Saturday, July 6, 2013

July 5, 2016

Lottie, Skip, Char
Friday started with coffee and laughter on the porch of our cabin.  Look at these beautiful 80 year old women!

The other classmates here have family members who still live in Lead, so our days have been "do your own thing."  Some went to Custer for shopping, while we went to see sights in Lead.  I wanted to check out the high school football field.
Mom says the Homestake Mine cut the top off a mountain to make a flat spot for the field.  The art deco school building is from 1940, and in great shape.

It is so foreign to me that my mother grew up with the constant smell of mountain pine, and with steep, narrow streets, in a "company town."  Grandpa Ewald was a doctor for the Homestake Mining Company.  The Mine Superintendent lived in a large house at the top of Main Street, that was once owned by Kevin Costner's brother and is now a private residence with space leased for event receptions.  There was a greenhouse there and every Christmas Mom's family would get a poinsettia and a Christmas Tree delivered from the Mine.
723 Miner's Avenue

We went by the old family house at 723 Miner's Avenue.  It is also in pretty good shape for being nearly 100 years old.  Grandma's yellow roses were blooming, and Mom was sure some of the other plants had been put there originally by her parents, including columbine, lilacs, the Mountain Ash tree, and the two really tall pine trees at the front steps.  There are metal stairs going down the hill parallel to the front of the house.  The house actually faces east, but Miner's Avenue runs along the north side of the house.  These stairs are found all over town, as sidewalks to get from one level to the next in this hilly place. Most don't seem to be used much, as foilage has sort of overgrown the vertical paths.  I walked down to the lower edge of the property and scared up a deer under the lilacs in the front yard of Mom's old house!  About three houses east is where Jodi grew up.

While in town, we went into the Black Hills & Fort Pierre Railroad Roundhouse, restored now into a nice restaurant, and gift shop.  We stayed for a short video including lighted trails on a topographical map, which gave me a much better feel for where things are and why Lead is here.  I did not realize General Custer was related in any way with the Gold Rush.

I asked Mom to clarify that connection, and she gave me her memorized script from when she was a guide at the mine in the summers of 1948-49!  Classmates, Jodi, and Lottie, as well as Jodi's daughter, who are all here with us, were also guides at the mine and all could remember the script!   
In 1874, gold was found on French Creek near the present site of Custer, by miners in the Custer military expedition. This was free gold found in the stream bed.  In 1876, two brothers, Fred and Moses Manuel found a vein of gold ore at the present site of the open cut.  This developed into the largest low-grade gold mine in the western hemisphere.  It averaged .4 of an ounce (about the size of a pencil eraser) to a ton of ore.   The ore was brought up from as far as a mile underground to the surface in large buckets called "skips." It was processed in a series of mills, or long cylinders with loose steel balls or rods inside that would crush the ore.  The first were the stamp mills. Next came the ball mills, then the rod mills. The crushed ore was mixed with mercury which adhered to the gold.  That was run through vats of cyanide to extract the gold from the mercury.  It was made into bars and sent to the mint in Denver.
I overheard a guide in Deadwood today tell his tour that the Homestake produced 40 million ounces of gold before it stopped mining operations. Popular Science online says that between 1876 and 2002, the people of Lead, South Dakota, extracted $3.5 billion worth of gold from the Homestake mine.

In an online search for interesting places to see in the area, I came across Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary.  We drove south towards Rochford to check it out and were rewarded with fabulous views, and unparalleled generosity of Dave Snyder, a hog farm ag man,who became the CEO of the underground science lab currently housed in the old mine, and who is now retired here.  This site is 80 acres of pasture and forest, beautifully maintained for free public visitation and meditation.  Over a mile of trail is mowed, or covered with bark/crushed limestone paths.  There is a clear, spring fed pond in the forest about half way through the trail.   A wonderful Chartres style Labyrinth, of sand and brick, had deer tracks across it.   Several bronze plaques are posted along the trail, with spiritual quotations from all faiths. Two large bronze sculptures add meaning to the site, and benches are strategically placed for rest and meditation.  They even offer walking sticks and umbrellas at the entry gate.  Unbelievably, there is no mention of requests for donations.  The place is a sacred gift of heaven on earth. 

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