EPISODE 86 EMBARASSING BEHAVIOUR….ANXIETY ATTACK
If you can stand to read this then do so. If you are queasy at the knees as I can be…then DO NOT READ THIS EPISODE 86
TODAY is Sunday july 26, 2020. I was released from hospital an hour ago…thankfully.
“What the hell are you doing in the hospital, Alan?”
“Give me a few minutes and I will tell you. the
events are not flattering…make me looks deranged.:
Marjorie and I returned to the city after a delightful meal at the farm
practicing social isolation and distancing with masks. All the goddamn
things we had been doing for the past four months.
“Marjorie what do you have for an upset stomach”?
“Something you ate?”
“Don’t know but hurts bad…like a ballon in my gut.”
“Book says ginger is good…I’ll make ginger tea…”
Cut to the qjuick here. After the usual panacea, water…We tried everything including apple vinegar
and honey. Next comes mint leaves, the BRAT DIET (banana, rice, applesauce, toast), then Iturned
to the internet…lime, lemon juice, baking soda ,
even considered Yarrow leaves from the garden.My gut hurt really bad…bloated.
I remembered uncle Norman said the vets used a big knife for bloated cattle because the choicewas a terrible choice. And I remembered him hauling out a dead bloated steer with the help ofthe man from the dead wagon.
“Christ, Marjorie this hurts but the internet says the worst thing
to do is lie down. So you go to bed and I will pace the floor until
this stuff works its way out my ass or my mouth.”
1.00 a.m. “Marjorie, wake up…we have to go the hospital fast. I think
it’s the gallstones again. Pain bad…really bad. Get up. Wake up.:”
We moved with speed of summer lightning…Mississauga Trillium Hospital…guards out front.1.30 a.m. “Just park anywhere …let me out. Ignore the guys in
“Hold on sir.”
“Let him go…he’s having an attack.”
“Then you can go no farther. lady.”
(I slipped by…in my pajamas with a spare shirt and my I phone.
Emergency room was empty…no one there. At other times there were dozens
but no one tonight ( July 25, 1.30 a.m.) Then a nurse appeared…got all the data needed
as I fumbled through my wallet. “I am in pain…bad” “how bad on scale 1 to 10?”
It was10…might be 8 now…”
“Here slip on this wrist band”
“Follow the arrows back there…someone will help ou.”
Alone, I walked, then heard tapping at a window and there
was Marjorie…thumbs up…I returned the gesture even
though my pajama bottoms wanted to fall down. The trail
led me to an assessment centre…
(Why 5…most distant room….hardly a room …tiny but large enough for terror to unfold)
“Let me take some blood, sir”
“What is your first name.”
“Caister” (may have got it wrong)
“There, got the blood, now get ready to give me a sample. I will
be back in a minute.”
(A minute was just to damn long. I snapped. Did not expect
to do so but anxiety attacks are almost spontaneous. They explode.And this is when things turned UGLY. real Ugly for
“ I started to scream…I can’t breathe! I CAN’T BREATHE! help me SOMEONE…FOR
CHRIST’S SAKE, I CAN’T BREATHE! I SCREAMED AND SCREAMED.
People came running. From where I do not know.
“HELP ME…HELP ME…NO BREATHE…GOING TO FAINT.”
They tried. Many people…maybe 6, maybe 10 all crowded into
this overgrown telephone booth. All yelling as well. “Give him air.
Calm down, sir. Sit Down Stand up. Stope yelling. breathe through
you nose not you mouth.”
“CAN NO ONE HELP ME. I CANNOT BREATHE.”
But you are breathing. “NOT ENOUGH AIR. LET ME OUT OF HERE.
SOMEONE HELP ME.:’
“QUICK, RUN AND GET THE ECG…FAST…”
“SIT DOWN, SIR.”
“I CAN’T SIT DOWN…CANNOT BREATHE.”
(I Tore off the hospital gown.)
“GOT TO STAND UP…DYING.”
“SWEATING LIKE A STUCK PIG…WATER POURING OFF.”
(The GUY WITH MY GOWN IS TRYING TO WAVE IT TO CalM ME DOWN.
BIG GUY, . HE CLEARS A TINY SPACE
FOR ME TO STAND UP…FANNING ME…I AM NEAR NUDE …SCREAMING LIKE
A MAD MAN.
(…6 to 10 of us…then the
ECG arrive on a trolley…wedged into the room…tottering.)
“I CAN’T BREATHE…HELP ME…SOMEONE HELP ME.”
“Here slap these patches on his body…anywhere…then we’ll
hook him to the ECG. Patches and then a forest of wires attached
while I am jumping around screaming…”I CAN’T BREATHE. I NEED
AIR..OXYGEN. AN AIR TANK FOR GOD’S SAKE”
Then the ECG starts to chatter while showing zig zags of my heart on a screen. Danger?
zigs and zags all looks the same. Cards piling up like an accordion. No strait line thankfully.
I glanced and remembered hospital shows on TV. Straight line on an ECG spells death.
“I CAN’T BREATHE. NEED AIR.”
“SIT DOWN SIR,”
“CAN’T SIT DOWN”
Some hands pushing me down, others helping me up. Too many hands.
Everybody yelling and the ECG chattering. Spewing out the last few moments
of my life.
“I CAN’T BREATHE FOR CHRIST’S SAKE…HELP ME…I NEED AIR..NEED AIR.”
Then someone wraps a plastic air pipe around my neck and is fumbling with
the pipe…air tank now in room as well.
Trying to reach my nose…jumping around“CAN’T BREATHE. DRY MOUTH…DRY MOUTH…DRY MOUTH”
A hand jams a capsule in my mouth and something sticks to the inside front
tooth. “DRY MOUTH…HELP ME…SOMEONE…CAN’T BREATHE.
“BUT YOU ARE BREATHING, SIR.”
“NOT ENOUGH. ONLY HALF BREATHES…NEED AIR…NEED AIR.”
(ECG machine has paper as long as the room by now. Someone takes
a look. I must be dying…but machine keeps chattering…no deadline…I am
alive but ‘I CAN’T BREATHE”
“CALM DOWN, SIR…TRY YOUR NOSE NOT YOUR MOUTH…YOU WILL
GET OVER IT…CLASSIC ANXIETY ATTACK…HE WILL GET OVER IT.”
