“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” » John Muir
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” » Theodore Roosevelt
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together … all things connect.” —Chief Seattle
Last morning shift checking out keys to the gates. It’s slow business in the office so I can pack and clean and photograph skulls or their attachments. I didn’t get all the skulls like the beaver on the window sill or the mountain goat on a corner shelf. Staff bring them in when they find them. They fit in with a place that’s all about wildlife. If you like to write or draw monsters, these aught to suggest some creatures to design.
I cleaned this California Big Horn Sheep skull with a soft paint brush. The pile of tiny sawdust on the dresser told me it had insects gnawing within. It was covered with a dusty towel that I put in the laundry and covered it again with a clean sheet. A cotton ball with a dab of cedar oil set nearby will protect it from bugs. I can imagine this form as the foundation for “the monster behind the closed door upstairs”. Don’t open the door. I know it’s a trope, but still . . .
It’s really heavy! The last 3 Big Horn Sheep in the Andrus Wildlife Management Area died of pneumonia. This one was found in the fence above Brownlee Dam with it’s neck broken. The biologist thinks it might have been fleeing for its life from something and ran off the cliff above the rock fence. Running from a predator might be a rather common cause of death in nature. Remember those 2 suicidal quails yesterday?
This small horn was on a side table next to several deformed antlers in the living room. It’s not very big, maybe as long as a new pencil.
Goodbyes with staff and I’m headed up the highway to visit my 94 year old aunt in Cambridge. Whoa! I left my coffee press in the dish rack! Back at the ranch the staff were talking about me and thrilled to see me in the drive way. They wanted to learn how to make the sourdough rye bread I baked for them. I showed them where to find it on my blog and offered to give them the starter I had with me (more at home) but they want to do it all from scratch including creating their own starters. One of them had hollowed out the end of the loaf I gave him and stuffed it with baked quail, cheese, and vegetables. The other had sliced his and stacked slices with mozzarella bites and vegetables open faced like tapas. He ate his slices with baked quail and wine. We talked about writing and art and ghost stories, lots of ghost stories from Hells Canyon. They urged me to use suicidal birds in a story and to create a character based on the technician. He would carry a hatchet everywhere he goes and we could call him the Kindler (he chops kindling and other things). The biologist told us about his epic character. He has written more than 25 adventures for it. He also used to create radio shows with a friend. It was an enthusiastic conversation and I’ve no doubt I’ll be back to visit these new friends.
My new best coffee! I get up at 6 AM to get ready to open the office at 7. It takes me a while to wake up. I brought a bag of instant powdered coconut milk for creamer. Mixed with honey in pressed coffee the flavors astound me! This one cup coffee press it’s great for a single mug.
Checking out gate keys to visitors was easy and I’m surprised most of them want to chat a while instead of rushing to their hunt. It’s a pleasant way to start the morning. I nearly filled the wood bin and then made pumpkin soup for lunch, stirring in coconut powder instead of canned coconut milk. Scrumptious with a mug of mushroom coffee! My husband rolled in with a friend and our 2 German Shepherds. The dogs stay in the van at the ranch so they can’t harass the resident wild turkeys. I made a pot of espresso flavored with coconut milk and coconut sugar and we sat on the porch in the sun watching wild turkeys in the yard.
I took a map and keys to 3 gates, locked the house (office inside) and we went off in search of the roads. We entered Lake Road access gate and found this small ancient dog house nearby. Our dogs are too large to get in. There is a loading chute and corral at the entrance. We encountered a stream crossing right away (no bridge) and looking at the road ahead decided it truly was best for an ATV, not our big wide Chevy Express. Let’s hit the highway for the next access gate.
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It was hard to find the Woodhead gate right across from the Woodhead campground. Duh! But the gate is behind a pond and no signs point to it. This road, too is not suitable for a van for very many miles. At least it’s not a steep drop off like Lake Road. Eventually we would have come to a peak and pine forest but I had to open the office at 4 so we turned around. I notice my office hours are the same time as the best light for photos, sunrise and sunset. I’ll be back in my 4X4 truck some other time to capture betters photos.
