Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. At every event there is a defining moment: one brief incident that will stand out in the minds and hearts of spectators long after the event is over. The Nederland 2014 Miners’ Days special moment came when long-time Ned miner Tom Hendricks began his 10 minutes of hand drilling.
Each contestant was allowed to pick a song to hammer their steel by—to keep the rhythm. Tom, with his graying, longish hair, tanned weatherbeaten face, muck-splattered torn t-shirt, red rubber gloves, and bright yellow mucking pants, lifted his four-and-a-half-pound hammer, waiting for the music to begin. Most of the hand drillers had picked hard-beat country songs, loud and pushy.
When Frank Sinatra’s soothing, sultry voice began the words of “I Did It My Way,” the spectators laughed in surprise. But then they quieted, watching this miner, his muscles straining, pound the steel, slowly, surely, not seeming to be in a hurry, just getting the job done. And they realized they were watching a little bit of Nederland’s mining history: a miner who, in spite of all the ups and downs in the roller coaster industry, is still at it. Still pounding away at a piece of rock with no sign of wearing out, giving in.
Hendricks came in last in the hand drilling but that didn’t wipe the grin off his face or dampen the twinkle in his eye.
The weekend began with a pancake breakfast, hosted by the Nederland Area Seniors at the Nederland Community Center. Soon the equipment was in place at Guercio Ball Field and Danny Martin blew the whistle on the on the vertical steam engine, calling the Jackleg contestants to gather for the drawing of their place in line.
The Jackleg involves a hydraulic drill that weighs as much as a burro and uses a steel bit to chomp a hole into the designated square on the drilling rock. Water drenches the steel to keep it from getting too hot and granite dust and mud splatters everything and everyone around the area, particularly the miner wielding the jackleg.
The plan is us drill the hole to the hilt faster than the other contestants. Mining contestant judge Bill Mehrer lets the driller know when he is finished by giving him a tap on the shoulder. Each miner had to drill two holes.
James Booth of Leadville was the winner. He said he’s had a good summer, following the mining contests and bringing home some money. This year, a female entered the jackleg competition. Jenna Dokken has hefted a jackleg before but not in Nederland and she never earned a time before, but she got the job done with a little help from the guys, coming in last but proud.
James Booth, 2:23.47
Jim Morrison 2:24.19
Chris Lamb, 2:30.72
The mucking contest always attracts a bunch of contestants. After all, what could be so hard about shoveling a bunch of dirt into an ore cart? Each mucker was slow to move when he or she finished, making sure their arm muscles still worked. Dokken won the women’s category, even after her Jackleg workout. Ward resident Jesse Pattridge won the men’s contents. Both Dokken and Pattridge won the Overall Miner Contest, which was good for $500 each.
This year the women had to work as hard as the men and they received equal monetary awards for the first time.
1. Jenna Dokken 52:19
2. Katrina Pattridge, 1:11.69
3. Hillary, Kysar
1. Jesse Pattridge, 57:63
2. Emmit Hoy., 1:10.13
3. Hayden Krizman, 1:30.94
As the miners’ stomachs began to growl, they drifted over to the Crust mobile pizza oven, where Dawn Dennison and Tom Plant created one-person-sized sizzling, made-on-the-spot pizzas, and the Cholua Coffee booth served up creamy iced coffee. It was a green event and all plates and cups were compostable.
The Spike Driving contest involved setting a spike next to an iron rail and hammering it in with a spike driver. Dokket grabbed another first place, Hilary Kysar was second, and Katrina Pattridge, Jesse’s wife and a formidable mining contest opponent, took third. Jesse took first, beating out James Booth by .10 of a second.
Women’s Spike Driving:
1. Jenna Dokket, 33:80
2. Hilary Kysar, 39:05
3. Katrina Pattridge, 44:00
Men’s Spike Driving:
1. Jesse Pattridge, 15:20
2. James Booth, 15:30
3. Chris Lamb, 18:00
While the adults were going after the prize money, the kids entered their own events, competing in the bean bag toss, the save race, and hand mucking. Winners received medals to wear around their neck and everyone got to choose a toy from the big sack of prizes.
