Written History of Bert N. Whitney
Obviously, my prank had worked a little too well, and it now didn’t seem quite so humorous as the concern for the runaway ore car took over my conscience. Fortunately, Howard took it in good spirits, and he helped me calm my fears about the mine car. We drove the old mine pick-up into the gully from below and dragged the car out onto the road and hence back up to the mine, but not without attracting the attention of Dad, who reprimanded us both in behalf of the mine operators.
Late in the summer at the talc mine, (still 1941) the company decided to send someone from the Superior mine to another mine called the “Acme” to help a Mr. Ambrose with the work there. It fell my lot to be sent to the new location, some 20 miles away. Each morning I would help Mr. Ambrose with the mucking and then while he was drilling for the new “shot,” I would sometimes go to the old train depot on the abandoned “T & T” railroad and dip water out of an old cistern there and haul it in barrels in the back of an old “Model A” Ford pick-up, up and down the hills and around the turns back to the mine (probably 8 or 10 miles). I remember that the truck had almost no brakes and it slipped out of gear especially while going down hill. Needless to say, some of the return trips with the weight of the water in the truck were quite exciting and dangerous.
We were doing exploratory work (sometimes called dead work) in the Acme mine at that time, and were promised a 5 cent an hour raise if we discovered a deposit of talc, so each evening after dinner when the dust and gasses of the blasting for that day had cleared from the mine, we returned to see if we had broken into the ore.
On one particular day we finished the morning mucking, and I stayed and helped Mr. Ambrose with the drilling of the new holes, packing them with dynamite and then lighting the fuses as I quite often did when I was not needed to go after water. After the last of the 13 fuses were lit, we walked out to the mine entrance and waited for the explosions, as was the standard practice, counting the shots as they went off, to be sure that each had exploded so that we would know that there were no live caps or dynamite in the muck as we removed it the next day. I half-consciously counted the explosions and only heard twelve, but I wasn’t sure and didn’t say anything to Mr. Ambrose, although he looked at me in a questioning manner as if he wasn’t sure either.
We went to the old cabin, prepared supper, and Mr. Ambrose did the dishes (It was his turn), while I was lying on a cot reading an old Improvement Era that had been left there by a former occupant of the cabin. When Mr. Ambrose had finished he suggested that we go back to the mine and check for ore, but I asked him if he would wait until I finished the article I was reading. I have never really been an avid reader, and putting down a half-finished article has always been easy for me, and still is to this day, so it didn’t really sound like me when I asked him to “wait.”
Some five or ten minutes later as we walked to the mine entrance and as we started to enter, there was a muffled, “KA-BOOM,” and a gust of air hit us in the face. We looked at each other, both knowing we had miscounted the explosions earlier and that one fuse had been blown out, but had smoldered and re-ignited to cause a delayed explosion just at that time. It was the very time, I calculated, that we would have been bending over the dislodged waste with our lamps looking for that vein of talc. I felt a strong sense of gratitude to my Heavenly Father for that Improvement Era article and the impression received from Him to delay our return to the mine that evening.
After working at the talc mine in Death Valley during the summer of 1941, an offer of employment at the First National Bank of Nevada, Las Vegas’s only bank, was readily accepted. The bank was located on the NE corner of First and Fremont streets and was housed in an impressive marble front structure as all prestigious banks should be. Several of my friends were working there, including Sam Davis and Don Christensen, and my boss was my bishop, Reed Whipple. It was a good experience, and we had a lot of fun working together. I worked as a file clerk, mail clerk, and did some bookkeeping. I still remember the challenge it was to find the errors when we were out of balance at the end of the day (which was almost every day).
During the time I worked at the bank, I stayed with Aunt Grace and Uncle Mike Laux on Ogden Street. They taught me a lot of good practical things such as turning out the lights when I left the room. I also read the Pearl of Great Price while I was living there.