Porcupines and rattlesnakes were just some of the ornery critters that oldtimers Jess and Dot Coffey met up in the Sierra Mountains prospecting with sluice box and pan for any little nuggets overlooked by the '49ers. 'Cause this was the Depression and along with gold ""snipers"" Red Whiskers, Sharkey, and Big Tom the Coffeys panned the dry gullies and creeks making about a dollar a day in paydirt. Sometimes though they struck a ""sweet spot"" and for Christmas there was a 25 lb. turkey and all the trimmings -- year-round that red-blooded, all-American feeling of Independence. They're just plain folk, Jess and Dot, but hardy and with hearts as big as all outdoors. . . . Those old tents and cabins with the leaky roofs sure could be snug and there was always fresh mountain trout to be caught and Dot planted corn in the little garden and it sure grew ripe and plentiful. . . . Actually the yield here is as modest as their income but it's wholesome fare to be sure. Knapsack-toting boy scouts will love it and for all those eager to flee the jobless cities, why old Jess reckons that the Mother Lode still has enough of the yellow shiny stuff to feed a few hungry mouths. . . .