In the photo archives at the Museum of Central Nevada, she finds an image. A man stands upright in knee-high snake-kicker lace-up leather boots. There are four burros in the image: one burro wears a riding saddle, the other burros bear packboxes. Behind the man and the burros, Death Valley topography stretches flat as a sourdough pancake, littered with stone, dotted with sagebrush.
Under a sombrero, the man's eyes are in shadow. The aquiline nose and straight lips set stoic are accented by the brilliance of a high-noon sun. He rests one hand on a burro's neck, dwarfing it with his magnitude. In the other hand, he holds a rock hammer.
This brown-skinned man of the desert is a prospector.
"Prospectors must have good powers of observation and a memory for the appearance of rocks, combined with curiosity and great imagination. They must have a liking for living and working in the bush, and a capacity for hard work." (From the personal library of Patrick J. Burns, Geologist)
To see within the prospector breaks the rock creating a fresh surface. It is an act of will, of power, of intent. The prospector assumes control of the rock, becomes an author of its story. Underlying this act should be respect.
The fresh surface is examined. Tools -acid, knife, lens, magnet - are put to use. Expectations dissolve; the mind receives what the rock reveals. Eventually a description is required…a picture created with words, the rock placed in context, the contents related to the local environment. This is the beginning…
"Under the sombrero in the shade of its brim, she licks the surface, wetting it, tasting its acridity, coating her tongue with the dust of fracture, of clay, of salt or sulfur. Lets the sun shine on the fresh surface naked for the first time in endless time. Looking through the 10-power Bausch & Lomb lens the retina of her eye connects adjusting to focus on the details of the rock's surface.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground...Beginning