THE guy with my gown now has a little more room. He starts to wipe me
down with the gown…meanwhile I am still yelling “I CAN’T BREATHE…DRY MOUTH…
WILL SOMEONE HELP ME.”
Little sticky patches allover my body…multi coloured wires.. “SIR , TRY TO RELAX.”
Eventually Iwound down … slowly …still yelling but without the short staccato yells …I am getting
more oxygen…someone holding the tank behind me…I am breathing…not well…not even
but I am breathing.
It was pandemonium. And I was the in the centre. But I really could not
breathe. Even though I was gulping air like a goldfish in a tank. Someone switched
off the ECG. I sat down. Then Caistor helped me onto a gurney. Wrapped me
in a new gown…must have been a new gown…my original was soaked.
INTERJECTION: TODAY I WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE SIX TO TEN PEOPLETHAT CROWDED IN THE ROOM TRYING TO HELP. GOOD PEOPLE. PART OFTHE HERO FORCE WE MAY NEED AGAIN. I WONDER HOW THEY WILL REMEMBERME? UNSTABLE? MAYBE ANXIETY ATTACKS ARE COMMON. PLEASE TAKE NOTE THAT ALL
THESE PEOPLE WERE TAKING RISKS TRYING TO HELP ME. I AM PARTICULARLY
“Taking you down for a CatScan, sir.”
“Drink these two tumblers…no rush but drink it all.”
The technicians fiddled around with my hands for a while and
once I was calm enough they fed me into the big donut like you
feed a frozen makerel to a whale.
“Try not of move sir…absolutely still”
I was worn out anyway. And I was breathing. The person who got
the air tank handed to the CatScan technician and disappeared.
What I am trying to describe to you is a classic example of aN Anxiety Attack.
It happened suddenly without warning. The source was stress and fear. I am81 years old. My 50 year old daughter in law died last week. Tragic. Everyone in turmoil.My memory kept drawingup a memory from the even deeper past. A moment of sheer terror in France.
The reason for my Panic Attack was clear to me as I tried to
explain to others. Several years ago I had trouble coming
out of an anesthetic at a nice hospital in the south of France.
I had fallen off a cliff while trying to get a better angle picture
of a beautiful lavender field. Bashed myself up badly and broke
my wrist. The operation was a success. Unfortunately I had trouble
coming out of the anesthetic. I opened my eyes, saw Marjorie
across the room…but I could not breathe. My lungs would not work
correctly as they must have been tuned to some kind of lung
machine. It took a couple of minutes for me to adjust. Terrifying
minutes that made me fear anisthesia.
So this anxiety attack was not funny.
It was not funny at the time. Sounds funny now. But I know it was
not funny. I really thought I was going to die…to smother to death
right there and then. with 6 to 10 people watching and an ECG machine
chattering and Caistor with my gown fanning me.
A few weeks earlier I had arrived here in emergency witha gall stone lodged in the neck of my gall bladder. Pain thatI had no wish to ever meet again. pain that lasted 5 days…no sleep…three of those days in a hospital bed. Then the moment the surgeonwas about to cut, the pain ended. The stone slipped off. No pain.I told the surgeon in plain terms “If it ain;t busted, don’tfix it.”Get me out of here. I was released. What a relief. a bunchof men were out in the lot building an emergency hospital forthe expected rush of Covid 19 patients. I did not want to be around for that.The surgeon knew an operation was the best choice but he also knewwhat was coming with the Pandemic. “I will get it removed in a coupleof weeks when the pandemic dies down. That idea was wrong. We arenow nearly at the end of July. The Pandemic is still hereNo delay…no smart ass comment like “If it ain;t busted, don’t fix it.”
So I kept my mouth shut while Dr. Zilbert pushed on my stomach.“Where does it hurt?”“Right there, Dr.”He seemed to already know about my case. Maybe the fuss down in theEmergency room had reached his ears. Maybe the CatSkan was clear.Bottom line I was admitted and wheeled into a ward passing throughlong empty hallways with no one visible. The Mississauga Trillim hospital
like hospitals across Canada was half empty as the nation waited
to see what Covid19 was going to do..I was in the middle of noman’s, nowoman’s lamd.
I was in the midst of the care workers I had been reading aboutjust a day earlier…nurses, doctors, orderlies, sweepers, cooks,…many people.
And I was afraid.
Fear. Pure and simple. Fear. That is one reason for panic attacks
like mine. There can be other reasons but for me it was the fear
I would wake up and not be able to breathe.
An orderly took over the gurney from the CatsSkan operator
and landed me in Room 213 at the Mississauga Trillium Hospital.’
“Would you like the window, sir?”
“Sure would. Last time I was here Got a window.”
“When was that ?”
“First week of March…same time you were emptying the hospital expectng
Covid19 infested patients by the hundreds.:
“Why were you admitted?”
“Terrible pain….Gall stone lodged in my Gall Bladder….stomach
blown up like a dead pig in a farm field. Scale of 10 over 10
for pain. Did not sleep for 5 days…three of those days here
“How did we reduce the pain?”
“Morphine and lots of it. Have you ever had a morphine trip?
“I had three days and nights on Morphine…right outside my window
I had morphine trips that were great. One night a circus arrived
with a big brown bear up a telephone tree that slowly turned into
an oak or maple tree as the bear looked at me in friendly way. Not
a hungry bear There was a little white Jack Russel dog that tipped
me off that a trip was about to happen. Cute little dog. Then some
big sailing ships flooded by with people aboard…silent people.And on the shore a bunch of men were trying to pull downa big tree by hand. My room moved closer….a young womansitting cross legged idly plucking rose petals from a huge silverbowl. Others standing on high poles as a building waslowered from the sky for the men and women to bolt in place..”“No morphine on the orders today.”
“No, the pain has eased…down to a 5…tolerable…If it skyrocketed
you will turn to morphine.”
“Let’s hope that does not happen.”
Dr.Zilbert and others arrived at my bedside and did a little probing
and said the magic word…”Surgery soon” And away they went.
A bubbly Filipino nurse arrived with a tub of soapy water. Big smile.“Would you like a bath, sir?”
“Here you wash your face, I will do the rest of you.”And she did…swiftly…even the underparts. She was fast andcheerflull but no debate invited. She had two little toddlers of her own…so
risky situation for her.
