Still, these men are more fortunate than others. Many who set out in search of gold found only death for their troubles - a fate some are glad to embrace if the alternative is returning home in disgrace.
Sheriff Patch of Lazarus once commented, "If ever I met the man who steps off that Wednesday stage who doesn't immediately buy a damn shovel, and a damn pan -- I'll shake the bastard's hand and buy 'em a drink. 'Cos he'll be the first sunuvabitch I've ever met who's had the God-given good sense not get caught up in such foolishness. Gold, or the want of it, has dealt out more misery on this sorry earth than any good man can imagine." This opinion is, however, courtesy of a man who spent four years stooping in the cold waters of the Animas swirling a gold pan with nothing to show for it.
Despite such tales of gloom and disappointment, there truly are fortunes to be made in the frontier. The hills and canyons of the San Juan range are laden with gold and silver deposits still waiting to be uncovered. Anyone with a little luck can dip a pan and come up with a few flakes of gold but prospecting requires a certain level of skill in order to make the enterprise worthwhile.
Every seasoned prospector has his own tricks of the trade, procedures that he guards closely. Acquiring the skills and know-how of prospecting isn't something you can learn from a book or by simply buying some gritty old timer a drink at the local watering hole and getting him to talk. It's something that's learned in the doing through time, sweat and patience.
It won't take long for players stepping off that stage to notice a few who struck it rich reveling in the fortune they've taken out of the hills and streams. Despite admonitions to the contrary, some doubtlessly will get bit by the fever and want to try their hands whether they're prepared for it or not...