From the upcoming September/October Gold Prospectors Magazine (2019)
By Shawn Willett
Howdy! I'm Shawn Willett, VP Michigan Chapter and recently minted state director for Michigan. I just wanted to share a story with ya'll about showing some Boy Scouts the joys of hunting that butter yella with a gold pan.
I received a call from a gentleman, Michael Crooks, in early June about possibly doing a panning demonstration for his Scout troop around the second weekend of August. I said I'd love to! After a few phone calls and emails, I was going to be showing 17 people, 11 of which were Scouts, how to pan for gold. The day was Aug. 10, place was Barkus Campground, just outside of Lyons, Michigan.
My morning got off to a slow start as I'd hoped to hit the road and be on-site by 7 a.m. I got up a bit late and had a case of the nerves as I had never done anything like this for a group of any size. My wife had taken the day off to accompany me to watch how I'd do. (I think she came for the entertainment — larger groups can make me uneasy sometimes.)
On the road, roughly halfway to the campground, I get a call from Yogi, the campground owner, asking on behalf of the Scouts if I was on the way yet. Wow! These Scouts were champing at the bit to get on the gold! I told him I was in transit, less than 45 minutes away.
I arrived at Barkus Campground 25 minutes later — the accelerator musta sensed my anxiousness to get digging. I was greeted by a fellow miner from my chapter, Alain Soave, a new member of the Michigan Chapter this year.
Word got out that I had arrived, and the Scouts and Scout leaders promptly came out to see the fella that’s gonna do this demo on using a gold pan. I should also mention that a new GPAA member, Russ, had come out to see the panning demo as he was totally new to this pursuit of the elusive metal called gold.
I had thought about how I wanted to do this demo and decided that I'd do it just like I had learned to hunt for gold — a gold pan, a bucket and a scoop. The most basic tools required to chase gold.
I gave a short discussion on how gold had been deposited in the lower peninsula of Michigan, then did a quick demonstration of how to use a gold pan. When I asked if they'd like to see it one more time, the Scouts were shaking their heads no! They were ready to get to panning! They each took a pan, pail, and scoop, got their material, and set to panning! These guys were super excited to find some color. Adults and Scouts alike were talking about what they'd do if they found a huge nugget.
This group was pretty tightknit, encouraging each other on to find the first piece of gold. About an hour after they hit the creek, it happened. One of the Scouts found the first piece! Excitement grew — I didn't think they could get more psyched up, but they proved me wrong — and the group focused harder on capturing the next piece of gold. And they did, both Scouts and Scout leaders kept coming up and asking me if they had a color in the pan. They did! The rush was on!
The only time the group was not panning was during lunch. They were bit by gold fever! The troop kept at it until the Scoutmaster called it quits for dinner.
“The Michigan Chapter of the Gold Prospector's Association of America provided an exceptional experience for our Scout troop," said Scoutmaster Chuck Leibrand. "We learned the basics of gold prospecting and were exposed to several different methods by which to prospect for gold. The members of MI-GPPA were friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating. They shared information about gold prospecting AND information on the geology and makeup of the area as well. We came away with a much better understanding of the hobby, the people and the related geology.”
By all accounts, the young men in the troop had a blast. For me, watching folks find their first bit of color is always a treat. I get as excited as they do. Finding a piece of color while enjoying the outdoors is icing on the cake.
I'd like to thank the following for making this demonstration a fantastic experience: Scoutmaster Chuck Leibrand; Assistant Scoutmaster Craig Barnes; Dave Willis, troop outings coordinator; Assistant Scoutmaster Michael Crooks; and the Scouts of Troop 141 in Mason, Michigan. I'd like to also thank Yogi, owner of Barkus Campground, and Walmart store #2644 in Saginaw, Michigan, for donating two dozen frosting pails for the Scouts to use.
I had some help with teaching the Scouts from my wife, Jessica Willett (aka The Purple Prospector), Mike Rice, Alain Soave, Michigan GPAA treasurer Dennis Osgood, and Michigan GPAA Secretary Rich and Wendi Garlick.
One last thought: Not all gold is in the ground. It comes in other forms that have much more value than Au. Hold on to that color, because no one can steal that from you.
aka michGPAA Webwrangler
VP Michigan Chapter GPAA
State Director GPAA - Michigan