I had two nurses…my day nurse was Agnes, my nightnurse was Maria. Two people who took charge of peoplelike me every two or three days. They just took chargeof my every movement. They checked my heart and temperatureevery two hours. Agnes jabbed me with needles that suckedmy blood and another needle to prevent blood clotting.They put meto bed and got me up. They were always just a buzzer away.“Agnes, can you get a message to Dr. Zilbert?”“I can try…he is a busy man.”AGNES…MY DAY SHIFT NURSEAgnes and Maria and others seemed to like collecting my blood. I was beyond caring by then.
“I am terrified of the anisthetic. I fear arepeat of an experience in France wheremy breathing was compromised. Tell himI am scared.
“When is the operation planned.?”“We never know. First we must get you ready.No food today. just cups of tiny ice cubes thatyou can eat one at time.”MY WASHER, BATHER, BED MAKER….DRESSER (NEW GOWNS) BENEATH THAT MASK IS A BIG SMILE. AS YOU CAN SEE.MARIA….MY NIGHT SHIFT NURSEAnd Maria, my night nurse followed the same routines.
MARIA would like everyone to appreciate FRONT LINERS like her and so many others. That is one reason I am writing this story
“When will they operate, MARIA?”“We never know…operations go on here night and day.”“Today?”“Best you just suck on ice cubes and sleep.”On that I fell asleep… only to be gently awakenedat 1 a.m. IN the morning. The night was dark and hot..
THE SURGERY“Wake up, Alam/““Not more blood…have I any remaining””“Getting you ready for surgery.”“At 1 a.m….middle of the night?”“Surgery goes 24/7.”
So I rolled myself onto another gurney and was wheeled through the dark and
“There you are, sir.”
The orderly slid my gurney into a dark corner where I could see no one at first and then
Some time later Agnes awoke me…around 6.30 a.m.
And a whole bunch of people began to assess me. Heart. Temperature. Blood, of course.
P.S. Why do I want this rather sorry behaviour put in print? Simple answer. I am very
EPISODE 86 I FOUND A LEOPARD FROG AMONG THE WILD FLOWERS…JULY 2020
I was not really looking for the little fellow. Figured there were no Leopard Frogs
Sent from my iPhone
MINING CAGESTHIS mining cage in England…Cornwall…was a luxury when compared to the shaky laddersof Knockmahon. Even so, this mining cage was dangerous…if the cable broke, the men weredoomed.The term ‘cage’ will occur again and again in the next few Episodes. Mining cages delivered minersquickly to the ore faces. At Bunmahon, in Ireland, we discoveredshafts but there never were any cages. Meaning that the miners had to climb down800 to 900 metres on a series of wooden ladders. And they did so in the dark.Can.Met. was a modern mine. it had all the benefits of electricity, modern machinery like bull dozers and Scooptrucks, power drills, lots of dynamite…and some union protection.
On May 14, 1960,” waiting for us was a ‘Scoop”…sort of a spliced dump truck and bulldozer. We piled into
“She’s the last vehicle below,” greeted Harry MacGinnis who would be our escort through thedarkness. Most mechanical aspects of the mine had already been withdrawn includingthe electric light system. The mine was not a pretty sight below ground as the wallswere dirty and sticky…black from the dust of blasting and sticky from the black smokeof vehicles like our Scoop Mobile.We did 293 determinations today using the Ronka. When our miners lights are turned offthe darkness is absolute. A blackness that only a miner would understand. Ventillationis a problem as is radiation which stands at 292 when the normal human toleration is 100.
We would only be here a few days though. Regular miners spent years here.
Geologist John Hogan is down here represents Dennison Mines. Wh am I down here? Hardto know. My job is to get as much information using the Ronka as possible. This informationhas no possible use for the mine can never be reopened as the pillars werepulled when the stopes were abandoned. Pillars were made by cutting around natural
rock… pillars then sculpted Pillars contained.
of high grade ore so were recovered as the last part of a stope. Occasionally we would hear a great dull ‘whump’where part of the mine ceiling collapsed. No pillars left to hold up the roof.
At the same time the roof was collapsing, Can Met mine was filling withwater. Sometimes we had to wade through low points. Eventually the whole mine wll beflooded but right now it is explorable…barely. So why am I down here? I have no idea.For the past 60 years I have wondered why we did this job in an abandonedand collapsing Uranium mine. I have no answer. Were we testing the Ronka.
Or were we testing the instrument man before he went to Ireland. Not likely the
Harry loved to tell stories about mining in general and Can. Met. in particular. Amusing barelybelievable stories perhaps with a kernel of truth or perhaps fully factual. I rememberhis stories to this day. My journal confirmed my memory.If I might make light of the job, I could say we were down there just so Harry MacGinniswould have an opportunity to entertain us…otherwise he would be all alone. The last man out,as it were. Here are some of his stories…outlandish…maybe true…maybe partly true…maybeinvented through hearsay. All of them a bit unsettling.1) “A lot of dead men down here…some still under the rock falls. We call the big blocksthat fell “Portuguesers” because some of the men under those boulders were Portugueseimmigrants” Between 1955 and 1996 when the last mine closed at Elliot Lake more than 130 men were
fatally injured. As to the truth of Harry’s stories I am not sure. He had lots of stories.2) “You know how you can tell that a mine is good…about to open up and hire miners?”“No idea.”“Hookers arrive. If the hookers arrive then the mine is good for sure.”3) “To get a job as a waitress with Crawley and McCraken, the girls did double duty as hookers.”4) “That radiation count was a worry. The more time underground here, the more radiationexposure. What’s the count today…292…almost three times acceptable level.”
