Northfield: Miners and Acrobats

by kfrego

While mining the tunnels and powerhouse at Northfield there was always something exciting, stupid, or interesting going on. It was never boring. We always had a full crew on day shift, most of the time on the afternoon shift, and seldom on graveyard shift. We rotated shifts every two weeks so we were constantly adjusting our eating and sleeping habits. People who drank never adjusted their habits as there was always a nearby bar open at the end of every shift. There was a lot of camaraderie amongst the miners and a lot of competition between the crews and between the miners within a crew. We all worked to finish drilling our blast holes first and it was real let down to be the last one finished drilling. If you allowed your drill to get hung up in a hole and lost your drill steel it would cost you a round at the bar for the whole crew. The cost wasn’t near as bad as the harassment from the other miners. Whenever somebody on the crew owed a round at the bar all twenty three members of the crew would be there regardless of what shift we had just finished. It wasn’t uncommon for the afternoon and graveyard shifts to be short handed. If we didn’t have enough crew to be efficient the shift superintendent would go to the local bars and gather up the needed crew members. They would reluctantly come to work. They wouldn’t let their crew down. If we were only a few hands short everybody would pitch in and get the work done.

Donald Sorrell was a young kid from Lyon Mt. working on our crew. His nickname was Jumbo. We were working graveyard shift and it was just after daybreak in the morning. We brought our drill jumbo outside for cleaning, restocking, and repairs before day shift started. Several of us were working in the yard near the jumbo and Donald was washing off the decks of the jumbo with a one inch water hose. Under normal working conditions the top deck would have the safety railing installed. It was laying on the deck as Donald diligently washed the top deck. Donald was walking backwards slowly as he washed the deck. When he got to the end of deck he stepped right off of it backwards. He flopped around like a rag doll and hit the ground in a near prone position. He had just fallen about 15 feet. He jumped up, brushed himself off, climbed the steps back to the top deck, and finished washing the jumbo. We didn’t even have time to react before he was on his feet and going again. All we could do was shake our heads.

Donald aka Jumbo wasn’t old enough to drink……………..but he earned the privilege of buying the crew a round for demonstrating his acrobatic skills.