"Thar's gold in them thar hills!"
And with a little bit of common sense and the right tools, it's there for the taking, says George "Buzzard" Massie, national president of the Gold Prospectors Association of America. Massie was in Salt Lake City to visit friends and put on a prospecting seminar Tuesday night."Salt Lake's gold crazy," Massie said during a break in the seminar. The 300 or so people packed into crowded quarters at the Airport Inn bore ample testimony to that statement. "Some places you go, no one shows up. We always get a good crowd in Salt Lake but this really surprised me."
Massie's presentation was both informative and entertaining. And it helped to know the lingo. After all, its not every day someone tells you you're going to need a "sucker bottle" (a plastic squeeze bottle with a piece of plastic tubing sticking out the top) and some "grizzly screen" (metal mesh used to separate dirt and gravel). It also helped to be familiar with "jigs" (a gadget that separates different sized particles), "riffles" (a series of bumps in the bottom of a sluice box) and "amalgamators" (grinders).
"Finding gold is really a matter of gaining a little geologic knowledge and using common sense," Massie said.
"There are a lot of guys out there that use dowsers and other gimmicks, but I don't see too many of them walking around with their pockets full of gold," he observed.
Massie, a former Kentuckian who now splits his time between gold claims in Alaska and California when he's not speaking at seminars, got interested in gold prospecting 25 years ago in northern Idaho. He was part of a successful prospecting team that eventually formed the GPAA organization. He said the organization serves as a mouthpiece for the hundreds of everyday people who find enjoyment traipsing through public lands during the weekends and on vacations to do a little prospecting.
"We've got to work together to protect that freedom," Massie said. "But we've got to have a voice if we're going to protect those rights, and that's what GPAA is for."
Massie said he considers himself an environmentalist but believes some environmentalist organizations go overboard to protect public lands.
"Sometimes in their zest they also become wasteful," Massie said. "Just because you take things out of a stream doesn't mean you're hurting the environment. When they (environmentalist groups) hear a voice from the other side, they get real critical.
"They label anything in opposition to their point as destructive," Massie continued.
Massie took pains during his presentation to emphasize the need for environmental concern.
Prospecting involves one danger, however: Gold Fever.
Massie admits to a strong case of the fever, but he said succumbing to the malady has allowed him an opportunity to pursue the one of the things he loves most in life - second only to his wife.
And how did he come by the nickname "Buzzard"? Massie just grins and says, "That's a looooong story."