Things I learned at the Climax Mine

Poem by Steve Voynick

Mining – June 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

The Things I Learned at the Climax Mine

Some years ago I left my home,

Headed west and bound to roam;

Had fun for a year, but it all went down

When I ran out of money in Leadville town.

In the bars that very first night

I told some folks about my plight.

They said, “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,

“Just show up Monday at the Climax Mine.”

Well, the Climax Mine, quite renowned,

Always needed men for the underground.

And I sure needed some steady pay

So I could eat three squares a day.

They said, “Working here, there’s nothin’ finer,

Just sign your name and become a miner.”

But when I started, it was a different case —

There was a lot they hadn’t told me about that place.

So on my new career I did embark,

Breakin’ rock in the cold and dark.

On my first day of work, I needed a tow

At twenty below in the neck-deep snow.

I had a belt and boots and a powder punch,

A cap with a light and a pail for my lunch;

The drill steels, bits, powder, and fuse

All weighed me down–I could hardly move.

Climax was high and the air was rare,

And breathin’, at best, was only fair.

Taking a breath was kind of a joke

‘Cause all I’d get was powder smoke.

Those big ol’ timbers sure had heft

And the roar of the drills would make you deaf.

We’d timber and drill and load and blast

And the shift boss said, “Just make it fast.”

When those shifts were finally done

We’d stay up late and have some fun.

In the Pioneer Bar we’d throw ’em back,

The Coors and Bud and Cap’n Jack.

Then Christmas came with bells and holly,

But all I did was mine more moly.

Powder to load and powder to pack,

Was wearin’ out my achin’ back.

I knew then that I’d had my fill

Of breaking rock to feed that mill;

Told my pard that I would tramp

To someplace warm and not so damp.

Well, the years went by, but I never forgot

Just what it took to break that rock.

The memories and the notes I took

Were even enough to write a book.

And now I’m here making rhyme

Of the things I learned at the Climax Mine.

— Steve Voynick

Underground Poets Wanted

Most of the poetry heard in and around mines is unprintable or worse, which may explain why the National Mining Museum and Hall of Fame is sponsoring a contest for new poetry about mines and mining.

Steve Voynick of Leadville is in charge of the contest, and observes that “any self-respecting bard should be able to improve on my doggerel.&

The first-, second-, and third-place winners will get plaques, and the winner (the Mining Poet Laureate) will be invited to read at the annual induction banquet on Oct. 10, 1999, at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in St. Louis.

Poems should be submitted to:

National Poet Laureate

National Mining Hall of Fame

P.O. Box 981

Leadville CO 80461-0981

The deadline is July 1, 1999, and if you need more information, write to the National Mining Hall of Fame.