Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I have spent a good portion of my life “in the field” hunting for fossils and later prospecting for rocks and minerals.  And, it seems the older I get, the more “stuff” I haul to the outcrops in my pickup, or hoofing it with my backpack.  Today a prospector needs multiple hammers, pry bars, gads, shovels, sacks, cell phone, GPS units, bags, acid bottles---you name it.  The only thing missing, and at times I wish it were available, is dynamite!
I often wondered what “the old timers” hauled out and how they prepared for prospecting.  Well, in searching the archives at PPLD Penrose Library Special Collections I ran across a little book entitled Prospecting for Gold and Silver by Arthur Lakes of the Colorado State School of Mines (published in 1895).  I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at Lake’s advice for much is apropos today!

“The regular prospector, as a rule, has …learned by observation, the appearance of different ores, their different values, how the veins appear on the surface…and the use of a pick, shovel, and blasting powder….he has become too restless to stick to steady work…the life of a prospector offers many attractions to one who is restless and loves to roam and who loves to find something new.

The best education for a prospector would be a course at a school of mines, where he will learn the elements of geology, mineralogy, assaying, etc….A little knowledge of blowpiping may also help him. [NOTE: do students in mineralogy class still learn how to use a blow pipe?]
Having left his school, he should learn the practical use of the pick, drill and blasting powder…A little carpentry will teach him how to make a handwinch, and a few lessons in blacksmithing, will teach him how to sharpen and temper his tools.

Professor Lake followed “Mr. A. Balch” in describing the needs for an outfit.  “First: two pairs of heavy blankets weighing about 8 pounds each.  Second:  a buffalo robe or a blanket lined poncho.  Third: suit of strong gray woolen clothes, pair of brown jean trousers, a change of woolen underclothing, woolen socks, pair of heavy boots, soft felt hat, three or four large colored handkerchiefs, a pair of buckskin gauntlets, toilet articles, etc.  Fourth: a breech loading rifle or shot gun and a revolver.  Ammunition. Around his waist is a strong sash to carry his holster and knife, in a sheath.  Pipe and tobacco. Fifth: a sure footed native or mountain pony.  A Mexican saddle …and a long lariat.  Sixth: …a poll pick and prospecting pan.  Seventh:  a frying pan 8 inches in diameter of wrought iron, a coffee pot, tin cup, spoon, and fork, and matches in a tin box, pocket compass, a spy glass.  Eighth:  bacon, flour, beans, coffee, pepper, salt, and a box of yeast powder.  Ninth: …a pack animal or a donkey.”

I often wondered why I became interested in rocks, minerals and fossils (See BLOG: Geophilia; 10/5/11). Now I know---it appears that I am “one who is restless and loves to roam and who loves to find something new”.  Now if I could find my buffalo robe and buy some blasting powder I would load up the mule…..!