GOLD has set country against country, sparked brutal murder and put rings on countless fingers for marriage.

This precious metal has its comic and tragic side with a legion of stories.

Discoveries of gold have often been made by pure luck including one prospector in America who was out climbing about in the mountains when he slipped and dropped his revolver down a cliff.

He carefully climbed down to find it, picking a piece of quartz up at the same time as he picked up his gun. When he got back to camp he idly tested the quartz and found it was very rich in gold, so he staked a claim and sparked a gold rush.

Another major claim was found when a prospector fell into a creek to the delight of his companions. They laughed at him, so he threw a rock at them….but it struck another rock on the bank and revealed a yellow scratch. Not long afterwards there was a valuable mine on the spot.

In Australia there was the problem caused by rich miners paying for their tram fare in gold.

They thought it was amusing to tender a sovereign but, if several of them were on the same tram, the poor conductor quickly ran out of change and had to take people’s names to reimburse them later! The practice stopped when one wily conductor charged all their fares to one miner!

Back in California, two drunks met a bit of a shelter problem while stumbling home and took refuge in an old miner’s hut where they lay down to sleep off their binge.

But heavy mountain rain produced torrents which threatened to sweep away the hut and the two were rudely woken by water pouring through gaps in the walls.

They tried to climb the hillside to safety but were swept away, one man being lucky enough to be swept into a clump of oak trees where he clung on but the other man drowned.

When the flood subsided the first man found a shovel and began to dig a grave for his friend….during which he discovered one of the largest gold nuggets ever found in California. It made $10,000 being exhibited for spectators and another $22,000 dollars when it was finally sold. The drunk never touched alcohol again, went properly into mining and died a millionaire.

Luck regularly played a big part in big finds and one prospector setting out from town with his mule stumbled over a large rock just lying on the main street where hundreds of miners walked every day. It turned out to be a huge nugget of gold which weighed 35 pounds.

Not all discoveries have such a happy ending and one miner who spent years searching for gold finally struck it rich when the hole he was digging began to produce nuggets. He stood there with his hands full of nuggets, realising it was the gold strike of a lifetime….and promptly collapsed. By the time help reached him he had died from heart problems made fatally worse by his excitement!


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