(Supplemental first-hand material to
“Gold in the Hills: The Alton Krause Family Story”)
While on our claims one year we discovered some strange rock a little ways downstream and on a side hill. Dad had Phil look at it because Phil was a geologist. Phil thought we had something good. When we moved to Idaho we took a Geiger counter and mineral light with us. These were actually purchased by the Mannings who lived next store to us when I was in the last part of the fifth grade. These were not the same Mannings as Homer Manning in the rock club. They were our neighbors when Dad painted the house for the landlady and she raised the rent because it looked so good and so we moved. The folks kept in touch with them. When we were preparing to move to Idaho they bought the things and were to be partners if we found uranium and struck it rich. They also bought a rifle for Dad. I think it was a 300 Savage. But I don’t know much about guns. That’s just what sticks with me. When the family moved back to Texas after I was gone from the house — my sister Cindy was in first grade I think; Dad took the rifle and Geiger counter back to them. For some reason they didn’t want the mineral light. Maybe Cindy still has it.
The year we found the strange rock everyone was finding radioactive rock everywhere. Phil actually staked some claims too–or more correctly we did it for him–had to drag posts all over the side of a mountain and find a way to stand them up in the rock. Hard rock claims you either couldn’t notch trees or maybe it was because there were no trees. Phil sold shares to his father’s rich friends for his claims. But we also staked our new claims for hard rock. They were maybe a mile or so below our placer claims on the hillside above the creek. I think we found that claim when we lugged all our equipment plus the Doodlebug gold machine down the creek to see if it was good for gold down there. Sandy even went at least once because I remember she didn’t have to carry anything because she was so little. Bah humbug!
Once when we were exploring down there, probably before we dragged the equipment down, we all stopped on the way home and had a drink from the creek. Dad had taught us to slurp the water from the top and try to avoid sucking up gravel. It was delicious water, icy cold and clear. Then we went about 60 to 80 feet upstream and there was a dead cow lying in the water. We couldn’t see it lower down because of the bushes beside the creek. Dad said not to worry because the water had filtered out over the gravel by the time it got to where we drank. Honestly, kids will believe anything if they want to bad enough. I guess believing was better than throwing up. We had a herd of cow neighbors because of open grazing and we were always careful to not walk through the meadow when they were there. Dad said we should be especially careful of the bull. One summer there were two bulls and they fought all the time. We were especially careful then. And one summer there was a dead calf in the meadow and a bear was eating it a little each day and dragging it toward a bunch of willow bushes. We’d check the progress each morning but when it got closer to the bushes we weren’t allowed to go near it anymore. It was full of disgusting maggots which Dad said were like dessert to the bear.
Back to being hard rock miners. These new claims were in pure rock and we had to use dynamite to get it loose. Dynamite was bought in Salmon. It was kept in a dugout cave type of place up by the old dump with a padlock on the door. The caps were kept separate from the dynamite. In fact, I thought the caps were bought in the hardware store. We had to go up to the dump area with someone with a key, who got the dynamite for us. You will be glad to know it’s not done that way now. Can you imagine what a field day the kids today would have with that system? But on the other hand, I don’t know how it’s done now. Dad kept the caps separate from the dynamite sticks too. When we needed it he slit a slice in the dynamite near one end and then he very carefully put a wick or whatever it was called (fuse?) in a cap and very carefully crimped the ends of the cap around the wick and then stuck the cap in the hole in the dynamite. He put it where it was needed and then all us kids were to go a ways and find the biggest tree we could and stand behind it until after the blast had settled. Dad picked out his tree before lighting the fuse. Then he ran!
Well, of course Max was always part of the exploration. And that particular day it was my turn to hold Max behind my tree. There is something about dynamite that drove that dog wild. He’d run around barking and finally go over to the site and roll around in it to get as much of that good dynamite stink on himself as he could. And it did smell. We used to call what we got if we worked the area too soon a dynamite headache. Sometimes it was so bad we had to wait a while for the area to air out properly before we could work. As soon as that dynamite blew Max tried to get loose. I had to kneel down to hold him tighter. He was getting more and more wild, and finally pulled me off my feet and started for the blast site. I was hanging on to his collar as tight as I could so he just dragged me with him. Rocks were still flying through the air and some were coming down on top of us–not large ones but they smarted. THEN he dragged me through a very fresh cow pie. My face was in this thing and I suddenly no longer cared if Max got covered in rocks so I let him go.
The mine never panned out. There’s an expression for you. It must have come from mining and I never thought of it before. What we found out years later is that some explosions were set off in Nevada by the government and that the radiation drifted up to the states north of there and settled in the valleys. In recent years some people have gotten government money as compensation for illnesses caused by this. Butch tried and they just ignored him. A report I read a few years ago said that the dust or whatever drifted settled on the grass and the dairy cows ate it and so the kids who drank milk got an extra dose of it. That would have been Butch and Debby. I didn’t like milk so didn’t drink it. Both of them had their thyroids out or whatever they do. Deb had hers done by radiation I think–go figure that one. Butch had his surgically removed. But so did Grandma Krause. Mother said Grandma had a beautiful singing voice until she had her thyroid gland removed and it damaged her throat. She always had a husky voice after that and quit singing. So who knows what caused what. But I learned one good lesson from the explosion. The next time Dad set off dynamite I let Debby hold that darn Max.
Transcribed by Larry Pearce: 3/1/17