The Single Jack hand drill contest was the last competition of the day. This is the event that the miners dig, coveting the winner’s bragging rights. Miner’s Day director Emmit Hoyl is the four-time world champion hand driller and was often referred to as “The Home Town Hero.”
But Hoyl was bested by his own handmade steels, which were too sharp and went too deep into the granite, making it difficult to turn and therefore not biting into the rock. It was a frustrating effort for the champ. All round winner Jesse Pattridge took first place, drilling 7-13/32 inches. Dokken took first for the women, drilling a 2-8/32 inch hole.
Single Jack Men’s results:
1. Jesse Pattridge, 7-13/32
2. Tim Faye, 6-29/32
3. Greg Hosler, 5-18/32
Single Jack Women’s Results;
1. Jenna Dokken, 2-8/32
2. Hillary Kysar, 2-7/32
3. Katrina Pattridge, 5/32
Because daylight was fading rapidly, the women’s single jack was held off until Sunday morning. Usually the event is planned along with Old Timer’s Weekend, earlier in the fall with more sunlit hours, so the contests had to be adjusted accordingly.
After the women’s hand drill, the Team Jackleg contest began. The Jackleg events were both held at the beginning of the day because it is difficult to talk and hear with the sound of the drill. The Team Jackleg means that two men have to each drill a hole in one of the rocks.
James Booth and Dominic Patti took both first and second in the team event. Hometown heroes Emmit Hoyl and Jesse Pattridge were in the money with third place.
Team Jackleg Results:
1. James/Dominic, 2:41.19
2. Dominick/James, 2:45.71
3. Emmit/Jesse, 2:46.44
It is that time of year when people are cutting up firewood and if they don’t have a splitter, they are forced to do it themselves with an axe or a maul. Mountain women can split wood and often have to to keep the home fires burning.
In the log-splitting contest, they had to choose two whole logs and split them into quarters and toss them into the pile. Choosing the log is the most important part; branches will jam the saw blade and knots will stop the cracking process.
High Timber Logging sponsors the event and Phil Pitzer said that this year he decided to make a special trophy for the winner: a wooden carved trophy holding a Stihl axe. His son Steve burned the engraving. The winners also received a cord of firewood.
Suzanne Nelson won first place for the women and Gary Adamson took first in an awesome rapid speed log splitting frenzy.
Womens’ Log Splitting:
Suzanne Nelson, 1:11
Katrina Pattridge, 1:13.07
Jenna Dokken, 1:16
Mens’ Log Splitting:
Gary Adamson, 30:03
Derek Stevens, 40:00
Dan Walker, 41;19
Another event involving wood was the Bow Saw cutting, using the old-fashioned hand saw to cut through a timber. The trick is to let the saw do the work: don’t push into the wood or the saw will jam. The sawyer must cut within the designated lines, no slanting off into another space. Tamara Haynes had the winning time for the women and Emmit Hoyl whizzed right through that hunk of lumber to win the men’s contest.
Womens’ Bow Saw:
1. Tamara Haynes, 55:53
2. Jenna Dokken, 1:12.53
3. Katrina Pattridge, 2:20.37
Mens’ Bow Saw:
1. Emmit Hoyl, 25:38
2. Rick Thomas, 29:01
3. Jesse Pattridge, 32:75
The highlight of Sunday’s kids’ events was the watermelon eating contest. The organizers lucked out with a ripe, red, sweet, juicy prime summer watermelon, perfect for the absolute biggest mess a kid could come up with. Some of them entered the contest just to sink their teeth into the dripping fruit.
Sunday ended with grey skies and drizzle, chilly enough to pull on jackets with hoods. As light left the day, spectators left the stands and miners gathered up their tools, looking forward to washing off the grit of the day, to comfort sore muscles and for many of them, to count their blessings and their money after a fine Miners’ Days weekend.