Monday, April 18, 2011

Doing It Deep by Jeannie Watt

I would like to thank Mary Sullivan for prompting this blog topic, since she asked the question in her Thursday blog, "Where is the most unusual place you’ve ever read a book?" My answer is more than a mile underground.

I went to work in a lead-zinc mine right out of college. It was the deepest underground mine in the United States, the lowest level being 8,100 feet beneath the top of the mountain. This was not a time when there were a lot of women in the mining industry. There were over 300 men on the crew and, when I hired on, three women—Lael, Sherry and Marie.

Those women were trail blazers because back then many men were not happy to have women on the workforce. The mines in this area had been worked since the late 1800’s and many had been in operation, in some form, for around 100 years. Generations of the same families worked the same mine and old traditions and superstitions held strong.  One of those superstitions/traditions barred women from going underground, because back in the day, women only went underground after a disaster—to look for loved ones. Therefore women=disaster. (Some guys still hold this belief and it has nothing to do with mining.)

My job was simple. I drove a train, like the one in the photo only bigger, hauled ore out of chutes and dumped it in a bigger chute, where it would be hoisted up out of the mine in a muck skip. It was a rather mindless job, because the train was on tracks and I pretty much drove back and forth, back and forth. Every now and then the train would jump the tracks and my partner, Billy, (who was the same size as me) and I would jack that multi-ton behemoth back onto the track. And then it would jump the track again. Mines don’t have tracks anymore and I can tell you why—you waste a lot of money and man hours keeping the train on the track.

But back to the reading. I worked with many men who were taught from childhood to never curse in front of a woman. The younger guys didn’t have a problem, but I put a severe damper on conversations involving the older guys. Therefore, since I just wasn’t that into 4x4s with lift kits, fishing with dynamite or the local hot women, I would find a quiet rocky corner and break out a Harlequin Presents from my bucket, i.e. lunch box. (At that time there was only Harlequin Romance and Harlequin Presents—does that date me, or what?) I read many, many books underground. The pages got a little grimy and wet, but oh well. I would be deep into the adventures of Alexandra and Rafael while the rest of the crew was talking man talk. But I was listening with half an ear. And being entertained. I think that’s why I do okay with guy speak. I’ve heard a lot of it.

I am giving away a $15 Starbucks card today and one SuperRomance Kindle download of your choice--any author. Coffee and a Super--does it get any better than that? Just tell me about an interesting, funny fantastic or horrendous job you’ve held.
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