The Drifter

by kfrego

The daily operations while mining a 16% decline in Silver City,NM were pretty normal. The tunnel, ground conditions, and production rates were in line with our estimates and project schedules. Like all tunnel jobs, it was never boring. There was one outstanding problem which persisted the full duration of the time spent in Silver City. It was a local bar called The Drifter. It was the watering hole of choice for my crews. The Drifter caused me more grief than you can imagine during the project. If half a crew didn’t show for work, it was because of The Drifter. If day shift was short handed it was because the whole crew, myself included at times, didn’t have enough sense to go home and get some sleep for the next day.

Thursday night was “pitcher night” at the drifter. You could get a standard pitcher full of your favorite drink for $6.00. If you were drinking top shelf a pitcher was $8.00. For that price, nobody is going to drink beer. I could handle two or three pictures, get home for some dinner and sleep, and be at work on time the next morning. The same couldn’t be said for some of the hands on day shift. Every Friday morning I would anxiously watch the dry house to see how many hands showed up for work. We always managed to keep things going, but it was bad between the hangovers that came to work and the miners who dumped shift. We had a bunch of good hands working on the tunnel. If we tramped the no shows on Friday, it would just be the same problem with different people next Friday.

My bosses Clay Paulson and Ed Hill would come one at a time every couple of weeks. Both had worked for Gates and Fox for many years. When they were in town they always went to The Drifter, threw their company credit cards on the bar, and bought drinks for the crews. The next day I’d be operating with skeleton crews on day shift. The Drifter was glad to see Clay and Ed come to town, but I was getting my butt kicked on production the following day. Clay and Ed both had a wealth of knowledge and knew their business. They also enjoyed company when they wanted to party. I finally collared them and explained my predicament. My schedule could compensate for pitcher night absenteeism, but it couldn’t afford having them waste my crew for an additional shift during the week. Go to The Drifter, buy the hands a few drinks, then pick up your card and leave. The crew would go home early enough to make shift the next day.

Every tunnel job has it’s Drifter…………along with it’s miners who never learn to get off their stool and go home.