About 20 years ago I stopped at a small cafe in southwestern Arizona. I needed a burger and a cold beer badly. There was an old codger there, pouring down a few and we got to talking. By his looks, I guessed him to be a prospector which he finally admitted he was. About time to leave I picked up his tab and paid for both.
We talked for a few minutes at the counter and he reached into his torn-faded coveralls and slid a small jar my way. "How many ounces would you say is in there" he asked? I picked up the jar and slid it back down to him, I guessed 7-8 ounces. "9.6" he popped out.
"I suspect you had to move a lot of dirt to get that much," I said.
"No, maybe a wheelbarrow, half full", he popped back. Now I suspected the beer was talking but bit my tongue.
"Come on, I'll show you, he said. Pointing at a beat-up truck he asked, "Can we go in your rig, mine is about out of gas."
Well he pointed the direction and about 4 miles out he indicated to stop.
We walked about two hundred yards and he said pull back that bush, which I did and down in a small gulch he had an old faded wooden sluice box. The brush pretty much hid the location, in fact, 5 feet away one would never see it.
"That's my gold getter" he smiled a toothless smile.
"Come on, you surely didn't get that jar of gold from this little box", hell, it was maybe 10 inches wide and 40 inches long at the most.
"You see those hills, all gold-bearing. Between here and that lower ridge I have almost 30 of those boxes," he grinned. "It rains out here maybe 4 to 6 times a year and after each good rain, I make my cleanup. Dump the cons into a five-gallon bucket and take them back to the shack where I extract the gold.”
"I work maybe two or three weeks a year and get more damn gold than any dozen or more of these wannabees doing it full time."
I asked, "How come you don't use those new aluminum sluice boxes? They’ve got to be lighter and get better recovery."
"Yeah, that they are but easier to see, easier to steal. I started off with 3 and caught one dude lugging one out to his truck but I got the box back cuz he had 4 flat tires and had to walk back to town. If you look closely at my old wooden boxes they are weathered, all rusty nails and screws, even the expanded wire is rusty. I also use rusty wire or chains to hold the box from getting washed away. That box you just saw made over an ounce of coarse gold the last cleanup. Good old Mother Nature does most of the hard work moving the gravel down and all I gotta do is wait for a good hard rain."
I saw the old guy several times after that and rumor has it, he passed away about 8 years ago. But I will say that he had one of the best lazy man's gold getting systems I have ever seen.