deep-down-in-the-gut vibration than just spotting a flash of yellow. That tiny piece, no bigger than an ant, spoke volumes to me.
The next thing I knew, I was running – followed closely by Bev – to the gift shop for pan rentals. I’ve been hooked ever since.
So when Isabell and I took our places at GPOC’s tables, and we scooped up our first pans full of muck, I felt the old fever coming on. And when Isabell, whose quick intelligence never surprises me, started panning like an old pro simply by watching everyone around her, I must admit I was pretty proud. But when she somehow managed to uncover several flakes of gold on the first try, well, I lost it.
“Give me the pan, sweetie,” I begged. “Daddy needs to get the gold out for you.”
Isabell, however, was having none of it. It was her pan, and she didn’t really care what was in the bottom as long as she had water and mud in which to play.
So even though I made my lunge, grabbed the side of the pan and tried to yank it out of her hands, I could tell my move would be too late. She quickly dunked the pan back in the water, erasing all traces of gold. Then she poured the pan full of water over her head. That shows just how professional she is when it comes to prospecting.
In the end, I realized the only thing to do was join GPOC so my daughter and I could drive out to one of the club’s mining claims and spend the day in the sunshine panning for gold.
I’d like to think that in the end, I’ll care less about the gold and more about spending the day outdoors with my daughter, but after my behavior at Burro Days, I wonder.
If my daughter discovers gold in a local stream or creek, I have this fear I’ll be doing some claimjumping.
Andrew Gmerek contributes pure gold to this space every Friday.
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