River of Gold


by Judy Berman

(as told to me by my Dad, Joseph H. Fiet III)

The desert is an infinite stretch of emptiness to some. But this was the Nevada my father loved. He’d take off in his pickup truck or motorcycle and head to old mines in search of adventure.

His only companion on some of these trips was one of his trusty German shepherds. So, Dad also carried a weapon. Not just for protection against marauding wolves, poisonous snakes and other wild critters. Sometimes, the human animal was the greater danger. Once, he saw some men acting suspiciously when they were out in the desert in the predawn hours. Bodies have been buried there and never found. After that encounter, my Dad carried a rifle.

But it wasn’t a mob hit that Dad was after. It was gold. His quest was recreational. For some whose whole life was wrapped up in the pursuit of riches, the search often becomes maddening.

Dad told of a miner in the 1930s who ran across two Indians when he was looking for treasure.

“They wanted to sell him a location of a working mine for $200,” Dad said.

Now this was during the Great Depression, and $200 was a lot of money then.

They told him the mine was 3,000 feet underground by a river, like an ocean with tides. There was black sand on the banks and gold was in the black sand.

Intrigued, but suspicious, the miner asked why they were selling the mine if they were making money out of it.

The Indian said his friend had arthritis and could no longer go up and down the ladder where the gold was. He showed the miner his friend’s arthritic hand.

The miner paid $200 for the map. Then, he went to Las Vegas to consult with a geologist friend. They bought a week’s worth of supplies and went to the limestone cave.

They used a series of ladders to get there. Once they located the river, they picked up samples of black sand.

Back up at the top, the geologist suffered a heart attack. The man frantically searched for people to help. He brought them back to his friend, and that’s when the bag he was carrying fell to the ground. They saw the black sand and gold spill out.

The miner knew he needed to distract them. While they tried to revive his friend, he went back and blew up the entrance to the mine.

He was confident he could find his way back in. When he was down in the cave, he’d seen a shaft of light and knew there was another entrance.

Fortune, however, did not smile on him. The miner spent the next 30 years looking for that entrance.

This story might just be an urban legend. A great treasure found and then lost. Like Humphrey Bogart told Ward Bond about the black statuette in “The Maltese Falcon,” it’s the “stuff that dreams are made of.”

It was enough to motivate a group of people to work together to find the mine. When they do, Dad said they agreed to share equally. Like other quests for gold and silver, time will tell if they follow thru.

“I’ve never heard if they succeeded,” Dad said.

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(photo information: Dad in Nelson, Nevada)

  1. Thanks, Mark. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” So I can’t comment on that. The second story Dad told me about gold – that I’ll write about later – he was involved in.

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