Day In The Bush
you to locate the drill casing from a deep hole drilled twenty years ago about a
mile east of the shaft” the chief geologist informed me one morning. “OK,”
I said “No problem! But what’s the interest in the old drill hole?”
“Well,” he shot back “the 16th level drift is about 200 feet from where we
think that hole may be, and if we hit it we’ll have the whole damn tailings
pond draining into the lower levels!” A bit of a dilemma to say the least.
“Oh yes,” he threw at me as an afterthought “Take John with you!”
Finding the casing of a drill hole under a tailings pond would be a major
challenge; having John as an assistant could only add to that challenge.
his late 30’s, had immigrated to
this particular morning was to search out some old claim lines and recut them
back to their intersection, or as close as we could get to their intersection,
for it was at that location the sought after drill casing was situated. We set
off early from the highway with the axes and other tools needed for the day’s
work. One of the highlights of that morning was walking down the old tote road
with John bringing up the rear, singing in an earthy baritone and at the top of
his voice in Polish, “Hi ho! Hi ho! Its off to work we go!”. He was just so
glad to get out of the office!
reached the tailings pond and found enough meager evidence of the 30 year old
claim lines we were seeking to be able to move on with the task. Now it had been
a dry summer and wasp nests appeared to be more common than normal. In the
morning we had come across one on the claim line but managed to avoid it before
doing it any harm. Shortly after lunch I came upon a second nest near the
ground, pointed out its location to John, and warned him not to cut over it. Not
five minutes later I heard a scream, and as I turned I saw John’s axe go one
way and John the other. I had never seen a man propel himself so quickly up hill
through a stand of wire birch before, nor have I since. John had obviously
forgotten about my warning of the nest, and to top it off must have disturbed it
for a few minutes before he realized what he had done. The wasps apparently went
up his pant legs!
his way to a relatively bald outcrop, screaming something in Polish that I
couldn’t translate directly, but “Pain” appeared to capture the essence of
the event! By this time he had his pants down around his knees and was swatting
every part of his body he could reach with his hat. Occasionally he’d trip,
fall down, scramble back up, yell and swat some more, try to run, and trip
again. He must have repeated the whole performance at least three times.
chronicler, during this time, was watching the performance from a safe distance,
tears in his eyes and sides aching from laughing. That outcrop performance is
one of those vignettes of life indelibly imprinted in my memory.
danger from the wasps subsided, we got John organized again, out of the bush,
and to the clinic at the mine. He had suffered about a dozen stings and some
damage to his ego, but by the next afternoon he was back as his comfortable
drafting table, his thirst for outdoor adventure more than fully satisfied!
And as for
the drill hole? Using the lines we cut it was located by a diver under the ice
the following winter and securely grouted before it was intersected by the drift
on the 16 level.