“The conditions in Elliot Lake are not the best conditions to work in to survive a normal life span. If anybody does not like to go to the hospital with lung cancer, he should have a very close look at the Elliot Lake situation before he signs on as an employee of either one of the companies. We believe that the companies should not have the right to expose people to conditions that will cause bodily harm. There has to be a clean-up programme before we can definitely advise people to seek employment in Elliot Lake.” (Paul Falkowski, United Steel Workers of America, Environmental Representative – June 1976)5) “No one checking roof bolts anymore. Some are popping loose. The pillars were pulledwhen the stopes were abandoned. Damned dangerous for all of us. Knew a shift boss whogot telescoped by chunk from the mine ceiling…”“Did you say telescoped?“He was suddenly a much shorter man if you know what I mean.”6) “Poor old Can Met is filling with water…deeper every day.”7) “A lot of million dollar machines are not worth taking to the surface. Emerge like ghostsin our lamplight beams.”8) “Stealing becomes a way of life.”9) “Men are just walking away from those houses they mortgaged…hoped the bank would let them.”10) “What the fuck are you doing down here anyway?”ASIDE: Harry’s use of the F—— word made me do a lot of thinking in 1960. Thinking that haspopped into my mind now and then over the last 60 years. What the fuck was I doing down atthe bottom of an abandoned uranium mine? Second week of May,1960. Just a week earlierI was writing U. of T. exams in Russian History, the philosophy of Emmanuel Kant and othernon-engineering courses. That ended on May 7. By May 14, I was cursing and swearing inthe darkness of Can. Met where low grade uranium had been extracted, then enriched in someway to make Uranium 235 so unstable that a tiny bit of that element could be detonatedproducing enough energy to kill thousands of people and devastate whole cities like Toronto.I had the presence of mind to slip a shard of that uranium ore into my pocket. The uranium, about 1%of the shard, is nestled somewhere in the rather pretty pebbly conglomerate. Every once in a whileI open my desk drawer and there the shard rests.Somewhere inside this shard of Elliot Lake uranium ore there are tiny flecks of uranium I imagine. This is my only reminderof the Elliott Lake adventure.“How the fuck did I ever find myself 2000 feet deep in the bowels of the earth?” Pure chance…good luck really. A few years earlier whenI was a student at Humberside Collegiate in West Toronto I wondered what I would do with my life. What could I do? I was a middle of the packkind of person…not the top, not the bottom. Comfortable in the middle. Homework was always avoided. So on one spring day I wondered whatI could make of my life. What was I good at? Dancing, chasing girls, football, camping, hitch hiking, talking, Rover Scouts? No jobs there. But there was an answer. Theschool had given us barrages of IQ tests over the years. Multipole choice things which I took seriously. Some of my friends treated thosetests as jokes and just marked the little boxes without reading the questions. Finished fast. Must have got IQ of rabbits. I took my time. Maybe there was an answer there.
This is a picture of our 38th Scout Rover Crew. We had just got our kilts. In the 1950’s and 1960’s Scouting was popular. My first job in miningexploration happened because the mining boss, Gus Schlitt, felt Boy Scouts were ideal employees. He asked mom and suddenly
my brother and I were deep in the Canadian wilderness. I travelled alone to Chibougamau, northern Quebec. Spoke high
It was a tough job in thebush of Northern Quebec.(continued):What was I good at? I dropped in on the guidance counsellor. Nobody there. The filing cabinets were not locked so I pulled out the “S” drawer andfound my name. There was one big Bar Graph that shocked me. I had a great long line under which it said ‘abstract reasoning’. What thehell is abstract thinking? I had no idea. Most disconcerting was my low level of mechanical ability when compared to abstract thinking.Shocked me. Up to that point I wanted to be some kind of an engineer. My forest ranger fantasy had ended years earlier. Low mechanicalability? That must mean I would not be a good engineer. Or so I thought. I must keep that secret since every summer I did engineeringtype work and loved it. Yet I was not supposed to ge good at it. The shock made me more diligent believe it or not. As it turns out all human
beings use both kinds of reasoning…abstract and concrete. The engineering door was not closed. I just thought
(Human beings are both concrete reasoners and abstract reasoners. But one or the other dominates apparently. How would youknow which you are? Really I have no idea. A concrete thinker follows a recipe while making soup. An Abstract reasoner says ‘To hellwith the recipe, I can make my own soup’ and proceeds to pile in whatever seems available. Maybe even an old rubber boot. Get theidea? I wish I had not looked at that bar graph.)I only saw that one bar graph. The guidance teacher arrived back from lunch. She was incensed.“Just what are you doing here?”“Trying to find out my future’”“Well that is secret information…none of your business…now get out of here.”Strange. A guidance counsellor who had secret files on every student. But kept them hidden forever. No matter. It took some time to get over the shock ofthat bar graph. Changed my life. I wish abstract thinking had been explained to me. Then perhaps I would have become somekind of engineer. I do like to figure things out for myself rather than follow step by step instructions. I did manage to puzzle outhow to use a slice rule when I had to do so. I did read manuals but when necessary.. Concrete thinkers like step by stepinstructions. Abstract thinkers like to figure things out for themselves. That would make me a bad cook.7 signs you may be an abstract thinkerWHAT ARE WE DOING 2,000 FEET DOWN AN ABANDONED URANIUM MINE”Let’s get back to Harry’s question. “What the fuck are you doing down here…2000 feet down in the Can Met mine?”I have wondered about that question for a long time.SUNDAY MAY 15, 1960We used a machine like this to explore the abandonedpassageways of Can Met. All of us in the bucket exceptthe driver.We are living in the Senior Staff House, a kind of hotel reserved for Can. Met big shots. A beautiful ranch house structure that hasnever been fully used and is now vacant at a cost of $100,000. Lots of other vacant buildings such as the single men’sbunk house and 22 houses built for families along with the huge mill and related machinery on top of the two shaftsthat descend 2000 feet below surface.We went underground at 8 a.m. My crew consisted of Bob McConnell, Allan Pegler, Joe Weber and Harry MacGinnis…allemployees of Can. Met. A motorized ‘Scoop” was waiting for us and then we travelled through the main passageway to the eastern borderof the mine. This Scoop would be The last vehicle in the mine except for wrecked vehicles.WERE WE SAFE?“That’s fresh ‘loose’ you hear falling,” announced Harry. ‘Loose’ refers to pieces of rock falling fromthe mine ceiling where roof bolts have loosened. Not a nice thought.“This is the spot where our shift bosses ‘telescoped’ by falling ‘loose”.“Are there many such accidents?”“A Cat driver over in the Panel Mine drove right into the grizzly and was mashed to a pulp.”
“What is a ‘grizzly’?”
“Why is that Danger Sign pulled aside?”“Special treatment for us … we can go anywhere we want… likely safe enough.”“These stopes have been sealed off as dangerous.”“Then what are we doing here?”“We do what we are told.”Then we set up the Ronka in a pattern that looked logical. Difficultto arrange a grid with right angles but no alternative. Then we Sat for lunchon what Harry called a ‘Potugueser’ and had lunch. The lump of rockwas as big as a half ton truck. When it fell there was a man underneath.
