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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Finding your lucky bucket

Phoenix Mine co-owner Alvin Mosch leads our group through his gold mine and tourist site near Idaho Springs, Colorado. In the lower picture, a couple of people touch the Lucky Bucket, hoping their dreams will come true. Mosch says they often do -- and I believe him.

Stories are told, says Alvin Mosch, of amazing good fortune from people who have touched, held, or hugged the Phoenix Mine's Lucky Bucket. People dreaming of wealth, health, accomplishment, (even someone nominated for a Nobel Prize and hoping to win it) have touched the bucket. Priests, nuns, bishops, cardinals, virtually the entire hierarchy of the Catholic Church have been in the mine, as well, and after these religious visits, strange and seemingly implausible things have happened, Mosch says.

Oh yeah, there is also a grave site in the mine. A frequent visitor, his health failing, asked to be buried there. Mosch said his mine isn't licensed as a cemetery. No problem, the deceased person's relatives said -- he's been cremated. So Mosch placed a marker near where the ashes were spread after a brief ceremony. (Mosch uses the opportunity to explain to tourists why the client died -- smoking -- and encourages the young people not to take up the habit.)

If all of this seems somewhat unreal, and utterly unrelated to this blog's topic, please bear with me. Mosch's mine site is no fancy conventional tourist attraction. You need to go on a somewhat out-of-the-way and poorly marked property. Don't expect gift shops or even a concession stand where you can purchase some drinks. (But you can take a stab at panning for gold, for $5.00 for the day.)

But this place has something that few tourist sites have -- authenticity.

It is also, as advertised, a real, functioning, working mine. (Tourists cannot actually visit the working veins, of course; the problems with safety regulations would really make that difficult.) But you can see a real ore vein, and get a sense of the challenges and dreams of working in and running a gold mine. You can also play around with plenty of cliches about gold. (In a corner of the 'box office' is a sign: "The Golden Rule: Those that have the gold make the rules.") Mosch has created a wonderful hybrid business; one that can certainly do well when gold prices reach record levels, and still do well when they decline -- as tourists will come and see for themselves, and pay for the privilege.

Vivian discovered the Phoenix Mine advertising card as we were preparing to visit another mine, which advertised all the trappings -- including a gift shop. The Phoenix's prices seemed to be slightly lower, but the thing that touched us the most is that we would not be visiting a packaged tourist site; we would be going to an operating mine. The advertisement said:

Gold Mine
Where REAL MINERS Still Push Tons of Gold and Silver Ore in Small Rail Cars Just as They did 100 Years Ago.

Mosch of course doesn't run all the tours personally -- he has a motley crew of friends and old-time miners who can handle that job (and some real miners to get the ore from the other veins, especially when the price of gold reaches $900 or more). I haven't checked out his stories about the Nobel Prize winner who hugged the Lucky Bucket and won the prize; or whether indeed the Pheonix Mars Mission is actually named after his mine, but I believe him.

His Lucky Bucket is filled with dollar bills, from people like me who know the money really will be contributed to charity -- we aren't worried about chasing down and verifying whether he has a tax ID number.

In our businesses, of course, we should never down rate the importance of own authenticity, if we have it, and if we don't, ask why. When we follow other people's systems, when we play by rules that we don't really believe, or when we strive to provide "excellent customer service" while gritting our teeth in frustration, maybe we should remember or seek our own Lucky Bucket. If we are real, and our clients perceive it, we will find great things happen sometimes just with a touch, or hug, and some spiritual gold in our heart and veins.

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