Okay, I don’t really think that this is an origin story, but it is the story of my first job after college. Maybe it was more of a metamorphosis. But first, some back story.
I was in the undergraduate mining engineering program at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, New Mexico. I don’t recall which year of study I was completing. Maybe it was my Freshman year. One of my classes had guest lecturers for each class. One such speaker was my late friend, Mark Wiley. Mark had graduated from Tech a few years earlier, with a degree in mining engineering. I’ll never forget the parting advice Mark gave us. He said that when he was studying, that he never wanted to work underground, and he never wanted to work in coal. His first job was underground and his second job was in coal (I may have the order reversed, but that doesn’t matter much). His advice to us was to keep an open mind about employment.
My first job out of college included working in underground coal mines. The job was as a mining engineer at the US Bureau of Mines in Denver. I remember showing up in a 3-piece suit for my first day of work. Boy, was I ever out of place!!! I was in the Underground Roof Control Group at the Denver Research Center. Our research was mostly done in the underground coal mines of western Colorado and central Utah. Our research mainly centered on studying the effectiveness of various type of roof bolts (did you see my Bolt Boys blog?)
I remember being in an underground coal mine in Utah on the day of the Wilberg coal mine disaster. On the 19th of December, 1984 a fire in the Wilberg Mine claimed 27 lives: 18 miners and 9 company officials. The disaster was the worst coal mine fire in Utah history. The escape route of the 27 persons was cut off when the fire quickly engulfed the intake of air passageway. I couldn’t wait to get to a phone to let everybody back home know that I was not in this mine. I was in another mine, many miles away.
I made some really good friends at the Bureau, and one psychopath demon who I thought was a friend. We shared an office, but not whatever dark secrets he carried in his twisted mine. This particular person brutally stabbed his infant niece to death, stabbing her dozens of times. When police arrived, he told them that he was Satan. I believe he is still institutionalized.
Back to the story. No, wait. I also worked a night job (or several, actually). I wanted to get rid of college loan debt that seemed to be a heavy weight to carry. This particular job was at an assay lab. Mostly, I worked in the pulverizing room. The work was tough and demanding. Some new hires never returned to work after their first work break. We also had some work-release prisoners who worked in the pulverizing room. For that work, we had heavy metal “crucibles” where we placed a small sample of crushed ore. There was a heavy metal ring and “puck” inside the crucible. We would load the crucible into a device that rotated it quickly, pulverizing the ore. Then we’d empty the ore into another container, and clean our equipment. Lather, rinse and repeat. The managers kept track of how many samples we’d completed, and voice their disappointment if our numbers were low. On occasion, we’d get a “break” to carry samples into or out of the walk-in oven that was used to dry the samples.
END OF PART 1