“He is still there…never saw the rock moved.”
Many new Canadian immigrants find work as miners. In the 1960’s manyPortugue immigrated to Canada. According to Harry the body was neverremoved. True or false? No idea.MONDAY MY 16, 1960A new motor was scheduled to arrive in Sprague this morning. We spent time plotting what datawe had. Harry kept us entertained with his library of mining fiascos.“Can Met invested $36,000 in an air conditioning system that never worked.”“There are Jumbo vehicles down here that cost $50,000 but never worked.”“The haulage ways and stopes are filled with abandoned equipment…it’s liketravelling through a graveyard.”
He actually never spoke these words. To speak like Harry try adding
This huge machine could drive roof bolts into the ceiling of Can Met.The bolts combined with heavy metal netting helped prevent mine collapse.They needed constant attention.Meanwhile, we set up the motor generator and laid out our spread wire through this partof the mine. In some places we had to crawl through ceiling rubble.Joe Weber, an ex-Nazi, said he ‘was released from his war crimes in 1953.’ Joe hadno kind words for Csn. Met. which he said was a company founded on greed.Uranium mining is not the best kind of mining because the market is saturatedquickly. Rush to market can cause safety problems. Joe was an unhappy man.Harry MacGinis kept referring to ‘the whorehouse’. a metaphor which confused me a bit.“What whorehouse, Harry?”“The Company warehouse…each time we go there we get fucked.”Then Joe piped in.“Can Met lost $1,500 worth of gas each month…stolen.”“There was $50,000 worth of spare parts ordered for a nonexistent truck.”My crew loved telling these stories. Sounded true but who really knows. Theftis common among miners. (*Remember the Yukon story?) High graders in the gold
mines are quite famous in Timmins, Ontario. Books are written about them. Where
TUESDAY MAY 17, 1960How did machines as big as this ever get 2,000 feet down the shafts at Can Met? The ‘Cage’ had to be large even if themachines were taken down in pieces. This was brought back up when the mine was abandoned. many others were just abandonedin the stopes and passageways far below. These wrecks startled me as they suddenly appeared in our cones of light from our helmet lamps.Today Harry MacGinnis came into the cook house reeling drunk after spending thenight at what he calls the Legion which is ‘just a shack built in the woods bythe boys’ Seems drinking binges are common…at least according to Harry.By 8.30 a.m. we were down in the mine finishing up our resistivitywork and then began hauling in our base line cable. Just walking alone inthe dark with a cone of light from my mining helmet was an experience…combinationof mystery, fear ad curiosity. Often large objects would suddenly burst uponthe cone of light…startling. Silence and blackness. Back at the ScoopI took a picture of the boys but my flash bulb exploded . The Sound was like a cannonas it echoed down the dark passageway.Today Harry decided to take the Pope apart then shifted back to isfavourite target…his mother in law. “She is harder than a whore’s heart.”Job complete. Contrast between my two worlds…the sophistication of theUniversity of Toronto and the earthiness at the bottom of Can Met uranium mine.Which do you find more interesting?WENESDAY MAY 18, 1960Train heading home. Phoned Marjorie as soon as I reached Sudbury from Elliot Lake. Sonice to hear her voice. I wonder how she would have liked the mine experience. Then onto Toronto where Eric met me at West Toronto Station. Drove Eric to his postas lifeguard on Toronto’s notorious Cherry beach then on to the company HQ.on O’Connor Drive.Flooyd Faulkner is getting married on Saturday. Floyd has been a real leaderof men with a tricky sense of humour. He calls me ‘Fucking Al’ for instance andhas done that ever since the terrible Groundhog River job back in 1957. We livedtogether in the wilderness for nearly three months…only contact was an occasionalfood drop and the emergency evacuation of poor Walter Helstein who had fallen onan alder picket and pierced his hand with subsequent screaming infection. That jobwas a test of endurance and privation. So I accepted the nickname with good humour.Roughest job I ever had. How rough? We had to cut the blowfly larva off our sides of bacon for instance.Floyd had been a cage operator in Kirkland Lake until his other shift operator wasmushed into jelly when the cage cable broke. Floyd quit that job…resolved toonly work on the surface thereafter.The day after his marriage he will fly to Hudson’s Bay for three months on a geophysical job.This business can be hard on family life.I picked up my passport and healthcertificate today. Shortly I will fly to New York…then Glasgow….then Dublin.Our equipment should arrive by ship about the time I land.
Gord Brand said “Short job for you in Kinmount for two days…canyou get your car…pay 9 cents a mile?” “Sure”Dad is mad…hates to lose the car as trip from West Toronto to Whitbyplant is a nightmare by street car and bus. The only redeeming factor in thatcross Toronto trip is that the Racetrack is at the mid point. Whether goingto work or coming home he could stop to lay a bet or two. Harder by streetcar.THURSDAY MAY 19, 1960The Kinmount site…a known anomaly where E.M. machines could be tested. That’s our family 1953 Meteor. What cannot beseen are the clouds of black flies and mosquitoes…dense clouds of them sucked blood in May each year.The Arizona crew testing their equipment. Initially I was slated to join this crew but suddenly the Irish job materialized.Left for Kinmount at 6 a.m. travelling north east on largely empty roads. Sawtwo cow moose that ran beside me for a short distance just east of Kinmount.Our test site was on a barely visible grassed ever bush road where Imet Gord Brand and Paul Head who had set up the large new Induced Polarizationunit. Operatonal . Lunch consisted of a case of IPA…Ale. Then I spent theafternoon laying spread wires through the bush. Came upon one shackcontaining many dead porcupines. A mystery. Porcupines are rare andsupposed to be protected.Drove to Peterborough in the evening. Staying at Rock Haven Motel.Two big turtles on the side of the road…a Snapping Turtle and a Painted Turtle.Paul Head told stories about the Arizona job where I was supposed togo until Ireland came along. The Irish job seems to be a bit of amystery.
