We got a call from Charlie Spielman. He had a job offer for both of us. No details but as long as we were there by Nov 1 there was a job. We told him we would be there. He said housing was provided. So we winterized everything. I asked Tommy if he wanted the hens for the eggs. He said no, that he would look after them for us. I said no I will turn them all loose and let them fend for themselves. He insisted he would take care of them.
We loaded up LeRoy’s International pick up and were ready to leave for Elko, Nevada. It was late and dark- I pulled the quilt up over our laps because there was no heater in the truck. As LeRoy began moving so did the quilt. I was a bit nervous- we stopped and found a flash light. All of my cats had climbed in- they were used to going with me everywhere. I was very sad when we had to leave them behind, too. We drove out to a mine 65 miles out-side of Elko, Nevada.
Charlie had a team and a temporary agreement to attempt to get the gold out of this clay ore in which no one had been successful. If it worked he could lease the mine for a year, if he didn’t lease it he had to give up the technology. LeRoy’s job was general hired hand. Weld, shovel or whatever was needed. My job- camp cook. I looked at Charlie and said what? He said there are seven of us and we need a cook. Me? That night Charlie told me if I didn’t want the job he would buy a bus ticket back to Colorado. I decided to stay. I cooked and spent as much time at the mill as I could. We had a 5000 kHz generator delivered. Someone mentioned to the driver I wanted a ride in a semi-truck. He offered and I rode all the way to Elko with him. I learned a lot about semis. He was kind and answered all my newbie questions. Another time I had driven to Elko, to do the grocery shopping in the company jeep. I had most of the errands done and was waiting to pull out of the grocery store lot but traffic was terrible. I sat for what felt forever and there was a truck with a horse trailer turning into the parking lot in front of me. I thought that was causing enough of a break for me to make my left turn. Wrong. I broadsided a pickup truck in the left turn lane that had swerved to not hit the horse trailer. I flattened two of his tires. Traffic was backing up and the man I hit was mad and mean. He was scream-ing I didn’t know how to drive and slamming things around. There was a caretaker of the mine property and his wife had come to town with me. She hit her head on the windshield pretty hard but seemed to be doing okay. I opened my door and asked what Ne-vada law was- could I pull this back into the parking lot. Mr. Jerk said NO- you have to sit right there. Four highway patrolmen showed up. They assessed the accident and one of them asked me to back into the parking lot. I did- and three of the officers worked at traffic control to get the mess cleared up. Mr. Jerk had changed both of his tires and drove into the lot. I was standing at the officer’s car and listening to what he was saying. He said normally with out of state drivers he arrested them, took them to jail because it made it simpler to get all the information. I assured him I did not need to go to jail for that. He smiled and was telling me I would be cited in this accident. Mr. Jerk parked his truck and charged at us. He was telling the officer I was reckless and needed to get a ticket and …. Kept on for a few minutes- the officer stood up and said ‘Excuse me, sir. Do you want to be cited in this accident as well? ‘Mr. Jerk said well of course not. The officer said then go get into your truck and wait for me to come to you. He did but he was muttering all the way back to his truck. The officer cit-ed me for failure to yield right of way. I asked him to explain that because I had been stopped. He kindly explained that the truck had right of way and whether I was stopped or not I failed to yield. That made sense and I thanked him. He told me ‘Don’t make me come find you’ I said I won’t. He asked me to wait in my car and went to speak with Mr. Jerk. He then came over and we looked under my hood because he was concerned that the radiator may have been damaged. It was holding water so I said I would try to make it to the mine. I gave Mr. Jerk the phone number for Charlie and explained to him that it was a mobile phone in this car. It will take me at least 45 minutes to get there. So call in about 1 ½ hours to speak to him. The wife of the caretaker and I left for home. Mr. Jerk called in 5 minutes. I explained again 45 minutes. I was on the highway behind several motorcycles when he called again. When the phone ‘rang’ it honked the horn. I pulled over quickly and answered again and told him if he was going to call every few minutes it would take me much longer to get back to the mine.
