A Tailing Tale
From the memoires of E.W. (Ande) Andree
Buried in Mountain Snow
It seemed that our efforts would be in a short time crowned with success. Our cabin completed, our quartz pulled down from the mine and the quartz mill about ready to grind, though our provisions were getting below the standard mark, we all felt optimistic. Our calculations proved to be promising, except the one. We did not dream of any danger.
We forgot we were working just below the Snowy range, never thought of any danger from the snow banks and storms from the high Boulder Mountains. For these storms, we were not prepared. At last the storm came—whirled the snow down to us, singing its mournful song around our cabin and the ledges of rock back of our home. All this seemed to us so uncalled for, that we did not deserve treatment of this nature! However, the laws of nature cannot be changed. It took but only a couple of days and most fearful and terrible nights, for on the third morning, the sun found us buried under twelve to fifteen feet of snow.
I was satisfied we had to either get out or starve. Mike made a pair of snowshoes for me. I took a blanket, some provisions, my gun and ammunitions and told the boys goodbye. I told them to stay awhile and see what was yet in store for us but if things got no better, they should follow me to Central City and the camp of our friends, John Bartz and Joe Baer.
I took my bundle and walking stick and with snowshoes on, sliding in a zig-zag way up hill and after great exertion, finally reached the summit of Boulder Mountain. Rather a hard climb on snowshoes, reaching the summit of this high mount, elevation of 10,000 feet, I stopped and took a rest on a high mineral rock. There was not a sign of any snowstorm on that side, although there was a deep snow on the other side of the range. The grand scenery before me did not interest me. I looked back down into the valley where we worked so hard, and we had been so sure and so confident that the future would bring us a reward for our hard labor, our ambition, now buried deep in snow. No help! I was all alone on a cold rock, surrounded by snow and ice fields.
I passed Dory Lake, a beautiful clear sheet of water, above the timberlands, a mile or two wide and about two miles long, and then on to Missouri gulch, next reaching Central City about 5 p.m. Upon inquiring, I found our boy’s cabin and put my coat and satchel on the floor near where they bunked.
The boys were working in their tunnel nearby. I went in and called out, “Whoa-haw.” I say their light. They hammering away putting in a blast answered, “Who is that?” I answered, “This is Ande.” The replied, “Come on, Ande. The road is clear.” I could find my way by a little stream of water running on one side of the tunnel. Oh how glad they were to see me. I greeted them and asked if they knew where I could get work. I was out of funds and had nothing to eat but I was willing to work. They told me, “Plenty of work at $1.50 a day and board at Dalton’s mills in Black Hawk Pointe.”
“Very well,” I said, “I shall go down there tonight.” The whistle or siren called—it was 6 o’clock. To honor me, the blast was fired, the we prepared a supper. After we ate supper, we all walked down to the mill, and Mr. Dalton gave me work as a quartz hoister at the Fisk lode, at regular wages.
Upon returning to our cabin, we found the building burnt to the ground with all the boy’s belongings and mine also. I sat down and laughed and laughed. The boys thought I was crazy. Perhaps I was. Sparks must have set the bed afire. The powder in my satchel and gun must have done the rest. Now I was stripped of everything but the clothes on my back. The boys doubled up with other miners and I again went to Dalton Mills at Black Hawk Pointe, so as to be there in the morning.
It was then about midnight. I rested on the rocks, near the creek, saw the engineer testing the gauge cocks and heard them whistle. I intended to ask the engineer for shelter, but on a second thought said, “No, the man will certainly think you are a criminal, or a tramp, account of being half dressed. No blankets and no other traps for me.” I felt very sad and forlorn and hungry and cold, and commenced to shiver. All of a sudden, I saw steps outside of the mill leading to a floor above the engine room. I crawled up those steps very carefully, thinking of the warmth near the smoke stack against which I was going to lean. I had traveled 28 miles and was just about ready to give up.
I found a bunch of miners sleeping in their bunks, and heard one groaning quite loud, as if he were in distress or pain. I crawled to him. He was a Norwegian, sick and full of pain. Spoke to him and said, “Oh, stranger, what is the trouble?” He replied, “I have roomer ticks—rheumatism—will you rub me?” He had a bottle of liniment and I certainly did give him a helping hand as well as I could. I asked him what his name was and he replied, “John Olson. You are so kind, stranger.”
After several hours of sleep, later that morning, I began hoisting quartz for B.F. Dalton’s Mill.
Published October 12, 2014 in the Weekly Register-Call
Please send me your tales. If you prefer to remain anonymous, I will not use your name. However, if you do not mind, I would like to tell the readers who sent the story and share any other information you may have.
Mail your handwritten or typed stories with your contact information to Maggie M, P.O. Box 6571, Westminster, CO 80021 or email them to me at Maggie@maggiempublications.com.
I look forward to hearing from you and sharing your stories in the coming months.