Casualties of Copper: The Berkeley Pit, Montana

While wiling away the little free time I had at my previous job, I ran across http://sometimes-interesting.com. The articles are fascinating, well written, and each article is illustrated with enough high-quality photographs to warrant second and third looks. I admit, the article I first landed upon was about the amount of bodies on Mt. Everest, which, if you’re into the harsh consequences of pushing Mother Nature’s boundaries, you should read: http://sometimes-interesting.com/2011/06/29/over-200-dead-bodies-on-mount-everest/

If you have a weak stomach, stay away from that one. (It is a good read, though. I personally loved it. It made me dig out a book on Everest that had slipped between all my other books.)

A few weeks later, Mr/Ms/Mrs. Sometimes-Interesting posted this:

Casualties of Copper: The Berkeley Pit, Montana.

Ka-pow! The article immediately grabbed me, with the instinctual thought I always have when I run across something out of my usual reading range: Did Enos see it? Will this tell me something about him that I didn’t know before? Just a little snippet, I’m not asking for much!

The Berkeley Pit was dug decades after Enos Mills had worked there. He never saw it. Enos quit working at the Anaconda Copper Mine in 1901, but his time there gave him a unique perspective on what can happen to an environment if we pay no heed to how our industry can affect nature. He was well aware that the juggernaut of American Industry couldn’t be stopped, and he did little to try to.

Enos A. Mills, about the time he landed the job at the Anaconda Copper Mine. Or, at least one of the few times anyone could get his hair to behave. I could do a blog post just on all the funny pictures of his hair. Love the tie, I bet it was yellow. My great-grandfather, rockin' the yellow polka-dotted tie in 1887. I love it.

Enos A. Mills, about the time he landed the job at the Anaconda Copper Mine. Or, at least one of the few times anyone could get his hair to behave. I could do a blog post just on all the funny pictures of his hair.  Love the tie, I bet it was yellow. My great-grandfather, rockin’ the yellow polka-dotted tie in 1887. I love it.

Enos instead focused his efforts on saving what precious lands remained, and keeping them protected for the sanity and health of all of us who get to visit these wild lands. I’m tremendously fortunate to live on the cusp of a national park. My situation is unique in that us Millses have been in the same valley since 1871, and have remained here in one way, shape, or form almost the entire time. For those of us who live in cities and industrial areas, getting a real breath of fresh air is sometimes a unique and cleansing experience, and exactly what Enos had in mind.

I found the article enlightening and more than a little heartbreaking, as I had not done much research on the Butte, Montana, area. I knew Enos had been there, and had worked there over the span of about 13 winters, traveling or returning to his homestead in the summer and autumn. To be honest, I don’t know much about Enos’ time in Butte. I’m sure some biographers have gone into great detail about it, or at least made some assumptions, but I’ve got other books to read. No one asks me about what he did in Butte. People ask me what Enos did for Rocky Mountain National Park.

I would like to visit Butte, someday. What’s offered online about the town is interesting in an overview sort of way, but it doesn’t really show me the Butte Enos lived and worked in. Although, I did come across this:

http://www.thedumasbrothel.com/

Hey, it’s the longest running house of ill repute in the continental United States! (I make no claims that Enos ever went there. I make no claims that Enos never went there, either.)

Enos says very little about Butte. I’ve always compared it to the icky day job that paid for his youthful jaunts. He belonged to the University Club, a Poetry Club, he played baseball with the company teams sometimes and learned his trade quickly. We know he read a lot, we have his library card. When Enos was there, every walk of life went through that town. It was a hub of excitement, progressive ideas, and probably smelled really interesting, too.

It was probably good pay, and something to tolerate until he could go on walkabout back to his homestead here, near Estes Park. I don’t feel all that compelled to talk about my years as a waitress. It paid the bills and I got to travel a little, and I learned a lot about food and booze and people. Probably not unlike what Enos went through.

As it is, I will be keeping my eye on http://sometimes-interesting.com. And, I’ll be keeping my eye on news from Butte. I love it when someone can open my eyes to something, keep it up, buddy!

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