There is a favorite pastime (for some) that you can indulge in while visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The signs beckon you to pull over and take your chance. The family can be heard screaming in unison, “pull over, pull over, pull over” as the pressure mounts. You may think I am speaking of the obligatory Cracker Barrel stop, nope! Boiled peanuts? A western souvenir store featuring “Coonskin hats (short for racoon) worn by the famous Daniel Boone? The random “theme” park? Hardee’s? Could it really be that I am referring to the famous Billy Graham Library, featuring Bessie-the-Cow (kin to our “eat mor chikin” cow)? Nope, I am referring to all famous gold, ruby and sapphire mining establishments with their lore in history. The one place where, with some effort, you too can find valuable jewels found “in them darn hills,” by going back in time and panning for these well-hidden gems.
I remember once taking one of my treasure-hunting daughters with expectations so high that I sensed danger of disappointment lurking once the “panning” wore off. We chose the location that appeared to offer the most adventure and promise of found wealth, something about “grandpa used to say,” while sitting in a Cadillac. Hey. if it’s good enough for grandpa (with happy grandma), its good enough for us. We purchased some buckets of dirt and took our tin pans shaped as saucers to the wooden trough, where a redirected stream was awaiting us.
The instructions were clear. We were asked to take small handfuls of dirt from the buckets, place them in the tin pans and begin to gently immerse them into the stream of water, carefully looking for the glimmer of a gold nugget, the red of a ruby rock or the blue/green tint of a sapphire gem. I realized quickly (fast learner that I am) that the expected treasure was not going to be found readily, at least not at the size and quantity we were led to believe. My solution was brilliant. I excused myself and quietly made my way to the gift shop where I found a whole bag (for a wad of cash) of polished “post sifted” gems. I then took those gems and when my child was not looking, inserted them into the bucket of dirt that I had paid for (more cash). BTW, I now have a better understanding of what “grandpa used to say.” You can only imagine the delight my child received when she quickly realized that she had found treasure and a lot of it, at that.