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Recently describing the widowlike existence she led as a miner's wife, Mrs. Elta Proebstel, now in her late eighties, called gold mining a "disease." In the gold rush era of the nineteenth century the term more likely used was "fever," but the same implication persists today—that the quest for gold is consuming and infectious; it can cause blisters and sores, delirium, disorientation, and even death, if caution is not taken.

Gold can also make a man rich, momentarily or permanently, depending on the deposit and the side effects of the gold fever. And so it did for a few California miners in the past century. Most miners, however, departed the mines destitute, or died there without family or ceremony. The search for gold was, and still can be, a lonely, shifting occupation requiring miners to wander along crevice and creek in pursuit of the heavy mineral which might bring wealth and fortune. Like the substance they seek, miners must be malleable and durable. They must persevere; and so they do. Today the numerous treasure clubs and magazines and the frequent site of miners panning or sluicing along mountain creeks in the once-rich gold districts of the West stand as testimony to the enduring fascination and attraction for gold.

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Last Updated: 11-Dec-2009