Haunted. Humbled. Horrified.
We found ourselves underground on one of the first hot sunny summer days after being lured by Sami to take a tour of the Orphan Girl Mine. Our day began in a rainstorm before sunup when we piled ourselves (a bit blurry-eyed) into the truck, struck out across rolling fields and snow-capped peaks toward Homestake Pass with the obligatory scrumptious stop at Wheat Montana Bakery for scones, cinnamon rolls, and turnovers – to go. They hold the World’s Record for the fasted bread from harvest to loaves. We rolled down the pass into the wonderful rich quirky historical town of Butte in time for Ali’s pre-game warm-up at 7:30 a.m. Wet from rain, the grass sparkled until the sun powered up. Blitz (blue) team won their first soccer game. After the 2nd game, we put on hardhats and headlamps then spent 1.5 hours underground. Cold. Clammy. Creepy. Disturbing. Fascinating. The men (and mules) who worked more than 10,000 miles of horizontal drifts and 4,000 miles of vertical shafts under Butte were tough buggers – to say the least. Lordy.
Using candlelight, picks, hammers, shovels and dynamite, the fellas worked 12 hour shifts seven days a week underground. Wet, hot/cold, dusty, toxic and LOUD (no ear protection back then). I am blown away by the stories, the weight of the worn tools I held, the conditions I witnessed and the many thoughts I have of their plight.