We reached the mine; I dropped her off and drove up to the mine. I went in and found Charlie. I told him I wrecked the jeep and started crying. He was absolutely not worried about the jeep. He drove me back to the trailers and helped me carry in the groceries. He took the jeep back up and spoke with Mr. Jerk. I had wrecked a company car and although Charlie was being very nice I still was walking on egg shells. I put together dinner. In walked Jim our project electrician. He said we fixed the jeep. He was a very serious person who did not joke. I said, ‘Really?’ He said Yes- come on, come look at it. So I excitedly followed him to the step- here is the jeep- smashed in with a new hood ornament. They had taken some of the clay ore and made a Mickey Mouse head and stuck it on the hood. I started crying again and shoved him. I told him he wasn’t funny and went back in. A few days later when I wasn’t so upset Charlie had a talk with me. He said the only thing you did wrong was admit you were in the wrong. Never say that again. He said we can find lots of fault in any accident and by saying you were at fault no one looks at anyone else.
Our project manager was Stan Rickard. He was a chemist who had written several college text books. He had developed a process to get the gold out of the clay. We brought the clay into the mill by conveyor belt. We sprinkled it with 10% lye and 10% concrete dust. Then that went into a rod mill with no rods. It spun counter-clockwise and the ore came out the other side in small permeable balls. We took the balls over to a soaking bin by conveyor belt. It was pouring into this bin, but in one pile and we were going to have to shovel it out to the corners. Stan talked to Jim and LeRoy. They made a metal plate with curved welded lines across it. Jim attached this plate to a pulley motor and set under the dump spot for the balls. We turned everything on. The balls began hitting this spinning plate and were being spun out of the bin at extreme-ly fast speed! We were running for cover, ducking behind any-thing for protection. LeRoy hit the kill switch and all came to a stop. I was sitting on the cat walk with Stan and I said to him what if we make that plate smaller? Would that slow down the balls? He didn’t say anything. I thought, hmmm must have been a stupid question.
Jim walked up to us. Stan said “Jim what if we make that plate smaller? Will that slow down the balls?” I was jumping up and down inside! I stumped the brains of the bunch! Jim proceeded to tell us why that wouldn’t help but he knew how to fix it. He slowed his pulley motor down and that solved the problem. We began filling the bin with ore. It was winter break at most colleges and L.J. came to work at the mine. I don’t know how he knew Charlie but they were friends. L.J. was tough for me to get along with. Charlie had gone back to Denver and some other ‘investors’ came out. We began a cyanide soak on the bin. I was cooking 4 meals a day because with the cyanide we worked around the clock. We had emergency packs to save a person if they inhaled the cyanide. L.J. didn’t come for breakfast. I went to get him. I woke him and his symptoms seemed similar to cyanide poisoning. He would not eat. I asked him if there was a problem with his shift the night before. He said no. I asked LeRoy what he thought- he said we need to call in the life flight. I called Charlie on the mobile phone. Had to speak carefully because I was trying to not alert OSHA. Charlie understood- he called L.J. Then Charlie called me back- L.J. was just hung over- he had gotten drunk the night be-fore. I told Charlie he needs to go home. He is dangerous around here and Charlie agreed. Dick was an investor that came out at the same time L.J. came out. He was what I deemed a ‘pencil pusher’ who didn’t know how to do physical labor. One night he told me that he thought I should serve squid for dinner. I told him this was a meat and potatoes crew and he could go to town for something like squid. When I went to town for groceries I found Rocky Mountain Oysters at the store. I bought them and fixed them for dinner. Everyone enjoyed them and LeRoy told them what they had eaten the next day.
They all seemed to handle the fact that they had eaten Rocky Mountain Oysters without getting sick. Although for weeks someone always asked what I was serving at each meal!
Stan came back from his break and we pulled the soak off the clay. We smelted down the slag and had 79 lbs. of Gold and Silver. We opened up the bin. The balls were still in balls and easy to load with the front end loader and remove. It worked! The process worked! Now to get the lease to the mine. Charlie told us how much the lease was. He was about ½ the way with current investors. LeRoy and I decided to invest our paychecks. We had not cashed any of them- so we signed over $7500 and told Charlie no more paychecks till we pull gold. He asked me to come back to the office. I caught a bus back to the ranch. I found the chickens all dead in their cages. I was so sad. I was so mad. To leave an animal caged to die is horrible. I got LeRoy’s Ford truck and went to Den-ver. Charlie wanted me to go to the stock holders meeting and speak. So I bought a new outfit at Kmart and did. Then he took me out to lunch along with Dick to Red Lobster. The waitress talked me into trying calamari rings as an appetizer. They were scrumptious. I ordered a shrimp fest platter and as I was eating I said to the waitress ‘ok I tried the appetizer and liked it, now please tell me what I ate. She grinned and said ‘squid’ and walked off. I had been paid back for my unkind attitude towards Dick.
