Panning for gold in Oklahoma

Members of the Gold Prospectors of OKC search for gold in the Kiamichi River near Antlers, OK. (Mummolo/KTUL)

There's gold here in Oklahoma, but it might not be what you think.

"Ninety percent of the gold on earth is gonna go right through a window screen," said Mike Pung.

For the past decade, Pung has been looking for gold, and during that time

"You know, I've been in this for 10 years now, and I have never found a nugget, ever," he said.

And yet, there he was, with a wide array of gold searching apparatus, along with several other gold seekers who have been bit by the bug.

"Once you see that first gold in a pan it's worse than buck fever," said Gary Whited.

Whited, like Pung, is a member of the Gold Prospectors of Oklahoma City, the local chapter of a national organization of folks with a hobby with a multitude of rewards.

"I was prospecting in Georgia one time and I found a 13,000-year-old spear point," said Pung.

He also found a better way to look for gold, inventing the Gold Cube, a multi-tiered contraption that goes for around $500 and he’s sold around 14,000. Talk about the mother load.

How often have you heard the phrase or said the phrase "there's gold in them thar hills?"

"Quite a bit. And do you know it was not said in California? No. It was actually said on the east coast. All the Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, all those guys over there are getting ready to come to California. Yeah, and the mayor's on the steps and he says, 'Why are you guys going to California? There's gold in them there hills.' So he was trying to get his miners to stay put. Cool huh. That's a good little nugget of history. A nugget of information," he said.

As for finding gold in "this thar river"

"Yee haw! He's got the fever! Eureka. Whoo! Eureka. That's a good one!" they shouted as tiny gold specks were discovered.

After all the shoveling and scrubbing and washing, you might need a magnifying glass to see it.

"Right in the middle of my fingernail about a 16th of an inch up. Oh my gaw. Isn't that small? That's so tiny. I wouldn't even see it if you hadn't told me," said Pung.

And yet, for some reason, when you’re panning, even a speck can feel like Fort Knox.

"Well I see some glints, right down in there," said Whited. "The coolest part about this is when we seen that gold, we're the first people in history to ever see that gold, nobody's ever seen it before."

And just the hope of that draws people far and wide to the Kiamichi River.

"We had people from New Hampshire just this last week," said Tom Garret, who operates the K River Campground. "We sell gold pans, so you can buy your gold pan and then go home and tell lies about it."

Panning for gold: A hobby where the true treasure lies in the adventure.

"You'll have good days and bad days, all right. A good day is you can buy a cup of coffee with it. But it leads you into some amazing places," said Pung.

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