Brownlee Dam, the first of 3 dams on the Snake River in Hells Canyon, is just out of view to the right of the reservoir. For this photo I turned around and now we’re looking down hill. I’m in Idaho. The land across the river is Oregon.
See the road on the Oregon side, pretty high above the water? It’s not Lake Road but just like it. NOT taking the van on it! Looks like fun for a mountain bike. Yikes. When I was a child, not even in school yet, my family would take Grandpa’s Jeep on roads like that pulling a silver camper. What a hoot! Mom was wrong. Dad didn’t kill us all.
We’re pretty high above the canyon but still can’t get cell phone service here. I thought the Carpathian Mountains were steep when I visited Transylvania but I’m not sure they are steeper than these. Back just in time to open the office, goodbye to my guests, and I swapped keys for hunters who are staying the week in Hells Canyon, took some phone reservations, and checked in returned keys. I gave one chukar hunter a tour of the bear trails around the house and under the wild orchard and black walnut trees. So much scat! I don’t find any fresh walnuts on the ground. Do you suppose bears or turkeys eat them? They’re a hard nut to crack. Um . . . not for a bear. He stayed and we chatted a while about wild plums and elderberries and recipes for foraged harvests while we watched the turkeys eating grass seeds and apples. They fly up and knock the fruit to the ground and then fight over it.
I closed the office at 5 and boiled brown farm eggs for dinner from the little Alpine store in Indian Valley. That place deserves it’s own blog post, it’s so eclectic. The sun disappears behind the mountain early so I brought in another load of firewood and put the wheel barrow back in the garage next to the tractors all the while gathering leaves with interesting shapes for water color painting tomorrow. That sound? Turkeys began flying up from the creek to roost in trees above it. I wondered if it was too dark to get photos but digital cameras are amazing at letting in light at twilight. Oh, the sound of these huge wings fluttering! It’s the sort of ruckus that stirs my imagination to write horror stories and paint scenes inspired by great beasts perching above me in the night. That was last night’s entertainment. Look what I can do when there is no distracting TV noise, none here.
I’ve been advised to start stories not at the beginning but somewhere else, perhaps the middle or the end. I’ll share a few journal notes this week from my experiences as volunteer gatekeeper for a wildlife management area in Hells Canyon. Today is not the first.
I’ve been squatting long enough my toe joints hurt but I don’t want to move. Turkeys following in line, spread to a V, marching knees high, advance quickly toward me as I crouch beneath an old black walnut tree. I want to become so much part of the environment they don’t fear me, they forget me and they move closer unaware. I can’t take it any longer. Before bracing my weight with my finger tips I check the ground in case there is bear scat. Don’t touch ground here without looking. It’s everywhere. All around the house, in the gravel, up the banks beneath the thicket of wild ancient fruit trees. Shit. That’s what it is. Why do we call it scat? Bears shit in orchards. They shit anywhere they please and don’t much think about it. I think. Bearshit. It’s everywhere I look. Or step. Or kneel.
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Day 1 – First day living at the ranch to check out keys to the gates. I arrived at 3:30, no staff at the house yet so I took out my camera. The sun was about to go behind the mountain. I love the sounds here, the creek and turkeys and then deep silence in the evening.
Day 2 – evening – Turkeys are somewhat scary the way they walk and peck at each other, wings spread wide and beating the air. When they roost in tall trees over the creek I feel like they might dive at me. But they don’t. But they might. I feel it. Sometimes I am typing this story, these notes, and I see a shadow cruise swiftly past the window out in the yard, the air space over the yard. It’s a turkey, but might it be something else? It’s dusk, what’s the science word for this time of day becoming night? It feels like when I am walking up my road at home and swallows are darting after insects and then for a brief time when it’s almost too dark to detect images as they truly are I sense bats the same size darting among the swallows, all of them feasting on flying insects. It’s a feeding frenzy. And soon the swallows are gone and it’s only the bats and mammoth moths devouring bugs all night. I need monsters flitting about doing the same thing. I need imaginary predators imitating my pets imitating predators, waiting so patiently, so alertly, so ready to snap up their prey.