I headed for Nevada the next day. I’ve driven through lots of things but the ice on the Salt Flats in Utah was the worst I’ve ever seen. It took me nearly 6 hours to get across them and not run off the road. I rented a motel room in Winnemucca. I asked him for a wakeup call- he handed me an alarm clock. I got up at 5:30 AM with only a couple hours of sleep and headed for the mine. Once I got there we began clean-up of the other trailers and general maintenance. We were waiting for the team to return and we would be operating the mill. But then the word came- not enough investors. Stan had to hand over his technology- we lost our money. We loaded up and went back to Tommy Davidson’s place just in time to help with calving.
I went to work in town because it became obvious this wasn’t a lifestyle I wanted to be in forever. I felt trapped with LeRoy and yet somehow thought I could get a start on my own. I got a job working at the Country Cupboard Restaurant as a waitress. I usually was stuck with dinner shifts but it was a paycheck. But of course I was buy-ing groceries and things we hadn’t had for a while. My original plan of saving money to move was not happening.
It was the middle of the night and something woke me up. I was frozen with pain. The headache was debilitating. I opened my eyes but could not see anything- it was more than darkness I was blind from the pain. I screamed and the trailer door opened. LeRoy rushed in and asked what was wrong. I said I have a head-ache- like I’ve never had. He gave me a cold rag, some Tylenol and tried to soothe me. It wasn’t stopping. I begged him to hand me the .22 I would end the pain but he wouldn’t. He said he was go-ing to go into the homestead- call Tommy to give us a ride to the hospital. I heard him leave the trailer. Then I felt as though I was going to vomit. I was still blind and too weak. I opened the back door of the trailer that was against the bed we slept in. The door pulled me out of the trailer. I managed to grab my denim quilt as I was falling. I vomited over and over. I leaned up against the tires and wrapped my quilt around me. I kept vomiting- it wouldn’t stop. I thought just take me- don’t make me suffer like this. Eye sight began to return and the moon told me it was around 3:30 AM. I passed out, would wake and vomit some more for a few hours. About 6:30 LeRoy came in the front of the trailer and dis-covered me outside on the ground in the back. He helped me to my feet, mumbled he didn’t know why Tommy wasn’t here. As we walked to the front of the trailer he turned off the propane tank. I collapsed on the front step and he went to call Tommy again. Within a few minutes Tommy was there and they were helping me into Tommy’s truck. He drove us to the hospital and stayed with us. I told the Drs. How I felt, where it hurt and vomited bile for them. They decided it was one of three possibilities. Food Poisoning, Spinal Meningitis or Carbon Monoxide poisoning. The Doctors said we were showing the same symptoms and the onset was sudden in both of us. I listened to what they were saying but it didn’t make sense to me. It couldn’t be food poisoning we determined be-cause LeRoy had eaten at home and I had eaten at the restaurant the last several meals. I was scared of it being Spinal Meningitis, I had an aunt die of that when she was only two years old. The Drs. Decided to do an arterial blood gas test. That test hurts. They pulled a vial of blood from each of us. I sat rocking in the chair waiting to hear. I don’t know where LeRoy went. They came back about an hour later. The lab lady said she was sorry that they had lost my blood. She was going to have to do it again. I asked her to check again and she did. She came and took the test a second time. They came and told us to come into the Dr. Office. He told us we were poisoned by carbon monoxide. That LeRoy’s level was 4 times the lethal amount and my level was 3 times the lethal amount. That we needed to stay out of the trailer until we figured out what caused it. I asked the Doctor a lot of questions. I deter-mined in my own mind that because the propane refrigerator was not vented outside this caused a buildup of gas. We went home. Tommy left and went to his home. I pumped some water and brought it to the trailer. I was talking to LeRoy as I was walking into the trailer. I said let’s move the fridge outside. He said NO. He was hooking the gas line up to the stove. When he finished that he went over and hooked up the loose gas line to the fridge. I saw this. I watched this. This was too much too comprehend. He was not in the trailer with me. He turned off the propane tank that morning when he found me. He is hooking up gas lines that should not have been unhooked.