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Thump in the Bush

By Steve Zahony

Let's say his name was Andrew Brown, a first year student at the Royal School of Mines of London, England, who had written a letter to the president of Midwest Oil Corp., stating that he would like employment for the summer and would be willing to pay his own way to the job site from London, just to have the opportunity to work abroad and gain some work experience. The letter was handed to Geoff Snow, then head of Midwest Oil's mineral exploration division.

Geoff's immediate reaction was, "Let's hire this chap; anybody willing to pay his way across the ocean for work experience is worth hiring. He'll be your field assistant in British Columbia this summer." Andrew received and then accepted a job offer for the summer field season.

I had been planning a drilling and fill-in mapping program for the summer at the Laura molybdenum property, located 40 kilometers air distance from Hazelton, British Columbia. This is in the heart of the BC rain forest and mapping would involve lots of moss scraping to find rock exposures, so I was delighted to have Andrew as a field assistant to help with that task and with drill core logging.

The drilling crews and foreman were French Canadian, employees of Longyear, our drilling contractor. Ray Felardeau was the foreman, well known at that time to Canadian drillers, who called himself "ze Big Fellow". The drilling contractor took the responsibility of erecting and maintaining the field camp, including the commissary, and supplying a cook. From previous experience with French Canadian drillers, I knew that we would have excellent food on the table three times a day.

I met Andrew at the Vancouver airport and we flew north together to Smithers, and from there proceeded to the property by means of a summer-rented pickup truck. Andrew was slim, of moderate height, of cheerful disposition, and a chain smoker. When he laughed, his face would turn the pink color of a Yorkshire pig.

When we arrived at the project site, the plywood-lined tents were already standing and the kitchen was functional, the chef, Bruno, being a jovial elderly man with a Germanic accent. In short order we found that he created wonderful meals and pastry, seemingly effortlessly. At his previous summer's job, he had fed and befriended a full-grown black bear that would enter his kitchen tent, usually at night, and, for a treat of a slice of bread with jam, would allow Bruno to pet his head. This went on for some time until the bear became aggressively protective of Bruno and had to be shot.

The summer moved fast and drill core overwhelmed the camp. Unfortunately, I found Andrew capable of performing only menial tasks. He had never been outside the limits of greater London and his field and mechanical skills were quite limited. He could not be left alone in the field, not more than 100 feet in the dense forest, or he would get lost for lack of any normal sense of direction. Shouting was of no avail as he seemingly had no ability to decipher the direction of a shout. The drillers nicknamed him "ze xxxxing Limey". Andrew was preoccupied with and had no tolerance for mosquitoes and flies, and the "Big Fellow" complained to me that the fly repellant canisters were being used up at an alarming rate. Each weekly helicopter supply run had to bring in several cases of repellant to keep up with the demand.

Andrew was consistently late for meals, as he was for most endeavors, but one particular dinner in mid-summer, when we had begun the meal while Andrew and one of the driller's helper were not yet there, the subject of discussion was Andrew. He had not been seen for a while and we were deciding where to look for him if he did not show up for dinner.
We were enjoying the delicacies on the table when we heard an unusual single thump coming from the distance. In unison we looked at each other wondering what that noise could have been, and after a few words continued eating. A few minutes later the canvas kitchen door flap ripped open and the missing French Canadian helper's head popped into the tent: "ze xxxxing Limey blew up ze xxxing toileeet."

Apparently our London friend could not stand the multitude of flying insects in the outhouse and would use an entire can of repellant to kill anything that moved in the compartment and the catch cistern below, before settling onto the seat. This one time he had sprayed just a little beyond the critical limit, and after sitting, when he lit his cigarette and threw the match down between his legs, the propellant-saturated ether exploded. It lifted him off the seat, threw him at the outhouse door, and out unto the plush green grass in front, which now, along with Andrew, was freckled with brown-colored lumps.

Variations about this event continued to amuse discussions for the rest of the short field season, most of them in laughing French, which I could not understand, except for the often-used word "Limey".

About a week after this incident, Andrew demanded a solo trip with the little used pickup truck into Hazelton. The road distance was not that far, perhaps 50 kilometers along a miserably bumpy and windy road that took a minimal of three hours to complete. I had experience with camp fever and understood that the urge to get out could become serious, so I agreed, but with the stipulation that he was to deliver two crucial letters to the Hazelton post office, which I still had to write that Saturday morning, letters that instructed the assay lab on what to do with the already helicopter-delivered latest core sample batch. Andrew was also commissioned with picking up the camp mail at the post office, which included crucial analytical results, necessary for planning future drilling.

Andrew waited an hour that morning until the letters with sample listings were complete. And as I handed him the two envelopes he bolted out the office tent, made a quick stop in the kitchen tent, and was on his way. Two hours after he left, Bruno brought over two fresh letters, which he had found on the dining table. I waited for Andrew to return, but he did not do so. Sunday morning we received a radio call from the RCMP, that they had in custody an Andrew Brown who claimed to be working on a project called Laura. He had gotten drunk and out of control, had not paid a dining bill, and had caused a car accident. Big Fellow and I drove down to Hazelton that afternoon, settled the score with the RCMP, and took Andrew under our custody. Andrew had picked up the incoming mail and found a letter from his mother stating that he had failed his first year at Imperial College's Royal School of Mines. He proceeded to get drunk and lost all the incoming mail, which was never recovered. Following a few days in camp, after securing his return tickets back to London, a driller drove Andrew down to the Smithers airport for his return home.


Obituary of Irving (Larry) Turner

I.L. (Larry) Turner, a mineral exploration and mine geologist, and a long-time resident of the Golden, Colorado area, was born December 20, 1929, and died, very appropriately, at the August 31, 2018 end of the 2018 US mining claims assessment year. To his frequent sorrow after the fact, his wife Louise predeceased him by 10 years. He is directly survived by their two (geologist) sons, Michael (spouse Georgia) and Larry (spouse Irene), and by their daughter, Tracy Jones (spouse Todd). Their grandchildren include Midori Krieger, Mika Turner (spouse Isaac), and Ryan and Rusty Turner (also geologists). Irving and Louise's great grandchildren are Ayana and Akira Krieger (parents Midori and Aaron), and Cora and Lucy Turner (parents Rusty and Missy).

After leaving Navy service as a meteorologist, I.L Turner completed undergraduate study of geology in 1958 at the Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, and then obtained a Masters degree in the field at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1960. His first employer (1960-1969) was the St. Joseph Lead Company, for whom he conducted work as a mine and exploration geologist in both the Old Leadbelt and in the Viburnum Trend of Missouri, and as an exploration geologist in Tennessee. In the late 1960s, Larry began working more specifically as a mineral exploration geologist, starting with Vanguard Exploration of Spokane (1969-1972), proceeding to NL Industries of Golden, Colorado (1972-1976), and then to Texasgulf Minerals, also of Golden (1976-1986). Following Leo Miller's tenure there in the same position, Larry became VP Exploration of Texasgulf. From 1986 to 2008, ILT worked as an independent geological consultant (Douglas Mountain Exploration), and with his son, Larry, in the mineral exploration activities of their company, DIR Exploration.

I.L. Turner was physically very active throughout his life, enjoying - besides geological fieldwork -wrestling, swimming, running, bicycling, canoeing, and carrying out the forest agricultural program he ran on the 90+ acres surrounding his and his wife's mountain home of 30 years. After breaking his hip at the age of 86 from a fall off of his newest mountain bike, Larry nevertheless continued moving vigorously, using a tadpole tricycle.

 


 

The DREGS collection of memoirs from this page can be found at www.dregs.org/memoirs.html