Strawberry was born in 1881. He was in California and got rattled by the San Francisco earthquake. His travels landed him in Butte, Montana working for the Anaconda Mining Company. In the 1920’s Strawberry staked some mining claims on Carpenter Creek in the mining town of Neihart, Montana. Linda and I met Strawberry when we camped not far from his log cabin in 1975. We have never forgotten this amazing old prospector and miner.
Strawberry read some mining articles about the superior qualities of German steel being made with molybdenum as an alloy. The occurrence of molybdenum while mining for silver and zinc in the Neihart area was very common. There was no market or demand for the molybdenum so it was just a wasted by product. Nobody mined for it. Strawberry felt there was a future in the molybdenum. When mining properties were depleted of silver and zinc the miners would let their claims expire. Strawberry methodically picked up these properties and refiled them as molybdenum claims. Over the years the chrome-moly tools became popular and Strawberry’s claims drew attention from the big mining companies. My job at Neihart was drilling a 2500 foot core hole on one of his claims.
Strawberry’s cabin was a unique design. The cabin was on a little knoll and had a six foot high elevated walkway which extended 100 feet to his outhouse which was also elevated. In the winter all he had to do was clear his walkway to maintain toilet access. No snow tunnels for Strawberry. He always told me the only mistake he made was building the cabin to last for 50 years. He didn’t expect to live into his nineties. No lights for Strawberry. He went to bed and got up with the daylight. On cold mornings he cranked up the fire and stayed in bed until it was warm.
Our children Jamie and Dori loved Strawberry. They would go to the creek with him and watch him do his laundry and let it dry on the big rocks. He would sit and chat with them while chopping ingredients for his rutabaga stew. Jamie claimed all Strawberry made was rutabaga stew and biscuits. Linda would frequently send the kids with desserts and plates of dinner for him.
Strawberry would come over carrying his antique shovel and pick. He loved to show me his old mines and prospects up on the mountain. He couldn’t go alone, but I could drive close and off we’d go thru the trees on an old path. Soon he’d pull back some branches and show me a small tunnel or outcrop where he used to mine. His recollection was remarkable. He was still a miner at 94 years old.
Strawberry was the last of the old prospectors……….and he loved every minute of it.