By Ox Drover
Going through my family photos I came across one of my two oldest sons. We had gone on vacation to Montana to visit a friend for the summer in 1981. They were about 10 and 11 years old. My friend took us around to all the local sights and showed us some old gold mines dug back into the solid rock.
In the photo made that summer, I saw my sons, both kneeling on a huge rock about five feet from the edge of a stream of rapidly flowing water, with a gold pan in their hands. My friend had put a handful of sand from the edge of the creek into the wok-shaped pan and showed them how to swirl the sand in the bottom and let the rushing water wash away the lighter sand, and told them that the heavier gold dust would stay in the bottom of the pan.
They were so excited to be panning for real gold and before long they started to see flakes of glitter in the bottom of their pan. It shone like the sun and made them very excited and they were talking about all the things they would buy with the fruit of their efforts. GOLD!!! REAL GOLD!!!
When they had a teaspoon or so of golden dust in the bottom of their pans, they could come to the bank of the river and put it into a plastic container. Then they would scoop up more sand and go back out on the big rock in the river’s edge. They worked for hours digging and panning for gold dust, excitedly washing the sand they dug, and keeping the glittering dust in the bottom.
As my friend and I sat on the bank of the creek watching the boys enjoying their experience, he leaned over to me and said, “I don’t have the heart to tell them it is fool’s gold they are panning.”
I sort of chuckled that day, and never really did tell the boys that their work was for naught, or that what they thought was a treasure trove of real gold was nothing but pyrite, or “fool’s gold.” Eventually, I think they figured it out for themselves, and my oldest son still has a small jar with the fool’s gold in the bottom.
I was thinking about “fool’s gold,” in terms of false things that glitter and mimic “the real thing” but are, in truth, worthless. A psychopath’s claims of loving us, their claims that they care for us, are “fool’s gold,” because in fact, they don’t have the capacity to love or care.
The miner who came back to “Deadwood” with a big poke (bag) of fool’s gold would be the laughing stock of the town for a while. Sometimes we may feel that we are laughing stocks or fools for having accepted the “fool’s gold” of the psychopath’s “love” for us as real.
Just as my sons were unable to distinguish the fool’s gold from the real gold, we are sometimes unable to distinguish what is real and what is not.
Experience, however, is a good teacher if we will listen to it. Having seen real gold dust, it is easy enough to compare the different sparkle of fool’s gold from the real thing. Having been fooled once (or twice or more) by the fake glitter of false love, we can use this knowledge to protect us. As the old saying goes, and it is so true, “not everything that glitters is gold.” As we learn that everyone who says, “I love you” doesn’t really, we learn to pick the real from the false.