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Another Mining (actually, Prospecting) Story by Theodore W. Palmer

August 18, 2013


So far all the mining stories I have posted put me in a pretty good light.  That is natural because I told them to my children when they were small, and a father certainly wants his children to think of him in a favorable light.  They are all strictly and completely true.  However here is another true story which puts me in a less favorable light.

Before I arrived at the Four Aces Claim in late May of 1955, the company’s hired cat skinner (skilled Caterpillar bulldozer operator) had made a considerable network of roads in the Chinle shale.  Since this formation is soft and thus erodes into a gentle slope, this was easy.  Just blade along pushing what you cut over the side.  With a D-8 this makes a roadway a bit over 8 feet wide (because of what is pushed over the side), more than adequate for a jeep.  A second pass would be needed for roads on which our water truck could drive since it was very heavy when full.

I have always liked to drive fast.  I am also inpatient.  So one day I was driving to a place where a hired drilling crew was working.  I drove too fast around a curve and got onto the edge of the roadbed which gave way.  The jeep rolled about three times side-over-side down the gradual slope.  Fortunately the company jeeps were fully enclosed with reinforced cabins.  Thus I was a bit scared but completely unhurt.  The jeep landed perfectly solidly on its side when it stopped rolling, so I easily climbed out the window that was up.  I walked some distance in the hot sun to where I was going.  Fortunately there was another company man on site that day.  I told him what had happened “the outer edge of the road gave way under my jeep and it rolled down hill” absolutely true, but I probably did not go into detail on why it had happened.  We drove back in his jeep.  He was furious because I had not known enough to turn off the ignition.  Thus an electrical spark could have ignited the leaking gasoline.  Fortunately it hadn’t.

We got our bulldozer and the winch mounted on the back was enough to pull the jeep back onto the road.  The top was pretty beat up, but I was able to drive it back to the little parking area in front of our tunnel.

We had no way to communicate with the outside world, so it was more than a week before our boss, my friend Dr. Richard V. Gaines, arrived on a periodic visit to the site.  Of course he noted the banged up-jeep immediately.  I was too embarrassed to explain what had happened until he asked.  I knew I should have brought it up right away without making him ask.

I don’t remember the details of the sequel.  I expect I drove the jeep up to Blanding and the company paid to have it completely fixed.  These jeeps were fitted with quite a bit of expensive gear, so they were well worth fixing.

Dick Gaines hired me again the next year to be a Mining Engineer, so I guess I did not do many other bad things.

The only other negative thing I remember from that summer is completely psychological.  I usually like the night and I enjoy being alone so I have spent many nights alone in the wilderness.  However one night during a four-day period without seeing another human being at the Four Aces Claim, I became irrationally spooked.  I did not do anything unusual, but I vividly recall my sense of dread.  It was over in that one night.


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  1. Palmer, Abraham [BSD] - HGD permalink

    Interesting story, you’re right I don’t recall hearing that one in the past. I wonder, was it, at least in part, my bicycle accident that made you think of this story? It is certainly true that speed was one factor in that accident.


  2. I had been thinking of writing a story in which I was not the “hero” for quite awhile.

    I will soon write another one of the same kind about the summer of 1956.

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