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The Daily Wildcat

63° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    A different kind of gold digger

    The infomercial pulled me in immediately: Cash 4 Gold.

    For a poor college student, the prospect of easy money is enticing.

    The smiling host from the infomercial pulled out a fan of bills from his pocket as one angry woman explained how she sent in jewelry from her ex-boyfriend.

    I was a believer.

    All I needed was to find some sort of gold to mail in and I would receive a check for my efforts.

    I searched through my room for any sort of metal, but I found I had nothing to offer.

    Paying for gold wasn’t an option since I was in this newfound business to make money.

    A quick Web search revealed I was not alone in my quest to find gold in this region.

    The Tucson-based Desert Gold Diggers prospect gold as a hobby, and have been quite successful in finding little nuggets and specks buried beneath the earth on their 24 claims throughout Southern Arizona.

    Donna and Bryon Hackett, Desert Gold Diggers members for 22 years, have unearthed quite a bit from the club claims over the years.

    Bryon Hackett, a former state champion speed gold panner, began looking for gold in his early 20s.

    “”I’ve prospected everywhere from the Mexican borders to where I could see Russia across the ocean,”” Bryon said. “”It took forever to get the first ounce.””

    “”Once you get your first taste, let me tell you, you go nuts,”” added Donna, who serves as the club’s president.

    At the club’s meeting, I looked at the assortment of items the club collected on its prospecting trips. In addition to finding specks and little nuggets of gold, members have found rare artifacts including dinosaur fossils, colonial currency and meteorites.

    But I was impressed with the gleaming little nuggets that are currently worth more than $800 an ounce.

    So, I decided to join them.

    It wasn’t easy waking up at the crack of dawn to find the isolated claim situated between Three Points, Ariz., and the Caballo Loco Ranch and R.V. Park off Highway 286.

    I met with Donna and hopped on the back of her A.T.V. for the final stretch to the claim.

    Donna was fearless and navigated through the ditches and steep hills with speed and skill.

    The vultures circled overhead and grasshoppers the size of my index finger scrambled off the road and into the safety of the desert as we made our way down the rough road to the claim.

    It didn’t take long before my shirt was drenched in sweat and dirt.

    The Desert Gold Diggers pan and metal detect for gold in dry riverbeds, but it often takes hours to find even a little gold dust.

    Still, many agree the search is worth it.

    “”When you see a gold nugget and dig one out of the ground, and you realize that you are the first human being to see that speck of gold, it’s awesome,”” said Carl Wruck, secretary of the Desert Gold Diggers.

    “”Very few people sell their gold,”” Wruck added. “”It’s an emotional thing. The finding of that gold is much more important than the value of the gold, which has gone way up.””

    The more I learned about gold prospecting, however, the more I questioned my ability to get my hands dirty and spend a day out in the sun.

    Though many members have tools and machines to help them sort through the dirt, it still takes a lot of patience and careful detail to comb through the earth.

    The thought of turning my gold into cash seemed easy, but I quickly realized it would take days prospecting for gold to find enough to make the effort worth it.

    Maybe I’ll try pick-pocketing instead.

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