MINING EXPRESSIONS (After Marcia Wynn, Desert Bonanza)
ARMSTRONG HOIST: A windlass, which requires considerable “muscle Work” when the miners turn the drum or shaft on which rope or cable is wound, to hoist up a bucket of ore.
BACON AND BEANS: Making one’s bacon and beans; making a living. Bacon and beans were the main stand-by of the miners, especially those living out in the hills.
BLUE-SKY STOCK: Stock or mining shares that went “sky-high” in price in a new bonanza district; stock in mining ventures frequently sold by companies, hastily formed, to take advantage of boom times, and that had little intention of performing extensive or serious mining, preferring to “mine” from the rooms of the stock exchange.
BONANZA: A rich strike; boom camp; prosperity.
BORRASCA: Barren rock; bad luck; adversity; rough going.
BREYFOGLING: Prospecting; looking for lost mines. Derived from the name of Jacob Breyfogle. Breyfogle discovered a rich gold lead while on a prospecting trip out Death Valley-ward in 1864, and though he went back with a party to search for it in 1866, he couldn’t find it, and thus was added another lost mine to the ever-growing list.
CHLORIDER: An old-time silver miner.
CLEAN-UP: This refers to the periodic collection or gathering up of gold from mill plates and cyanide plants, or from arastras, sluice boxes, dry-washers, etc. The gathering up of any mineral being mined.
COYOTING: Following a paystreak, removing only enough material to enable a man to work, much as a coyote would burrow. In certain sections of California’s mining regions many thousands of dollars in vein material and placer gold were recovered by this low-cost method of mining. Desultory mining.
DEEP ENOUGH: The point of diminishing returns at which one quits working; on the hole, enterprise or relationship. (See Frank Crampton’s book of the same title.)
DRY GULCHING: Dry mining in placer districts with the various types of dry-washers, jigs and concentrators. Such mining is frequently done in gulches because the gold deposits are concentrated there. Men engaged in this type of mining were called dry-gulchers.
EXPERTING THE GROUND: To go out and look over a newly discovered mining section; to judge the values of a mine.
FOOT WALL: The upper surface of the rock that lies under the lode or vein; the hanging wall is the wall or side over a lode or vein.
GRAVY: Profits in excess of costs or earnings; extra.
GRUBSTAKE: Money or “grub” supplies and mining necessities furnished prospectors and miners to carry them through a season of searching for mines, or for developing prospects. The grubstaker usually receives half of anything found or developed. Sometimes a miner speaks of saving up or making a grubstake for himself, when he works for someone else (often at other types of labor), to secure a stake that will carry him through a prospecting trip or while he is doing exploratory, or development work, on his own claims.
HIGH-GRADE: Rich ore; purloined ore. It was common practice for miners working in bonanza mines to high-grade some of the mine company’s ore and bring it to the surface in lunch pails, or secreted about their person. A certain type of assayers, or purported assayers, were glad to buy this high-grade for a price representing but a fraction of the ore’s real worth.
HORN (OR PAN) OUT: How any matter would turn out; how a claim would turn out.
HORNING: In early days of the West’s mining, when implements were scarce, or non-existent, the miners would cut an eight or ten-inch section from a cow’s horn, slice it through lengthwise, and thus form a trough-like horn-spoon. This was used for washing small amounts of pulverized ore, or placer samples, in much the same way the prospectors’ little frying pan is used today in panning. The term “horning” stayed with many an old timer long after this primitive device had disappeared from the camps.
JEWELRY ROCK: Very rich ore of a spectacular or beautiful nature. Frequently rich gold quartz, from which watch fobs, ring settings, pins, etc., could be cut and fashioned by a jeweler. (Those who made careers living on ‘Grubstakes’, such as the famous Death Valley Scotty, carried chunks of such ‘High Grade’ ore in their pockets with which to beguile their prospective ‘Investors’. – WJW)
LOUSY RICH: Term used to describe extremely rich ore.
MINE: “A hole in the ground owned by a liar.” – Mark Twain
PENCIL ASSESSMENT WORK: Instead of performing the yearly assessment work required by law to hold an unpatented claim, the locator merely makes a written statement to the effect he has performed such work, and sends it to the county recorder, when actually there is no development work at all, or he is claiming to have just finished work that was done in previous years.