That sound? Has something with wings landed on my roof peak? Is it waiting for me to forget it’s presence, unwary, and go to the wood pile or to my truck for a bucket of paints? Will I forget it’s there, let it be part of the environment until cautionless I walk out into the dark of night, witless and mindless as a turkey, and it swoops down and snaps off my head leaving my neck spurting blood and my legs still walking as though they haven’t yet received the message they have no head managing their performance? It could happen.
BTW I made it to the truck and back fetching a small jar of sourdough starter I had left behind the seat. Still I left the flashlight there. The moon is getting fairly full. No matter. I’m writing horror snippets and at this point something very big with wings is surely perched on the roof patiently waiting like any wise predator for its unwary prey to emerge mindlessly from the door. And I’ve learned that turkeys talking in the night sound something like wolves.
Hugh Addington, born November 24, 1894, was the mine mechanic at the Red Ledge mine on the Eagle Bar in Hell’s Canyon, Idaho. The Red Ledge and associated mines, Landore, Peacock, South Peacock, and the Blue Jacket, operated for about two years in 1926 and 1927. Hugh was one of the first men into the mining area, setting up camp and the machinery. He was one of the last to leave, closing up the operation. A map is at the end of this post.
He was married to Mary Olive Emery Addington for more than sixty-five years. Olive coordinated education and taught at the only school the Hell’s Canyon had then. The one-room-school house, along with the mining camp and other buildings, are now under water backed up by the Hell’s Canyon Dam.
Here is Hugh’s account of the mining operation as told to me, his granddaughter, in November, 1978. Tape recordings of this and other accounts of the mine and early life in Idaho are archived at the Adams County Library in Council, Idaho.
SEPTEMBER, 1926. HORNET CREEK ON THE EAST SIDE OF PECK MOUNTAIN:
Hugh: “They sent me up on Hornet Creek on the East side of Peck Mountain to set up an engine and compressor up there. I was supposed to be workin’ for the Red Ledge and my checks was comin’ from the Red ledge. I thought there was something spooky in it but I stayed there and worked and then they sent me up to the Peacock to go to work.”
They skidded all their groceries and supplies to Snowline, a dry camp, by way of six horses pulling wagons on skids.
“See, there was no road in there at all. Morrison Knudson was buildin’ a road along the edge of the river. It was a regular Klondike deal. We lived in tents for dog-goned near a year before we got any building set up and…heh…fifty men…and I’ll tell you, when you house up fifty men, and they can’t get away from each other, you better be careful, you could get a fight any time you wanted one. Oh! They get cranky! Holy Jesus, they get cranky and ornery.
They was fifty of us there. Heh, heh…something funny happened. The man that was buildin’ the trail down there, Jess Ward, sent up to the Peacock for a gallon of oil. Frank Louzon, the superintendent at the Peacock, went up to the cook shack and went out behind there and found a Rosebud Syrup can and he took it down to the compressor house and he filled it up with Mobile A oil and sent it down there. Well, the darn thing got tangled up in the groceries somehow. So along in the winter…heh, heh…the boy that was waitin’ the tables and takin’ care of things there ran out of syrup, oil, and he didn’t know; it looked like syrup. He filled up every dog-goned pitcher with that oil. Well then, it was pretty dog-goned touchy, I’ll tell you.”
Olive: “They didn’t take it as a joke, did they?”
