The Gold Split
After 9 days of dredging at Union Flats, Dave #2 had to return to Denver. I was lucky as I still had 2 weeks of vacation left but I was planning on spending them in Oregon. That meant it was time to pack up to leave the next day. We hauled the dredge out of the large hole that it had produced during the previous two weeks and turned over possession of the hole along with our recommendations of how to proceed to another Valley Prospectors Club member. We had found 3 pennyweight of gold in 3 hours that morning so the dredge hole was far from being played out. ( If the dredgers that we turned over the hole to reads this, please let me know what results you had. )
After all the work we had done, we both weren't sad about leaving. My body was rejoicing. Dredging is hard work and to do it every day for a couple of weeks begins to take the fun out of it. We adjourned to the campsite and popped the top off of a couple of cool ones and decided the ground rules for the gold split.
Dredge owner gets first pick. After losing to Dave #1 by flipping for the nicest small nugget when I dredged with him for 3 days, I wasn't going to take any chances this time. ( If you get the chance to dredge with me using my equipment, this rule will be carefully explained to you long before you ever touch the nozzle.)
We would then alternate picks of the gold that was large enough to be considered pickers or until we get tired of selecting the pieces individually. If the #1 pick was substantially larger than the #2 pick, 2 or more second picks might be agreed upon.
Split the remaining gold weight wise using my small portable scale set.
We had panned the gold all the way down each day eliminating the black sands before we quit for the day as a kind of winding down so the gold was clean other than the mercury that was on some of the pieces. We placed it in a small container, sampled the wind direction, and standing upwind carefully vaporized the mercury off by heating it using my campstove. This left the gold free of the mercury but slightly tarnished. This we would clean up later. We then put it all into one weight pan of the scale and proceeded to weigh it. 27 pennyweight. Neither of us had ever found that much gold on a single outing. Then we poured the gold from the weight pan into a small plate and spread it out so we could see all of the individual pieces. There was no flour gold. There was very few pieces smaller than small match head size.
My dredge does catch flour gold very well so I assume that the flood waters were swift enough that the flour gold was carried further down stream. I had already selected the piece that I wanted the day that we found it. It weighed 18 grains and there was another that was almost that large. That made the #1 and the #2 pick close enough that we then began the alternate selection of the nice pieces.
After about Dave's #30 pick we were getting down to the small stuff. I happened to glance over to the scale. There was a nice sized small nugget still sitting there. I told Dave,
"Look, there's a nugget left in the scale and guess what! It's my pick! I think I'll take it!"
Little did I know at that time that I would hear a repeat of this statement at every outing we have gone to since then. The only response that I've been able to give is a denial that it was done intentionally and then a rendition of the time that Dave dropped by for a couple of hours when I was dredging at GPOC's Lets Go Gold Panning Days last year with his wetsuit in hand, worked the dredge for a while then proceeded to break the only starter rope that I had. ( Actually, he had been invited to stop by to dredge for a while but the story sounds better when I leave that part out. )
Finally all of the gold was separated and residing in 2 individual containers without any serious fighting occurring. Now it was time to celebrate. We loaded up and went to Downieville for pizza and a couple more cool ones. As we sat on the patio overlooking the Yuba River eating our pizza and drinking our beer we began making plans for next year!
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