Written History of Bert N. Whitney


The work at the mine was strenuous, but I remember how enjoyable it was to work hard and to exceed the expectations of the mine foreman. But while my hands were busy, my mind had ample time to think up mischief. One afternoon while Howard was taking a tram load of ore to the bins by the mine dump outside the mine entrance I heard a dynamite explosion in the tunnel above the one where we were working. I knew Howard must have heard it too. I laid down on the mine floor, tossed my hard hat and lamp nearby, and put a few well placed rocks on top of me, then awaited my brother’s return.

At first he pretended not to be concerned, saying, “O.K., the joke’s over, you can get up now.”  But as I played my part in silence and stillness, his monologue changed to, “Bert, are you alright?” and as he approached me with a look of panic on his face, I could not ward off the large grin crossing my face, which turned into a laugh as he pounced on me in playful revenge.

Another time, my brother and I were cleaning waste material out of the tunnel. We took turns wheeling it out of the mine and to the end of the rails in the tram car. We tipped it out over the high steep dump that had been formed over the years the mine had been in operation. On one trip I noticed a huge chuckawalla (lizard) near the entrance of the mine as I was returning with the empty car.

When I went toward him, he ran into a crevice on the embankment formed by the tunnel as it entered the hillside. I tried to dislodge him with a stick, but he used the “chuckawalla trick” and swelled himself up, making himself tight in his hiding place, so he couldn’t be budged. Thinking to outsmart him, I took a handful of carbide and tossed it around him, poured a can of water on the carbide and touched it off with the flame of my light. The flash of fire that followed engulfed my arms and face, burning the hair from my arms and singeing my eyebrows. The lizard seemed to be undaunted. I was glad to retreat quickly into the cool mine and return to work.

We were in the process of mucking waste and rolling it to the end of the dump in the ore car when I noticed how the slope on the track stopped too soon, and it was necessary to push the car the last 50 ft. or so before dumping it. As I began lowering the elevation of the track toward the end of the dump, it occurred to me that if I would overdo the job a little it might be interesting to watch Howard bring out the next load. After I finished lowering the track a little too much, I pushed the ore car back into the mine, planning my strategy as I went.

Trying to act very business-like and helpful, I explained to my brother that I had spent some time adjusting the rails on the dump and had tested the slope and found that you could ride the car all the way and that it would stop at just the right spot to dump the load without any pushing. I tried not to act too eager in shoveling the next load of waste (two ton, if I remember correctly). Then I casually sat down as if to rest as Howard gave the car a start and then jumped on the back to ride it on out as was the usual procedure. As soon as he was around the first turn in the tunnel, I jumped up and followed far enough behind to be out of sight. I remember he was singing, “Riding Down the Canyon,” enjoying the reverberations of the natural echo chamber the mine tunnel provided. When he was outside and on to the dump, I crouched in the entrance so that the track on the dump was in my full view. It was a hundred yards or more from the mine entrance to the end of the dump and the ore car kept picking up speed little by little as I had expected it would, but Howard kept on riding, still singing. I expected at any moment he would jump off and drag his feet to slow the car down, realizing that I had tricked him, but he stuck it out, apparently unaware that the car wasn’t really going to stop as I had told him it would. He came closer and closer to the end of the track and I began to get worried. Then, just before the ore car hit the barricade at the end, Howard jumped clear as the reality of the situation finally struck him.

The heavy iron car with its contents smashed into the barricade of timbers, scattering them like toothpicks, then continued over the edge of the dump, tumbling end over end down its full height making an unbelievable racket which echoed in the surrounding hills, but finally coming to rest in the gully far below.


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