Hugh: “They didn’t take it as a joke! I’ll tell you they didn’t! I was sittin’ right by the superintendent eatin’ breakfast. We always had hot cakes for breakfast and, of course, I poured a whole lot of it on my plate. I heard somebody down at the other end of the table…they was three tables, long tables…say, ‘It’s oil!’. Well, I took a bite and the minute I took it I knew it was oil and I spit it out! I was sittin’ there with the MP and he took a mouthful of it and he swallowed his! And then he threw down his knife and fork and out of the tent he went. I thought, ‘Damn you. If you can eat that, I can too!’ and I tried another mouthful but I couldn’t go it. I spit her out. Finally they was just about to hang the superintendent. [ Hugh broke up laughing here.] There was an awful rumpus. Jess Ward, the mine foreman, he come to his senses and he said, ‘I made that mistake. It was a can of oil that I was supposed to have got and it got in, tangled up, in the groceries.’ Jess got the men settled down. I’ll tell you, they was about to hang the superintendent! Heh…heh…heh.
RED LEDGE MINE ON THE EAGLE BAR
“We started to tunnel into that tunnel there. Instead of startin’ that tunnel in the rock they started it into the dirt and we went a hundred and seventy-five feet into that hill. It was an eight-foot square tunnel and I’ll tell you, that dirt was heavy, before they hit solid rock. But when they hit solid rock, it was just a wall, just like a cliff. They came down in the night and got me out of bed to start the compressor and they started drillin’.
Well, we had good machinery, good drills. We had English Sawl Rand water liners for drills and they was some good hard rock miners. They set those up and put up three drills on a bar. Now, a bar is a thing that reaches across a tunnel and it’s kinda like a screw jack and you screw it into the wall good and tight and hold it. Then you set your drill on top of that. Then they run air and there’s water that goes right down through the center of ’em and down through the drill. The drill is hollow, right down to where the bit is because you’re not allowed to run a dry drill through a tunnel because you get that rock dust in your lungs. It doesn’t make any dust. It comes out and it’s all kind of a mud. They set three of those on a bar and started drillin’. That rock was hard. I tell you, that rock was hard, that old diorite. The fire would just fly when they started drillin’.
They was drillin’ twenty-four holes in the face of that thing, in that tunnel. They couldn’t pull it at first. They was pullin’ around. Now, pullin’ around is blastin’ it out. They was drillin’ five feet holes, five and six feet deep. You know, them electric caps are in what they call ‘lays’. One bunch’ll shoot. Then another bunch’ll shoot. Then another bunch’ll shoot. They was a shootin’ it with electric caps. So they drove, drilled, this wedge in there like this, in a ‘V’. Now, those are ‘best holes’; the first or the middle holes are ‘best holes’. And, then, they drilled their uppers and then they drilled their lifters. They’d shoot the best holes out first. They’d shoot that ‘V’ out and then down would come the uppers, would blast, and then the lower ones would blast. There’d be a big pile of muck there then, and they’d shovel it out. That was the only way they could pull that ground, it was so hard to pull.
It was an eight-foot-square tunnel. We were really goin’ into that mountain. We got in there seven hundred feet when she shut down. They bought a lot of street car rail in Boise and hauled it down there for rail. We had forty-pound steel and six by sixes for ties. They had an electric locomotive and eight three-ton ore cars that were on Tempton bearings and everything was a workin’ just wonderful.
They had two Butler muckin’ machines. Now, these muckin’ machines, they’d run one in, in front of the train, and then they would wedge it to the track so as to hold it. That muckin’ machine would reach out nine feet and then it would double right up and it would spin right around, it run by air, and dumped it into the car behind it. It was awful fast. The man that run it, he strapped himself to it to keep from getting thrown off.
We had two of those and two machines on a bar and two jack-hammers runnin’ outside and I could hold a hundred pounds of air with that compressor. We had a wonderful compressor. We had a two stage compressor that had high and low cylinders, low compression on one side and high on the other. A big flywheel was in between. It weighed seven tons, that compressor, and the engine weighed nine tons that run it, a diesel engine. The fly-wheel that run it weighed a ton. The belt pulley on the engine was four feet in diameter and the one on the compressor I think was seven and it was an eighteen-inch leather belt. Boy, I’ll tell you, they had a fine bunch of machinery.
