"This is your mother lode, Frank?"
"It's my excuse to blast, Eldon. Set up for it."
Eldon sent the crew off for the tools and the dynamite.
"It's cramped up here and messy with all this ice and melt. It
must be a torrent when the overhead snows are melting."
"No doubt about that, Frank. Look at the markings along these
Frank felt water creeping into his laced leather boots. All the
miners wore rubber boots due to the water problems encountered in some
of these tunnels, but the engineers tended to use their expensive
leather ones. Now Frank realized he might have made a mistake.
His boots were becoming saturated. The water had puddled in the
low spots of this upper tunnel, and some water was still dripping
through the overlying rock, although it was below freezing outside.
approaching the very top of this ridge. I'd say we're less than 40
feet from the north cliff face just above the camp. This vein
probably has a surface showing, if we could just find the surface.
If it's like the other veins it'll dip sharply to the northeast.
I want your crew to blast out a larger working area here so we can have
a good look at this showing."
He put his compass back in his pocket and turned to leave.
"Where do you want to blast from, Eldon?"
"That last wide point we walked through is an old drilling station.
It's only about 100 feet back, bt that should be far enough away for the
crew to take cover."
"I'd rather have them blast this one remotely, Eldon. Run them
back down to the far end of the 100 level near the raise. It's just a
"Good enough, if you think so, Frank. Now that I think of it,
you're probably right. We've got to be really close to the surface
here. Who knows what might happen."
"Well, boys, there isn't much more I can do here, except take samples
for the preliminary analysis."
Frank took his rock hammer, and chipped off some pieces of the
greenish-colored rock. It was a carbonite, not chalcocite, so it
was most likely to be just a coloring that would end up leading nowhere.
But it was worth some blasting to find out. No other way to do it
except to run diamond drills up here. There was no time for that.
"If we had time, I would go for the drilling, but it shouldn't hurt
to blast this part out. You know what to look for, Eldon. If
you don't see anything after the first round of blasts, bring the crew
"Where are you headed, Frank?"
"I'm headed down to the main workings to consult with Melvin and
maybe get some lunch."
It would be a long way, working back down to the Pittsburg tunnel, but Frank was through for now. He encountered the Indians at the 200 level where the dynamite was
“You guys have quite a job ahead of you. I’m no longer needed here, so
I’ll get back to my reports. My boots have started to get wet, so I can’t
stick around here for long now anyway.”
“I see that, Frank. Why didn’t you wear rubber ones like us working guys?”
“Because, Johnny, I’m an engineer. I’m sure all of you joke about how we
are. Well, this is how we are. Leather is what we wear. Not
Johnny looked at the boots, which were soaked to the point where they could be a
real problem if Frank could not replace them with dry ones soon.
“You owe me another chance to beat you at billiards. This time I’ll get
Jim Tanaka off the hook so he can be on your team. I’ll take Cap.
Then we’ll annihilate you. If that doesn’t work, there’s always poker.”
Cap gave Frank a rare smile, shook hand with Frank, then picked up his load of
caps and began working his way up the raise. Johnny extended his hand.
“You don’t stand a chance against me, even with Cap on your side, but I guess I
can humor you. I’ll take the Japanese kid and still beat you. Have him
ready. You're on.”
Frank continued down the winze. From somewhere way up the narrow tunnel he
could hear Johnny’s voice reverberate down the vertical shaft:
“Good bye, Frank. Glad you could take the time to come up and visit.
You’re a real friend, you know.”
The words echoed down the long, narrow shaft until they were indistinct. Frank
smiled, then descended down another winze until he finally reached the tracked
Pittsburg level. New lights had been installed there to facilitate
moving the ore over to the 1257 crosscut by means of one of the grizzlies which
dropped to that level. He followed the tracks to the vertical
shaft. No one was around, but the area was well lit. He pushed
the motor activation button which also rang the bell to signal his descent.
Then he waited for the elevator cage which would deliver him down to 1257.
The 1257 crosscut ended near the vertical shaft
which was near the western boundary with Bonanza . The landing was
near the dead center of the Bonanza-Mother Lode vein--the very heart of the
mining activities. The top of the Mother Lode incline was just over
the 1250 level. This was because the ore skips would rise over the 1250 level,
then dump below into large ore cars waiting in the 1257 cross-cut to receive the
Frank headed to the nearby mine phone and rung the signal assigned to Melvin.
No one answered. He tried another signal. No answer.
Mel must not be in the mine, or else he’s just not near the phone. Maybe he’s left Bonanza for the main camp. No one else is answering, either. How odd.