1865, Buckskin Mining District, Colorado Territory
By Steven Wade Veatch
On the cold mountain of endless time, the pine trees vanish,
Cut to build a new and brawling Colorado mining camp.
While beneath the ground, under a blue and cloudless sky,
Miners work the veins—drill, blast, muck, and haul.
In the timbered workings, deep below the surface,
A man cage creaks and scrapes as it lowers men down the shaft.
At the 12th level the shift boss calls out the day’s labors and
Marshals men, methods, and materials to mine minerals.
A miner’s faint candle flickers as the mine breathes,
Casting enough light to penetrate the dark, dank, depths,
Revealing a shining rich pay streak, just blasted into view.
In the shadows— where at every turn—death waits to stake a claim.
News of the crushing of young Tom Andrews quickly spreads.
In the streets of the camp, mining men and townspeople mourn.
At the graveyard, alongside the river of chance, miners grieve his soul.
As Tom is laid to eternal rest, spirits cry in the soft summer air.
In the air of tears, Tom Andrew’s young family weeps.
His death brings hopelessness to his widow and children
With no place to go, the frontier family works to cover their woe,
Picking high-grade ore off the conveyor in the mine’s sorting house.
Still new miners come, and others follow over mountain passes
To replace young Tom Andrews in mines where gold and silver beckons.
With time, the veins vanish—pinch out—and the land begins to speak:
Questioning the dreams of those men who came West.
While under the cover of adventure, they seek easy riches,
Only to learn the lesson that wealth comes to just a few,
Hard work to all, death to some; and then the time of man fades,
And in the quiet, moonless darkness the mountains rejoice.
|Mining headframe and ore sorting house. Art by and courtesey|
of Marge Breth.