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Gold Fever: Why Two Local Gold Prospectors Keep Up Hunt

Shortly after I moved to Globe-Miami two years ago, I was invited to go on a gold prospecting trip with Miami locals Don Reiman (also Miami’s new vice mayor) and Dik Mickle.

I met them on Sullivan Street in downtown Miami on a summer morning just before dawn. We loaded up in what has been locally known as the Prickly Pear – Reiman’s white Chevy with prickly pear plants painted along the sides – for an adventure that only Globe-Miami folk can appreciate.

Reiman and Mickle using the gold wheel, which is used for sluicing.

Reiman and Mickle using the gold wheel, which is used for sluicing. Photo by Elizabeth Eaton

We drove through Globe and continued on Six Shooter Canyon past the college. It wasn’t long before we were rattling onto a dirt road with a full-load of prospecting supplies in tow just as the sun was beginning to rise.

Our bumpy ride led us to a mining claim owned by Elvan Fant, Sr. This is where we were going to hunt for gold. We unpacked the prospecting gear from the trunk: shovels, a vacuum, gold pans, gallons of water, a dry washer, storage jars and a motor (for power). We strapped it onto a wagon and wheeled it from the top of a hill down to the creek bed. It was a full morning’s work, and on this particular day, we were a team of four. On most occasions, though, Reiman and Mickle are a team of two, and on a good day, they might retrieve $20 worth of gold. On that morning, we retrieved a couple tiny flakes.

Some may wonder – what drives these two men, both in their 60s and 70s, to haul a bunch of heavy gear around the county in 100-plus degree heat when they are often rewarded with very little, if any, gold?

Two years later, I finally got the opportunity to sit down with the two friends and ask these questions.

Reiman and Mickle have been gold prospecting in Globe-Miami since 2009. Mickle had already been living in Miami for 13 years, and Reiman had just relocated to the area from Mesa three years before.

You could say the gold fever runs through Reiman’s veins – his interest in gold began when he was a child. His grandfather got caught up in the Alaskan gold rush in 1902, and he brought back enough gold to raise his family in the southwest of Washington state. Reiman found his own first piece of gold at age 13 in the Cascade Mountains in eastern Washington.

“It was just a little piece of gold,” he remembers.

He has been interested in gold ever since, prospecting from time to time in California and around Quesnel Lake in B.C., Canada.

Reiman knew Mickle from conversations outside the antique shop downtown, but it was the mention of gold during a conversation inside the Howlin’ Javelina, Mickle’s former bar on Sullivan Street, that caught Reiman’s attention.

“Dik told me there was gold in this area,” Reiman recalls. “And I didn’t believe him.”

Hank, a bar patron, offered to show the two where they could find gold nearby. He took them to Richmond Basin. They didn’t find anything on that trip, but it nonetheless sparked an interest in Mickle and Reiman.

Mickle holds up 0.5 ounces of gold in a jar. It took a good three years of prospecting to recover and is worth $700. Photo by Jenn Walker

Mickle holds up 0.5 ounces of gold in a jar. It took a good three years of prospecting to recover and is worth $700. Photo by Jenn Walker

Back in the 1800s, that basin had a population of about 4000 or so, including prospectors, Mickle says. Globe was still a camp back then, and the basin is supposedly how Globe got its name. There, pioneers found a massive silver nugget and named Globe after it.

Reiman and Mickle returned to the basin, this time crossing all the way through.

“It’s ravines,” Mickle says. “It’s basically sandy washes. There are no roads. You’re lucky if you find a Forest Service sign.”

“We nevertheless explored,” he adds. “We spent many a day looking for gold in Richmond Gulch.”

They tried different areas, collecting plastic bags of samples. At that time, all they had were shovels and gold pans.

“All day we went up and down through the cat claw, live oak and yellow jackets,” Mickle adds. “Me with my snake boots and a bear bell on my staff and Don with his tennis shoes.”

Time and time again, they came out with nothing; but by that point, they had the gold fever. Reiman and Mickle asked geologists and old timers for tips on where to find gold. They read books on the subject, went to gold prospector shows and watched gold prospecting shows on the Outdoor Channel and Discovery Channel.

