The Prospector and His Burro - Grubstake

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From the February 28, 1907 edition of the Salt Lake Mining Review.

The prospector and his burro

"Do you know what a 'grubstake' is?" said the prospector to his burro. "I am of the opinion that you think that it is some new variety of sagebrush; something different from the usual kind from which you derive the most of your nourishment. As a matter of fact, it does mean something to eat, but the term also implies a camping outfit, tools and supplies to be used in prospecting the hills for the bonanzas that Dame Nature has scattered around so lavishly and yet which are so hard to find.

"In mining parlance 'grubstake' means that one man or more has agreed to furnish some other man with provisions and supplies, and a certain amount of money to be used on a prospecting expedition; the man furnishing the 'grubstake' to share with the prospector in anything that the latter may find.

"I see by your looks that you think that this is a very nice arrangement. It always is for the prospector, but not always so with the man who furnishes the 'grubstake.' Much depends on the prospector. If he is honest, industrious and a man of ability and experience, it is possible that the man who puts up the 'stake' may realize on the enterprise. Otherwise he is out and injured.

"I want to tell you, Old Long Ears," continued the prospector, "the man who puts up a 'grubstake' will not realize out of his venture one time out of twenty, and for the reason that the man sent out is utterly worthless, incompetent and dishonest. How do I know this? Well, I will tell you.

"If you will go with me into town today I will show you half a dozen men hanging around the saloons, drinking, gambling and dissipating. Some of these men, without doubt, are out on a prospecting trip for some man who has put up a 'grubstake.' But, they never get far out into the hills, they never think of the interest of the man in the city. who has been putting up for them, and they lay around for two or three months, blow in all of their 'grubstake' and then return with a doleful tale of lack of success.

"I hate to peach on a fellow prospector, but it is so evident that the dishonest man with a 'grubstake' is a menace to the mining industry that, at times, I must express my indignation, even if I have no one better to talk to than a burro. Good people lose confidence in mining after they have been bilked a few times by the shiftless, irresponsible prospector who is ever on the alert for a soft snap.

"Do you remember that man who passed through our camp a month ago? He had a fine team and wagon, and the finest outfit and supplies I have ever seen in these parts. At that time you told me you were sure he would succeed, and wanted me to join with him in his trips through the mountains. Well, that prospector never got further on his way than that little camp down on the river where there are three tent saloons, one store, one restaurant, and a little 'red-light' establishment.

"Here he unhooked and prepared to have a good time. He began drinking, gambling and carousing. Being half drunk all the time he lost all of his ready cash at the gaming table. When this was exhausted he began putting up his supplies against the red and blue chips. When these were gone he put up the team and wagon, and, inside of a week he was cleaned out, losing every portion of his 'grubstake' that was worth all the way from $600 to $1,000. Then he skipped the country, and the man who put up the 'grubstake' never heard of him again.

"It is such dishonorable conduct as this that brings discredit on the honest prospector, and this is the reason that so many 'grubstake' prospecting expeditions fail. I see that you blush and hang your head at the thought of the thing, but your grief is as nothing compared to that of the man who puts up his good money to outfit the disreputable scalawag who gains his living by bleeding his trusting friends and acquaintances. The hills and sagebrush are full of such cattle, and no decent burro would so much as associate with them.

"The honest, conscientious prospector, however, will walk a leg off, and work a lung out, in order to find something that is worth the while, and such a man nearly always makes good, and, before the end of six months or a year, discovers a mine that will make a fortune for the 'grubstaker' as well as for himself.

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