In Arizona near the Mexican border
Apparently one of our guys got tangled up in a fast marriagedown there and had to be rescued by the company. The story was moreearthy than I describe which made me wonder about the truth of thematter As with all stories told.FRIDAY MAY 20, 1960After a great breakfast we drove back to the job site…from triple lane highway todouble lane to single lane to gravel road to turf road…to the job site again.The month of May is the worst month for blood sucking insects…clouds ofblack flies trying to bite lumps of flesh and burrowing their way along tight brltlinesor squirrelling into ears…then mosquitoes by the thousands. The females wantand need human blood…or any other kind of blood. We managed to only get1.5 miles of readings done. This instrument can be dangerous …shock value of 500 volts.So we were careful.SATURDAY MAY 21, 1960We got a good early start today. Working fast, pushed to do so by the cloudsof bloody insects. We finished the job by 6.30 p.m. and I took off immediatelyfor Toronto arriving home at 9.30…covered 250 miles in three hours.Dad spent part of the evening killing black flies that were still trappedin the car….and cursing me in his usual hilarious way. Dad knew theKinmount job site because I took the family there a year ago. Whenwe arrived at the grassed over end point, I asked:“Well, Dad, what do you think of it?”“Get me out of this goddamned bastardly bush this goddamn minute.”Mom, Eric and I often laugh when we think of that comment by Dad.This is my Dad, Red Skeoch, who made cursing sound like pop music.SUNDAY MAY 22,1960Drove to farm with mom and dad. Rain and fog but we got a few plants in theground then drove up to visit Frank and Lucinda (mom’s brother on the next farm north of ours) ..returning to Cherry Beach to pick up Eric from his lifeguard job. Eric has a lot of great storiesabout lifeguarding. Like the time he held his binoculars to his eyes and announced…”Screwingmatch over there!” “Where? Where?” And Eric opened his hand. “Right here” showing a Screw anda match in his hand. I thought that was hilarious. He had other stories best not put in print.It had been a grand day.Our dog Peter had a great day prancing around in the mud. Not so goodfor the car though.MONDAY MAY 23, 1960Bought some 35 mm film at Honest Ed’s on the way to Cherry Beach with Eric.Then Dad and I went to the horse races at Old Woodbine. Dad was inhis element.“We’ll get into the club house unless you bugger things up.”“What must I do.”“Nothing. Just look straight ahead with no expression. Do notlook at the ticket booth. Act like you own the place. Follow me.”Dad knew the guys in the ticket booth. No problem. I lost a coupleof dollars but Dad seemed to make a few. Later we picked up Ericand had supper at Bassil’s Restaurant before returning homeTUESDAY MAY 24, 1960Barry Nichols gave me my flight.tickets along with $300 expense money.Gord Brand and Paul Head left by Land Rover for the Arizona job.I handed in my expense account for our car…$49.31…covered 480 milesin three days.Dan Bereskin arrived from Saskatoon as a seismic assistant and wasimmediately shipped off to the gas pipeline job near Niagara Falls.WEDNESDAY MAY 25, 1960Back at office. Everyone seems a little envious that I got the Irish job.All is ready.WEDNESDAY MAY 25, 1960Today I took several uranium samples to the Rover Scout crew.Rested.THURSDAY MAY 26, 1960I did nothing today except look up my friends checked my bag.FRIDAY MAY 29, 1960Final briefing day. Dr. Norman Paterson asked me to demonstratehow the AFMag worked. Sort of strange because I thought he kneweverything. Maybe he was just checking me out…not the AFMag.Then we had one of the secretaries type up my report on theAFMag. That was a strange experience for sure because shecalled me ‘Dr. Skeoch’ Seemed strange.Then Barrie Nichols took me aside.“Alan, you must pretend to be a permanent employee withvast experience running the Turam E. M. unit. Can youdo that?”“Sure…no one else seems to know the machine.”I picked up the volt meters and went home.SATURDAY MAY 28, 160Shopping day…technical books, rainwear, self-timer, filter for camera,map case. Talked with Marjorie. We get along so well.Thirty tomato plants for the farm then back to the racetrackwith Dad. In evening Mom and I went to see The Man from Havanawith Alex Guinness.SUNDAY MAY 29, 1960Uncle Art, Uncle Norman and Cousin ‘Long’ John arrivedat the farm to have a beer with Dad…his brothers and nephew. I went over to Red Stevenson’s placefor coffee in the evening…always welcome there…nice feeling.MONDAY MAY 30, 1960Mrs. Stewart next door wondered if I would drop in on her Momin Glasgow since I had a bit of a layover. Promised to do so. Mr.Cook drove me to the airport where Doug and Harry had arrivedto wave me off. TCA stewardess nice. The airport in New York isimmense. KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines had a man sent to meet meand escort me to the right terminal. Boarded at 6.25 after a long rush.Nine hour flying time. Dutch are very friendly.TUESDAY MAY 31, 1960Landed Prestwick airport south of Glasgow. Had been a landingpoint for World War II bombers … at least the planes that survivedthe long flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Rather depressing place.Spent much of the day in Glasgow. Long lines of heavy stone tenementsturned black from coal fires. Visited Mrs. Stewart’s Mom who had prepareda special steak with a fired egg on top. Because of the blackened tenement buildingI expected the residents to be unhappy. The reverse was true … cheerful place. I wasintroduced to other tenants and taken on a tour of Glasgow. Then back toPrestwick for the fight to Dublin.WEDNESDAY JUNE 1, 1960AT last I arrived in Dublin, Ireland. Ready for the job.But equipment had not arrived at Arbuckle, Smith andCompany. No Turam. I will have to wait in Dublin. Who knowshow long. Fell asleep three times today. Very tired. Being alonein a new city is not all that pleasant.Kevin Behan …wife and daughters …made my days in Dublin enjoyable. They did not have to do that. Irish hospitality.I phoned Mrs. Behan who some friends had suggested as a Dublincontact. She was full of joy. “My husband Kevin will be arriving from Italy shortly,we want you to come out to the house immediately.” Andso began my days in Dublin’s fair city…”END EPISODE 85(THIS EPISODE LINKS BACK TO THE FIRST IRISH EPISODE)alan skeochJuly 2020
Begin forwarded message:
From: ALAN SKEOCH <email@example.com>Subject: Re: EPISODE 84 WHAT WERE WE DOING AT THE BOTTOM OF AN ABANDONED URANIUM MINE AT ELLIOTT LAKE (MAY 1960)?Date: July 22, 2020 at 11:41:45 AM EDT
EPISODE 84 WHAT WERE WE DOING AT THE BOTTOM OF AN ABANDONED URANIUM MINE AT ELLIOT LAKE (MAY, 1960)?alan skeochJuly 2020Note: For those of you who read my Episodes dealing with Bunmahon and mining experiences in Southern Ireland you
might find the days prior to my arrival in Ireland interesting. Underground at an abandoned uranium mine near Elliot Lake
