The following story is true.  The reason it's in here is to demonstrate the subtle manner in which God brings us all into the fold.  At the time my wife had just left me and I was the father of three young children who would have been in the first, second and third grades—but instead they were with me in the gold fields of California.


   It all began as a dream that I was diving for gold in a northern California river.  In this dream I surfaced from the river with a large gold nugget in my hand.  "Here, Joyce," I said, handing the large nugget to my youngest child. "There's plenty more where this came from," I said.
   It was December of ‘71 and I was the owner of a small mining business in San Jose, California—"Tohill's Prospecting and Treasure Hunting Supplies."  I was also a practicing psychic.  Because of that I took my that dream as an omen—I knew (as so many before me have known) that gold was going to make me a rich man.  Without a second thought, I closed my shop, made an eight inch gold dredge and headed for the mountains to become rich, if not famous.
   Because I was a bachelor father my three children went with me.  We arrived on the banks of Oregon Creek, high in the Sierra Mountains, just in time to pitch our tent on the already snowy ground at the beginning of another week long snow storm.  This ice bucket was to be home for the next three months.  Never have I been so consistently cold for so long in my life.  After finding virtually no gold there, we moved on to the Yuba River.  (What little gold we did find was lost while crossing the stream's mossy rocks in a very shallow part of the creek.  With a full month's worth of mining in my gold pan, my feet suddenly shot up into the air, slamming me down flat on my back.  The pan crashed down hard on the rock bottom, shooting those precious yellow contents out of the pan like they were dynamited; they were scattered everywhere.)
   Intuitively I knew the Yuba was where the gold would be.  We camped about 5 miles above Yuba City until early September.
   It was next to impossible for any miner with the type equipment I had to do as poorly as I did.  During that nine-month period I found less than an ounce of gold—about $130 worth at that time.  However, some wonderful things did happen on that trip—I rekindled my love for nature and beauty.  And…I discovered God.
   It's hard to describe the loneliness of living like that.  Except for my kids, there was absolutely no adult contact.  I craved adult contact.  I needed the sound of human voices and lively conversation. Because of the way our camp was situated, closed in between two steep mountains, I couldn't even get a radio station until about 9:00 in the evening; and then is was only one—and it was a religious program.  Sheesh!  Talk about a captive audience.  Every evening would find me listening to the voice of Garner Ted Armstrong as he brought "The World Tomorrow" to all who would listen.
   I never liked radio preachers.  Too hell fiery.  They also spent far too much time asking for donations to keep their "radio ministry" afloat.  It was not unusual for them to spend twenty minutes out of thirty asking for money.  Garmer Ted was different, however.  He never asked for a dime.  Instead, he offered free books and literature.  Because I was lonely and he was a different type of preacher, I listened.  He was also a very gifted and fascinating speaker.  I'd often argue with him in my mind, but I enjoyed listening to him.
   This was the beginning of my spiritual awakening.  I'm sure it was aided by laying out under the stars every night, surrounded by the grandeur of God's mountains while being serenaded by the sound of the Yuba river flowing by.  Altogether it added to the genuineness of what I was hearing.  It allowed me to better appreciate the wonders of God's universe—even though I had entered into the deep throes of financial destitution.
   It was September before I finally came to my senses and realized I wasn't going to be a rich man after all.  I also knew my children needed to be back in school.  By this time, however, I was so broke I couldn't leave. I had no place to go and, even if I did, I had no gas to get there on.  (It never dawned on me until I wrote this that we were homeless.)
   One evening after Garner Ted Armstrong was finished, I got out of my sleeping bag and walked over to the river.  Clad only in my under shorts, I stood on top of the steep, sharp, rock cliff overlooking my dredge below.  The night was clear and beautiful.  A billion stars lit the sky and the moon reflected off the river.  In contrast with all this beauty, my foolhardiness had finally hit home.  I began to cry like a baby as I faced what seemed to be a hopeless situation.  I didn't cry just a tear or two.  No!  Tears the size of hockey pucks rolled down my cheeks.  I literally bawled.
   And, I began to pray in earnest:
   "God, I know I misinterpreted the dream and that I've been a fool" was the gist of what I said, (although it took me about an hour to say it).  Then, perhaps, for the first time, I asked for help in getting out of there and in finding a place to live.  Finally, exhausted with nothing more to say or do, I went to sleep.
   The next morning I arose, fixed breakfast and was just starting to put on my wet suit, when a man came by.  "I like your dredge.  Are you interested in selling it? 
   "I want $500 for it," I saod.
    He pulled out five big ones and handed them to me..
   Within an hour my truck was packed, the dog and the rest of my gear was in the back, my kids and I were in the front and we were on our way to San Jose.
   This answer to prayer happened so uneventfully and naturally that I didn't even make the connection between my prayer from the night before, and the buyer in the morning.  Oh, sure, I remembered praying, but I just assumed the man buying my dredge was just a lucky coincidence.  Big hairy deal, right?  I mean, it wasn't like it was a miracle.  Or even an answer to prayer.  Some dummy just wanted to buy my dredge.  
    Man was I lucky.
   It's interesting.  I followed a dream into near oblivion.  But, the dream wasn't wrong.  I found the treasure I was seeking in my dream, it just wasn't what I expected.  And, as I told Joyce in my dream, there was "plenty more where that came from." 
   I never forgot the relationship between God, man and nature that I discovered while mining.  At night when my children were asleep and I was alone, I would become overawed by the immensity and beauty of God's handiwork.  So awe-inspired, I couldn't help but worship.  
    For years afterwards I hungered for the isolation of the mountains, the song of the river, and the grandeur of the night skies.  I hungered for the connection I found by the river.  So, about fifteen years later, I gave mining another try.  This time it wasn't so important I succeed—I had no dream of excessive wealth.  I was going after the other treasure once again.
   My son, Lloyd and I worked for a full year, and once again we were camped along side a beautiful flowing river—the Klamath this time, not the Yuba.  I'm pleased to report we did much better.  For me there is no more lure of the yellow, and I don't care if I ever dredge again (though once in a while I get a ‘twinge’).  I now live in mountains like I described earlier.  What I had longed for since my mining days are all around me.  I have but to step outside and appreciate it.
   During that last year when we once more lived in a tent, no one came up and offered to buy my equipment.  This time there was no need.

Below is one days work on the Klamath River, circa 1986

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