It was some time later that the two met Fant, another local. Fant owns the gold mining claim in Six Shooter Canyon – the one that Mickle and Reiman later brought me to – and offered to take the duo out there.

“We didn’t believe there was gold there,” Reiman says. “We had gone places where people said there was gold. We played with the dirt and there was nothing there.”

To their surprise, for the first time, Mickle and Reiman did find gold on Fant’s mine claim – it was a few flakes, maybe 0.6 grams.

gold pan color-2

A few flakes of gold that Reiman and Mickle panned Photo by Elizabeth Eaton

 

“It was about this big,” Mickle says, pinching his fingers into a circumference the size of a pinhole. “That’s all it takes. It looked like a boulder.”

Up to that point, Reiman owned a dry washer and a gold wheel, but he had never used them.

“I thought my new wife would be interested in gold,” he says with a chuckle. “But she is interested in the gold in the jewelry store, not gold in its raw form.”

There are only a handful of gold prospecting enthusiasts in this area, and Reiman had been waiting a good 10 years for the right prospecting partner to come along. Mickle was that person.

“I was the new kid on the block,” Mickle remembers. “I hadn’t studied gold prospecting, but I knew the history.”

Thus, the gold hunting adventures began, dry washer, gold wheel and all. They invested in more used equipment from garage sales and joined the White Mountain chapter of the Gold Prospector’s Association of America.

One prospecting excursion is usually an all-day adventure, at the least, and sometimes up to several days. Sometimes they prospect in the Pinals, other days they venture to places like Wickenberg, Lynx Creek in Prescott or Queen Valley.

They factor in geology, studying things like mountain erosion and the layout of the land to infer where gold might be. The two can often be found hunting in dry washes, sifting through deposits at river benches and the turning points of the river, areas where gold has likely settled.

“There is a saying that gold rides the iron horse,” Reiman says.

Whenever the flow of water slows, gold drops out before anything else because it is 19 times heavier than water, and twice as heavy as iron, Mickle explains.

I still remember the process. Once we reached the creek bed on Fant’s claim that morning, we

The long haul to the creek bed with a wagon full of prospecting gear.

The long haul to the creek bed with a wagon full of prospecting gear. Photo by  Jenn Walker

used a large vacuum powered by a generator to suck up heavy particles of the bedrock. The same generator powered a dry washer. Once a good amount of material was collected into the vacuum, we dumped it into the dry washer. The dry washer blows the lightweight material off of the ore. Then we could pan the heavy material for gold.

Their best find was in 110-degree weather, when, after moving about 80 five gallon buckets of rocks, they walked away with 1.2 grams of gold.

Most recently, Reiman and Mickle invested in a UTV for their adventures, which makes hauling equipment up and downhill a whole lot easier. Gone are the days of packing four miles in and out with beach wagons, two-wheel dollies or single unicycle wheels with a rack on top.

Wherever the two prospect, they make it a point to reclaim the area afterward.

“There are a lot of idiots that think the outdoors is a place to dump their household trash and make a mess,” Reiman notes.

“But we have also seen areas where people have prospected, and three months later, you can’t tell,” Mickle adds. “Mother nature repopulates everything.”

Being outside is one of the reasons the two enjoy prospecting in the first place.

“You should see the vistas,” Mickle beams. “Sometimes you can see almost all the way to Tucson.”

Clearly, gold prospecting is not about making money. You have to have the fever, the two agree.

“It’s the hunt, searching for something that was once created in a supernova,” Mickle says.

Next, the prospectors have their eyes set on the Bradshaw Mountains.

“I want to find a big nugget!” Reiman says with a grin.

About Jenn Walker

Jenn Walker began writing for Globe Miami Times in 2012 and has been a contributor ever since. Her work has also appeared in Submerge Magazine, Sacramento Press, Sacramento News & Review and California Health Report. She currently teaches Honors English at High Desert Middle School and mentors Globe School District’s robotics team.

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