They brought it there on a loggin’ truck with six horses. When they took it up the mountain they had six horses in front [pulling] and four horses behind pushin’. They had them hooked up to a pole pushin’ on the back. They were pullin’ but we called it pushin’ because they were behind, shovin’.
[Photos illustrate two pairs of horses behind the truck harnessed to a pole that ran between them. The horses pulling on their harnesses forced the pole to push the truck. To turn the sharp switch backs on the steep grade the crude road had a flat stretch at each corner where the truck would stop. The horses were unhitched and turned around. The harnesses and the pole were reversed so that the rear of the truck now became the leading wheels and the teams started up the grade again.]
That country is a pocketty deal. There’s no ledge. Those mines all through the Seven Devils and up there were in what we call kidneys. They’d find a body of ore and dig it out and they’d have to hunt for another one. There was no continuation of a ledge. That’s all that Red Ledge is, is a great body of ore sittin’ there. It’s been spewed up from down underneath in the makin’ of the world. All that whole country, Landore, Peacock, Blue Jacket mines and around there, they was all in pockets. [He explained that the Red Ledge is like a layer cake, layered with rich ore, then none, then ore, and so on.]
The man that was runnin’ the diamond drill there, Lindsey, he was paid five thousand dollars a month to diamond drill. He was down about four hundred feet and the diamond came off the end of his bit. He couldn’t drill anymore. He had to get that diamond out of there or drill another hole. He tried and tried to get that diamond out of that hole. He finally went down to the cook shack and mixed up a batch of dough, a heavy, thick chunk of dough. Then he put that on the stem to the drill and he shoved it down that hole and brought ‘er up. There stuck that little ol’ diamond right on the end. (sourdough starter) and (sourdough whole wheat bread recipe)
BLUEPRINTS FOR THE TUNNEL
That tunnel was to be nine thousand feet long when it got under Deep Creek and Deep Creek was to be nine thousand feet above it. They were goin’ to bring that water down through a shaft, bring it out and make their own electricity. Kennedy, the engineer, told me, ‘We’ll never get back under Deep Creek. That ledge is on a dip. We’ll get ore in about four thousand feet and we’ll have all the ore to run for years and years’. They had surveyed out where the mill was gonna be just about a week before they shut down.
SHUTTING DOWN THE MINES
The mines shut down because of a lawsuit. The Peacock, the South Peacock, which was never any good… We shipped only two carloads out of there in the two years that we run it. They were sellin’ stock in New York on the Peacock to develop the Red Ledge. Butler was a smart old cuss. Everybody lost their money. I never bought any stock in it at all. I was afraid of it. They got into a lawsuit and he beat everybody out of it and got away with the money. They didn’t sell stock on the Red Ledge because they didn’t want it to get tangled up. There was too much money in it.”
[According to Hugh, when the lawsuit came about, mostly mail and stock fraud, the Red Ledge was hardly involved. The mines were only open about two years. The Red Ledge is supposed to be rich in copper ore still but Butler (who may be dead now) is supposed to be so rich that he doesn’t want to waste his time with it.]
BLASTING FOR STURGEON
[The night crew threw 40 sticks of dynamite into the Snake River at Eagle Bar and captured 19 sturgeon as a result. They ate what they could and took the rest up and down the river to share with other mining camps. Hugh did not eat sturgeon because they are scavengers, “hanging around the bottom of the cliffs where we threw our garbage”.]
Red Ledge and South Peacock mines are west of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (dark green) and east of the Snake River. Eagle Bar and the Red Ledge (horizontal marker, the triangle) are closer to the Snake River. Blue Jacket mine is southwest of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. The 1978 photos were taken when I hiked down Deep Creek with my dad, Bruce Addington, to visit the Red Ledge mine. We actually started our Deep Creek hike from the Peacock mine. Deep Creek runs from Smith Mt. to the west.