Tom Miller was a geologist who decided to start his own silver mine east of Oakley, Idaho. To get to the mine we drove the gravel roads from Idaho into Utah, then cut back into Idaho on a single track dirt road. The old timers had mined some excellent silver from the property around the turn of the century. They got into heavy shale mining conditions and abandoned the mine because they couldn’t hold back the heavy ground. Tom researched and mapped the property, plotted the original workings, and planned a new mine which would avoid the heavy shale. He bought a forest service timber sale near Challis, logged the timber, and sent the logs to a sawmill to make the lumber for his mining needs. When my employment started the site was complete and the portal was established for the new mine. The 10 x10 foot tunnel was turned under in pretty good ground. We drilled with jacklegs and mucked with a little 910 Cat loader. We used log caps and posts for our timber sets and capped of the sides and crown with three inch green lagging from Tom’s timber sale.
We were in a little over a hundred feet and shot a round about mid day. We had quite a bit of overbreak in the right upper crown going up about 45 degrees over the right side of the tunnel. The ground wasn’t working, but had to be caught up before advancing the tunnel. I left the center pieces of three inch lagging out for access and worked off the top of the timber. Tom was in the loader bucket, standing up through the hole, passing me the cribbing timber. The other two men were passing the cribbing up to Tom. The ground dribbled a little while timbering and I would step back and watch before going back to work. There was room to move and the open center of the crown gave me an escape route. Just as I started capping off the overbreak it caved towards the crown. Without hesitation Tom and I bailed out of the timber set. I recall hitting the loader bucket on a roll while heading for the floor of the tunnel. The two bottom hands were long gone, the ground above us was still working, and Tom was laying against the side of the tunnel in obvious pain.
When Tom bailed out of the hole and dove for the ground his ribs had bounced off the corner tooth on the loader bucket. As I pulled Tom away from the face of the tunnel and out of harms way he was white as a ghost. My first thought was heart attack. Tom had a couple broken or bruised ribs. We all took off our outer shirts, wrapped them around Tom’s ribs, then strapped him up with our belts to help keep him erect. We had to go twenty miles of rough road in a stiff four wheel drive pick-up to get to the hospital in Oakley. Tom never opened his eyes the whole trip and groaned constantly. Tom had a punctured lung, several broken ribs, and lots of bruises.
The doctors said we should never have strapped Tom’s chest with broken ribs……..but it saved his life because it stabilized the rib puncturing his lung during the rough ride.