Supplemental character material on members of the Alton Krause family
to accompany “Gold in the Hills”
Alton Floyd “Butch” Krause (b.1943 Manitowoc, WI; d. 2014 Phoenix, AZ)
What wonderful stories in our memories of the Alton Krause family! And we can learn even more about this family from the word portraits painted of Alton and Genevieve’s children. The third child, and the only boy, Butch Krause is gone now but offers a unique view of life in this family. In taking us back to those summer prospecting-for-gold-days in Idaho, sister Becky describes her brother Butch as the family comedian: “When we (Dad and us girls) were busy shoveling and working the sluice box, Butch would sit on a downed tree over our trench and crack jokes. As long as he kept us laughing it was fine that he wasn’t working. So naturally, he perfected his skills.”
Cindy says, “He was the only boy of five siblings, so was considered ‘favored’ by his sisters. He had a fantastic sense of humor. He was artistic and wrote poetry. Once he created a collection of weird pipecleaner characters he called ‘CD Critters’ for friends, family and the kids at the Children’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.” Becky explains that they were mounted on old CDs, and the nurses and volunteers took them around to the kids and let them choose one for their bedside.
Cindy continues, “Like his dad, Butch was an avid fisherman and liked to hunt. He liked to cook, especially with Spam. While he loved the mountains of Idaho he really didn’t like wolves. Rock hunting was his passion. He always treated me gently, kind of like I was still a child. To earn a living he worked as a surveyor.” Like his sister Becky, Butch was a graduate of the junior college in Coeur d’Alene. He also studied at the University of Idaho, Moscow campus. And as did all of the Krause kids, he had the skill of observation and memory and liked to write about how he experienced things. Here’s what he had to say about himself. Never at a loss for words, he penned these memories: “Our friends Chic and Kelly had just arrived from Wisconsin a day or two after the bleeding incident when I had cut my foot and almost bled to death. They made me a pair of crutches out of some willow bushes, and I soon was able to get around quite nicely. It seems that Debby and I decided to go fishing and found ourselves about half a mile down the creek when a threatening storm came over the hill. Almost immediately we were involved in a hailstorm and tried to take refuge under the dense willow bushes, which over-hung the bank on the side of the creek. In short order we were both drenched and thought to make a run for home. After traveling only a short distance I found myself face down in a large puddle of rainwater. Thinking I had fallen due to the crutches, I was amazed to find Debby lying in the puddle next to me. Then the realization set in! Every hair on our bodies was standing straight out and our ears were ringing from the lightning bolt and the thunder, which had split a tree about 50 feet from where we were. Almost at the same time we realized we had been just narrowly missed. Jumping up, with our eyeballs sticking out so far you could have scraped them off with a stick, we headed for home at a furious rate. When we reached the crossing in the creek I could not cross due to the floodwaters, which had swollen the creek. There was a large wooden beam across the creek but I could not traverse it on crutches. On the way to our fishing trip earlier, I had simply waded the creek. This time Debby went across the beam to the cabin occupied by Chick and Kelly, and Chick came down and helped me across the creek by way of the beam. We returned to our house with a wild tale of a fishing trip gone awry and my second attempt at self-destruction within a week’s time. A few days later we all moved up from home to our claims in the mountains and completed the work on our cabin.”
Butch closes one of his written accounts rather philosophically by musing, “If two people were to sit down and write accounts of things long past, they would necessarily write two accounts with varying thoughts of the same happenings. One person in a situation will be more impressed by this event, while another standing alongside will be impressed by another. Then, when you allow for the passing of 50 years time, even their own memories may not serve them well or be truly accurate. However, I now complete this particular quest for yesterday and the search for Uncle Tom’s Cabin with the closing of this writing. I have found both memories both in my mind and in my heart. Memories of times and of places and, most importantly, of people who cared about each other. These people shared good times and bad and knew how to give of themselves simply because that was how they were taught while growing up; they knew it was the right way to be. Remembering and writing about those times, place, and persons was a very successful quest, if I must say so myself.”
Butch Krause passed away several years ago at the age of 71 with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease of the nervous system. Like his older sister Debby, he suffered from the removal of tumors on his thyroid. He also had problems with growths in his ears. Did these maladies begin when he was a child mining the radioactive “hard rock” in the search for gold in the mountains above Leesburg, Idaho? Was he affected by the fallout from nuclear testing in Nevada that drifted over these same mountains? Sister Becky says that, while the government finally admitted to the effects of the fallout, and some people received compensation, her brother had moved to Arizona and apparently never received any money.
What a sad part of an otherwise exceptional life. Butch was well loved by his family and friends. We hope to add to the stories about him on this page, so look back here from time to time. Meanwhile, we hope that you’ll take up where we left off on the account of the Alton Krause family in their quest for gold in the hills of Idaho.
Last revised: 3/1/17