I JUST found this picture taken by Barney Dwan as we crawled through the old adits of the Knockmahoncopper mine on the south coast of Ireland. The picture is not relevant to the story below but should be includedin the Bunmahon stories. The contrast between Knockmahon mine (1840 – 1875) and the Can Met minein Elliot Lake (1955 – 1960, below) will be apparent. In Elliot Lake the passageways were big enough to drive large minetrucks. In Ireland, the miners had to squeeze through tight places.MY JOURNALMONDAY MAY 9, 1960University exams over on Friday May 7. Job started on Monday May 9. Each summer Ihoped to be re-employed by Hunting Technical and Explorations Servies because the jobswere so exciting even he work was always exhausting and living conditions far from luxurious sincemost jobs were in some god forsake corner of the world like last summer on the barren landsof western Alaska about 100 miles inland from the Bering Sea. From some points on that treelessArctic and sub Arctic shore. Desolate and infested with every blood sucking fly imaginable.So remote that we were armed with 30 – 06 rifles lest a Kodiak bear felt we were choice bitsof flesh. That never happened. Kodiak bears had lots and dead and dying salmon to gorgeupon and, anyway, I was told the bears thought we smelled bad which was believable sincebathing was not high on our agenda.Barrie Nichols met me at the office door on 1450 (?) Oconnor Road in East Toronto.“Alan, you will be going to Arizona on a job near the Mexican border…leaving this week.”“Snakes in Arizona?”“I suppose so…check out what to do if bitten if you wish.”“Right…says here that should a rattle snake bite you or a fellow crew member to makesure the wound is bleeding then suck out the blood and the venom…spit it out. Do not swallow.”“What if I am alone and the snake bites my leg?”“Could be tough problem.”“Might be best to hire Plastic Man (a comic book superhero in 1960) for the job, Mr. Nichols.”“Very funny.”Phoned home at lunch“Hi Mom, I will be going to Arizona this week…need bush clothes for hot weather.”“There are snakes in Arizona, Alan…bad snakes.”“Already prepared for that mom.” (Did not mention… blood, snake venom and sucking as a firstaid solution.)“They have hospitals down there.”Then Barrie Nicholls called me to his office in the afternoon.“Change of plans, Alan, you are not going to Arizona…sending Hilkar and Faulkner.”“Where am I going then?”“Southern Ireland.”“There are no snakes in Ireland…some religious guy drove them out…”“Very funny, Alan…but your are correct.”“No need practice blood sucking.”“What did you say…sorry I was not listening.“Noting important … When do I leave?”“Not sure yet…it will take a while to fill out the documents and crateup the equipment.”“What instrument will I be using?”“The Turam with a back up Ronka.”“Turam…same one we used in Alaska?”“Same one.”“Why me? Bill Morrison was the Turam expert.”“We don’t know where he is.”“And Don Van Every, Ian Rutherford, Mike Chinnery…all the Alaska crew.”“None of them around…just you. Do your remember how to use the Turam?”“Sure.” (said with a slight pause)“Dr. Paterson and I are counting on you Alan. It would be a good ideanot to mention to our contractor that you are a University student. Act likea permanent employee.”(Under my breath…”In other words be confident”…my interpretation.)“No worries.”“Dr. John Stam will be working with you…Phd. in Geophysics. Dutchman. He willdo the interpretation. All you have to do is get the raw material…the data…to him.”“Do I read you correctly Mr. Nichols…I will be in charge of the instrumentsand the field work.” (Wow, what a responsibility)“Right.”“Who will be working with me?”“Nobody…you will hire and train an Irish crew at Bunmahon…a villageon the south coast of Ireland.. We are counting on you , Alan.”“I know that…won’t let you down…do not worry.” (spoken with a confidenceI did not really feel.)“Now start carting up the gear…looks like 11 crates of equipment…get the crates madesomewhere…good strong crates for the ocean voyage.”“Do you mean I am going to Ireland by ship.?”“No you will fly…but the crates will travel by sea.”Later in the Afternoon of June 9, 1960“Hello Mom, I will not be going to Arizona.”“That’s a relief.”“Why?”“Because, Alan, there are no snakes in Ireland”Spent the rest of the afternoon signing documentsand arranging for my passport.TUESDAY MAY 10, 1960By chance I was sent on the Alaska job in 1959. My partner Bill Morrison was an expert who showed me how to set up the Turam E. M. unit.
I never expected to be the sole operator in 1960. Bill had gone on to other things. Lucky I made notes. Suddenly…those notes were crucial.
The Turam method is one of the oldest geophysical electro-magnetic methods used for mineral exploration, devised by Erik Helmer Lars Hedstrom in 1937. Its name is derived from Swedish “TU” (two) and “RAM” (frame), referring to the two receiving coils.
MethodAn insulated cable a few hundred meters to several kilometers long is laid parallel to the geological strike direction. The cable is either grounded at both ends or laid out in a large loop, and energized at low frequencies (less than 1 kHz). Two receiving coils are moved on lines outside of and perpendicular to the long side of the loop or grounded cable and two components of the resultant field are measured. The primary field generated by the large loop or cable interacts with the soil and subsoil and with a conductive body if present which could be a mineral and creates a resultant electromagnetic field. The electromagnetic field is measured according to two values: the Field Strength Ratio and the Phase Difference occurring between the two receiving coils . It is a fixed source horizontal loop method. Separation of the two moving coils is usually from 10 to 30 metres. Using an AC bridge (also called compensator bridge), Field Strength Ratio is measured in percent and Phase Difference in degrees. In-phase (Real) and quadrature (Imaginary) values can be calculated from these data. Observed field strength ratio readings are used to calculate reduced ratios using a formula determined by the loop size and shape or the grounded wire length and the position of the receiving coils relative to the loop or grounded wire. The Turam method is a frequency domain method and in a way is the precursor of the time domain fixed loop methods. It is claimed to have detected large flat lying conductors to a depth of 400 metres.I will be expected to operate and set up both the Turam E.M. (electro magnetic) unitand the Ronka Electricial resistivity units. All the equipment must be ready for shipmentby boat to Ireland tomorrow….must with, measure, label, itemize everything and packin 8 crates. Crates no good though…need to get new crates built.Eric (brother) and I went to a movie in evening after getting Rev. Currie to authenticatemy passport application.I find it hard to believe that I will be going to Ireland. Others in the companymust be more qualified. Why me? Only explanation is that I am the only personleft who knows how to operate the Turam system.IRELAND…not so many flies to chew at our flesh…but there were lots of other difficulties.
