Stealth Rattlers and Alka Seltzer Gold
It's Free! All You Gotta Do Is Find It!
A Factual Account from Gold Nugget Man
If you do, it’s yours, but I’d sure like to hear about it when it happens. How anybody could do such a goofy thing when they think they’re reasonably smart, is a tough, troubling, even embarrassing question. But I did, and here’s the real deal.
It all happened in the mid 1960’s. By hand drilling, blasting, and dry washing on my Mojave claims in the Rand mining district, near Randsburg, and sluicing and a bit of dredging in the San Gabriel, I had accumulated a respectable “show-off” collection of gold, which included quite a few sizable pickers and sweet clunkers. It was an impressive collection!
I had seen other guys flashing their gold about in glass Alka Seltzer bottles which are now the old collectible ones, you know, the ones with the screw on metal caps. It seemed the thing to do. Well, I did too, and proudly brandished it boldly and bravely about at every opportunity. Quite often, someone would ask (and more than once) to hold that “beautiful bottle of gold”. I kept it filled with water, too, and tried to keep it free of air bubbles for better viewing. Kept it wrapped in a clean new, red shop rag – rubber banded, and securely (or so I thought) tucked in to my shirt pocket.
That’s how I was carrying it – oh so proudly – the day me and a couple of other fellas, whose names and faces I can’t recall, were prospecting - hiking and crawling all over the high, rocky, brushy mountain-sides of the East Fork of the San Gabriel Canyon. I can remember being so careful because rattlesnakes are a real factor there. This is compounded by the fact that I knew a guy who was a prison guard who took convict labor crews into the San Gabriels on work projects. They encountered many snakes. He would catch them alive – break off their rattles – and “turn ‘em loose” again. He would announce that these were now “stealth rattlers”. He said this made those convicts quite hesitant to “hit the brush” and “make a break for it”. I guess it worked. Makes sense to me.
I remember hiking over ridges, down draws and washes, between big rocks and boulders, and lots of torturous brush. I was collecting samples of gravels – hiking down to the river to test pan, and then back up in the hills for more. So much was I into the searching, digging, hiking and panning that it wasn’t till many hours had passed that I became aware… my bottle of gold was not in my pocket! I couldn’t believe it! It just wasn’t there, and I had no idea where it was. Panic set in! That bottle of gold represented hundreds of hours of hard labor, several thousand miles of travel, and, of course, a lot of money spent. But most of all, it stood for the pride of accomplishment of the hard -earned ownership of beautiful gold.
So. I hiked up and down the river, trying to locate all the spots where I had panned, or dug, or wrestled with rocks. Climbed the draws and hills and high banks trying to re-establish untraceable steps. Even into old "Chinamen wormhole” shafts that tunneled back into the alluvial mountainside. (The Chinese neatly stacked all the over sized waste rocks along the walls – they were well known for this style). I had gone back in to these suicide traps with a flashlight – collected gravel samples – and packed them down to the river for panning.
A million places to look and no way to find them all, or even thoroughly view some of the nasty spots I had ventured into. I searched till darkness and exhaustion forced my retreat. I returned a number of times to the area, always making a valiant effort – always with the same disappointing results. Found plenty of ticks and rattlesnakes, though!
I really didn’t know the guys I was with that day very well. We just met up accidentally on some occasions in the canyon. After my loss was announced that day, we kept splitting up and searching in different directions. Don’t know how many times they ever returned looking for my lost gold, but I am sure news of their success would have leaked out…. I mean we all know how news travels fast among prospectors, and their numbers frequenting the San Gabriel were considerably lower than they are today. After all, the detecting craze was yet to come, and on top of that, gold was only at $32.
I met up with those guys several more times in that canyon and honestly don’t feel they even ever bothered searching for my lost gold, as they had a real glory hole going down by the river. But I almost wore myself and my pickup out with all those disappointing return trips searching for my lost “Alka-Seltzer gold”. It was wrapped in that shop rag alright and rather protected. In thinking back I’m sure I never heard the unmistakable sound of a bottle hitting on rocks and breaking. I just don’t think that happened. And if it did, it’s laying right where it fell… There had to be well over three ounces maybe four of gold in that Alka-Seltzer bottle, and the rag it was in would be rotted away after all this time.
Now in this popular age of metal detectors, I am sure that many folks have “swung” through that country. But I was up some very rough, ridiculously difficult places where nobody could ever swing a detector. My gut tells me that Alka-Seltzer bottle full of gold is still right where I dropped it over 50 years ago.
I know I was wearing a blue denim shirt at the time. The pocket flap snap-buttoned down which made it quite secure. But, the top of the bottle did stick up and out to one side of the flap of my pocket. I do remember when I discovered the bottle was missing that the snap was also undone. That makes me think I snagged it in the brush, and I had been in lots of that – it was everywhere on those mountainsides and canyon walls.
Needless to say, losing that bottle of precious, hard-earned gold took the spark from my prospecting spirit for a while. Oh, after so many years, I got over it – SORTA!
Well, I left that country in 1969 for Wisconsin, then Idaho, then Nevada. Never did return to California. I know in my soul that my Alka-Seltzer bottle of gold is still there in that East Fork San Gabriel Canyon. I don’t think I would even know the area anymore if I were to return.
I wish somebody would find it or maybe already did. Anyway I hope I get to hear the news when it happens. It still burns a hole in my mind…. In fact, Alka-Seltzer – or just the thought of it – affects me in a way that is hard to explain. Even as I sit here writing this on a chilly November morning many decades later.
In fact, to this very day, I get emotional and even a little melancholy when I see the words “Alka-Seltzer”, and I sure don’t own any old Alka-Seltzer bottles. Maybe the best cure would be to start collecting them. See there - heck fire, guess I'm not over it, am I? I tell ya, – that’s just the way it happened many, many years ago.
So, I leave you now with this – g’day and good luck!