Chimney Hill

by kfrego

Myself and Al Goodwin went to work for Forest (Brad) Bradbury when we left Vermont Yankee at Vernon. Brad had a drill and blast contract at a development named Chimney Hill just out of Wilmington,VT. Chimney Hill was a far cry from the huge projects at Northfield and Vermont Yankee. The developer would survey and pioneer all the future roads with a bulldozer. If the road hit rock before final excavation grade we would drill and blast the rock. Every road required a deep trench along the sides for water and electric lines. The developer would stake the lines and we would drill and blast the areas in rock. It was a two man job, myself and Al. Our drill was a Gardner Denver air track. The compressor was a 600 CFM Gardner Denver with a hundred feet of two inch air hose. We drilled two and a half or three inch holes. The powder magazines were on top of the mountain. If drilling conditions were wet, stick powder was used. Bagged ammonium nitrate prill was used in dry conditions. Electric caps were used for initiation of each blasted hole.

The job was pretty straight forward. Drill most of the day, load the explosives, and blast going off shift. We used barrels to haul our fuel each day, carried tools to repair mechanical problems, and maintained our own equipment. On payday I would call Brad’s wife, give her our hours, get our deductions, and write out our own paychecks. Brad would come by every couple of weeks.

We used an old car with no back seat to haul our powder up and down the mountain. All the powder went on the back floorboards. The caps went in the trunk. It wasn’t very pretty, not really legal, but it worked for us. The ammonium nitrate prill was very corrosive and we didn’t want it in our personal vehicles.

When we first started at Chimney Hill my blasting had all been done in underground tunnels and excavations. Miners are notorious for using too much powder. In the first week at Chimney Hill we shot ten foot deep ditches that the bulldozer could drive through without hitting the sides with the blade. We also put some random three and four foot pieces of rock out 100 feet into the trees. It didn’t take long to determine proper drill hole spacing and amounts of powder per hole. One of us would block access to the blast area. The other pulled the shooting line up into the trees, hunkered down behind a big tree, and detonated the shot. Some of the shots made you hug the tree pretty tight to avoid the fly rock.

Drilling and blasting can be challenging and fun…………………but you can’t hide your mistakes.