All the same my job in Ireland in1960 was unforgettable…lots of good memories
WEDNESDAY MAY 11, 1960Picked up the Turam from Charley Houston and and new crates made.Two problems solved.Then Dr. Paterson called me over.“Alan, you will leave tomorrow for Blind River then on to Elliot Lake.”“Tomorrow?”“yes, a job at the bottom of a recently abandoned uranium mine calledCan Met.”“Abandoned? Uranium”“Are you are thinking of Atom Bombs,”“Yes.”“I suppose that is the end use of the uranium”“End use?”“Sounds sinister, ““Rather.”“Have you ever been deep in a mine before?”“No.”“Well, put this job down as a first.”Later I phoned Marjorie in North Bay. What a great girl. Then packed mybag for Elliot Lake after typing out list for Irish customs. Events are movingvery fast.(So on May 12, 1960, the same year I was sent to Ireland I was sent on a short job at Elliot Lake.The uranium mined at Can Met was enriched and inserted in metal casingsto become the atomic bombs that terrified so many of us during the long ColdWar between the Soviet Union and the Western World. By 1960, however,the need to stockpile atomic nuclear weapons had come to an end. There wereenough nuclear bombs on both sides by 1960, enough to destroy human andanimal life on the whole planet.)A great adventure was unfolding … with the speed of summer lightning. In a few weeks I would find myself underground crawling on mystomach through an ancient adit on the south coast of Ireland. What a contrast between the two mines. Elliot Lake Uraniium minewas big enough for huge machines to drive down the passageways. Knockmahon was so small that sometimes the hole wasbarely big enough to squeeze through. Was I scared? Strangely, I never gave that much thought except when I asked Barney Dwanto take my picture (above) at Knockmahon later in the summer of 1960.THURSDAY MAY 12, 1960I nailed the last crate closed today and then began reading the Ronka manual. Must know what I am doing when weget to Ireland and best place to do that is the Manual…if I can understand it all. Sass Casper left for a survey jobat Niagara. Eric and dad drove me today. This is the third day that I have had no time for lunch or even a coffee…and Ihave only been working for three days.In the evening I went to Scouts and Scouter presented me with my Ramblers Badge. The guys in the Rover Crewpresented me with a rosary for protection in Ireland then mom and dad drove me down to Union Statonto catch the train to Blind River.FRIDAY MAY 13, 1960Passed a wonderful night in my birth on the train just looking out the window watching the world by. Really exciting…alwaysan adventure. Awakened at 8 a.m. for a sumptuous breakfast in the dining car. In other words bacon, eggs, toast, marmaladeand coffee. Stopped for a few minutes in Sudbury…city looks depressing. Just bare stretches rock wiht little vegetation. Could bethe face of the moon. Continued to read the Ronka manual. Then we arrived at Spragge where I got off the train and tooka bus to Elliot Lake.Uranium mining has fallen on tough times. I guess the American have made enough atomic bombs now which meansour uranium market has collapsed. Very depressing city. Once it was a boom town of 10,000 people…the place to be…the place wherejobs were easy to find and the money good. Housing was so hard to get that some miners slept in their cars. Most were singlemen, many of them recent immigrants. Others were familiar with the nomadic life of miners. At least one man livedin a tent with his wife and five kids. Boom town in 1958. Bust town in 1960. On May 13,1960, all I could see was abandoned trailer camps, cars strippedof anything valuable like tires, and fields here and there of repossessed vehicles. Strange how modern buildings with glassand aluminum fittings looks so depressing when empty.Proceeded with geologist John Hogan to Can. Met. Uranium mine three miles outside Elliot Lake. Originally Can Metemployed 1,000 men but today it just has a skeleton staff of 70 to keep the place open. Maybe even those men arejust here until we complete our underground survey. We have our meals in a huge mess hall …big enough forthe huge work force that once ate here with meals cooked and served by Crawley and McKraken food services asthe sign said.. Not anymoreTested the Ronka and did some map work.
SATURDAY MAY 14, 1960This rant style lodge was built for Can Met executives but rarely used. We lived there for our time at Can Met. See interior belowCAN. MET. uranium mine cost 25 million dollars to open in the late 1950’s and it closed in 1960having never made a profit. Investors in mining stocks are often led by flattering prospects of greatwealth that never ‘pans out’ …a gold mine expression. In other words greed has a lot to do withfinancing mines.The mine was shut down when we arrived. Silent. Even the huge lumbering ‘cage’ which woulddrop us down the shaft for our 8 to 12 hours shifts. Sad…a bit frightening.
special note July 2020
Shortly I will be sending some episodes on the summer of1960 that might help to make the Irish episodes fit better. The language may be a little rough at times because working at the bottom of an abandoned Elliott Lake uranium mine was rough and dangerous as were the men I worked with. Amusing. Informative. True.
Originally I had planned an Episode dealing with mining Cages…and lack of cages as in Knockmahon. That story will come as well.
The surprising note I received from Dan Dwan whose family still lives in Knockmahon and who knows the men who were part of my 1960 team has kindled my imagination. You will find the stories interesting as well I hope.
We are still in lockdown..isolation due to Covid 19 so my captive audience…you…may need the relief of the stories Things could be worse. You could be down 2,000 feet in a uranium mine where the count was 292 …high radiation. Or, as my assistant Harry expressed it….”What the fuck are we doing down here?”
Sent from my iPhone
Begin forwarded message:
From: ALAN SKEOCH <firstname.lastname@example.org>Subject: BeesDate: July 3, 2020 at 9:48:16 PM EDTTo: Alan Skeoch <email@example.com>
BEES AND BEEKEEPING…AND THOSE CLOUDS
“What a great day for dreaming…;puts
me in mind that snippet from John Lennon’s
CLOUDS NEVER GET IN MY WAY
Do you want something to do?
Take a load off your feet and see what you can
July 4, 2020
Sent from my iPhone