Looking for 'Gold in Them
Valley Press, Feb. 25, 1983
NOTE: This is the second in a two
part series on prospectors and mines in the Antelope Valley. Yesterday's stories concerned
the local mines, and today the focus is shifted to the men who dig the earth for gold.
Story and art by
The old prospector looked over at the red hill, surveying
the rock and his chances. He had searched that area of the desert for days hoping for a
strike, and soon he would give up and try somewhere else. He sometimes gave up on a
location, but he never would give up completely. He had prospected for gold all his life
and that's all he knew.
© 1983 Antelope Valley Newspapers
Coming upon some rock
that was rich with quartz, the prospector picked up a specimen, crushed it up and put it
in the egg skillet that he both cooked and panned with. From his canteen, he added some
water, sloshing the mixture back and forth.
His heart leaped and a great smile cracked his weathered
face. In his pan, as he rocked it back, appeared a tail of gold a few inches long. Urged
on by his good fortune, the old man began digging in search of the vein he believed
existed somewhere in the red rocky hill.
The year could be 1897 or 1929 or 1983.
Prospectors no longer line the ' hills of the Antelope
Valley as they once did, according to local legend, yet some still remain.
Of these, some are retired, but some push on with
unharnessed optimism, always believing that they're going to find a strike that will put
them on easy street.
The tales miners and prospectors can tell about their
exploits far outnumber the strikes that ever paid off, but as an intregal part of Antelope
Valley history, the stories themselves are just about all that remains of the legend
called the "Old West."
"Optimistic" is the word that best describes
prospectors. Their lives are always uncertain. They live from strike to strike and
always keep hoping.
"All miners are optimistic " said Rose Bright,
wife of Jack right of Mojave who was a gold miner until 1949. "They think they can
make it. And they make it, is the funny part. Then they quit doing everything and use up
their money and go back and try again."
"I've been at it all my life. In fact, that's all
I've ever done," Bright himself explained. "When I first started over in
southern Nevada, I was 15. Of course, my folks were in the mining field. That's really
where I started. Moved up here in 1929."
He worked for the Burton Brothers, who were leasing the
Cactus Queen Mine on Middle Butte for awhile. They also owned and operated the Tropico
Gold Mine in Rosamond.
"We produced about $250,000 in about three months out
there (at the Cactus) and that was all for awhile. There was nothin' else for me, so I had
to find another job.
After having worked as a mine foreman for the Burtons
until 1936, and a superintendent until 1949, he left the gold mining field forever. It was
then that Bright went to work at the Monolith Portland Cement Company, until his
In his prospecting days, it was often difficult living
until the next gold strike was made.
"It was always exciting," he said, "but
sometimes you go pretty hungry.
"I prospected for myself when I first got here. Then
we got married, and I still worked, by myself," he explained. "I put her to
work, too," he chuckled.
"We made a living, that's about all. Enough to keep
us living during the Depression."
"In those days,'' said Rose "You were dependent
on the smelters. Sometimes you didn't hear for months, and I didn't like that. And I
encouraged him to go work for wages."
When he first came to the Antelope Valley, Bright said
there weren't too many other miners around. The Golden Queen Mine on Soledad Mountain was
developed after 1934, "that brought a lot of them in," he aid.
"Every hill had some kind of a prospector on
it," Rose agreed.
Bright never thought much about the dangerous aspects of
mining. "It was dangerous, but I never thought it was when I was doing it.
"Broke my finger once. Came pretty near to gettin'
killed twice. One time was a cave in," he explained. "I was lucky got
out of the way.
"The other time, I was down at the bottom of a shaft.
A bucket broke loose. I was lucky again. There was just room for me and the bucket. I got
in a comer, the bucket took the other corner."
But Bright said he isn't sorry he's no longer in the
field, or on the hill. "I'm not able to work anymore," he said. "Let
somebody else do it."
Yet he still pays attention to the prices of gold and
silver. "Gold this mornin' was up to $483 per ounce. Silver was only $12. I get all
that in the mornin' on the radio."
Rose seemed to understand. "You can ask a miner and
he might not know the date, but he'll know the price of gold. Underneath they're always
prospecting and looking," she explained. "Once a miner, always a miner."
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