Working In A Goldmine
Lead, South Dakota
Once I got use to working 4200 feet underground the job became pretty
routine (heavy, dangerous, noisy, routine work). I would eventually get
assigned to a contract crew of 5 to10 people (the crews contracted for an
anticipated amount of rock removal. If they met the production estimate
bonus money would follow). I was put on the mucker, a small
steamshovel that travels the rails into the stope. The drillers dynamite the
rock and the mucker moves in to shovel the rock that gets deposited in
the rail cars which transport the rock to the processor. The gold content of
the ore varies, but after processing tons and tons of ore the reward is gold.
However, every once in a while miners find nuggets (none were found when
I was there). The miners told stories of being searched before returning to the
surface. The Homestake Gold mine is closed now, but they still keep
water removal pumps working to keep the mine from filling up with water.
Back home, Carole Sue had waited until I was working before she told
me that she still planned to return to Michigan. I continued to work
in the mine, but found it difficult. An emotional wreck, after a couple of
weeks, I called it quits and turned in my gear. My boss said, “Don’t
feel bad, it happens to a lot of men. You’re either a miner or you’re
not.” I just let his comment slide. I couldn’t explain.