Oral Histories

Dennis E. “Pete” Byrd, Sr.


Pete Byrd

Q: And where was this?

Pete: In Cisco.

Q: In Cisco?

Pete: Yeah. Then he went and got this good friend, Bob Barrett, who’d give him beans and tried to keep his family from starving to death and filled up his Jeep with gas when he couldn’t afford to buy any. They went out and they staked, Charlie had staked six claims around where this uranium, was, where he’d drilled this hole. Then Bob and Charlie staked alternating claims all up and down that Big Indian hill. Then they got this publicity where they were. It appeared in the Denver Post one morning and Dan O’Laurie and Bill Hudson were waiting for a plane to go to Casper. They were in the oil tank building business. They saw it and contacted Charlie. Now Dan, who was the office manager, and Bill Hudson was in charge over Dan at Chicago Bridge Company when they were in college and they’d loaned Charlie money to go to college. They knew him and they’d given him jobs during the summer when they could to keep him going when he was in college. They called him up and asked him if he needed some help. As a result of that, Dan flew down here to look the thing over and based on this hole that Charlie said this core came out of, Dan raised the money, his own and from his friend, to sink a shaft to put this thing in production. They incorporated it and called it Utex Exploration Company. Dan was the president and Charlie and his mother had 51% of the stock and Dan and Bob Barrett had 49%. So, we met Dan on the way when we went to the mine in the bottom of a creek bed out there. He was all shook up because the AEC told him that, for the ore that they’d shipped, there wasn’t any buying schedule for that kind of ore. The AEC had a buying schedule and it was only for the types of ore they knew about. They didn’t, the experts didn’t think there would ever be any of that kind of uraninite ore in America. So they’d shipped this ore and Dan was afraid that he and his friend were going to lose not only a bad investment but lose what they’d put in to it. From there I went on up to the mine and I met Bob Barrett. The next day I went out with Bob. We went down in the shaft which was an interesting experience for me. Riding a bucket down 85 feet into this hole when I’ve never been six feet underground in my life. Got down there and jackhammers were going all around and dust and noise so you couldn’t talk in a room about maybe 900 square feet and the walls were about 8 feet high. And they were all black ore. Charlie had a Geiger counter by then and he run it up and down these walls with all uranium ore, real hot stuff. I said “Is this stuff dangerous to be in?” He said “Oh, no. It’s not hot enough to be unhealthy.” There were five or six guys working down there including Oren Moore. Oren was the mine superintendent. Bob was the general mine manager and, in addition to that, Virginia Johnson was the cook and served all the workers wonderful food,(pies and steaks) and everything. Mareena Taylor, who was Donald Loveridge’s sister, was the dishwasher and helped in the cook shack. Joe Pullian and his wife had the little store on the corner of the Bowen Motel that had given Charlie credit when he needed it sometimes. So Charlie bought all of his gas and all of his food at Joe Pullian’s. Then (??) was the welder. Anyway, the next day Bob Barrett and I went up, we drove up to Dewey Bridge to Dewey and then turned around and stopped at the Boulden Ranch on the way back, and Boy! There was my dream. An irrigated ranch where they were pumping water out of the river, beautiful green fields, and this little cabin that actually was made mostly out of driftwood that had come down the river. It was an old homestead and that was just what I wanted. We couldn’t go to Fisher Valley. Bob had a lease, and had been farming the Fisher Valley farm for Lester Taylor. They grew feed up there for Lester and to sell. He was kind of a sharecropper. We couldn’t go to Fisher Valley because the road crossed the creek a hundred and twelve times in 9 miles. It was all frozen. So we went up the Polar Mesa Road and walked out to where we could look down a couple thousand feet onto this Fisher Valley ranch. Bob offered to let me take over his lease up there and farm that until we got the homestead going. So that looked better than what I was doing burning prickly pear and cutting grass for feeding sheep and cows in Texas, so I went back to Texas and sold out my interest, bought a four-wheel trailer wagon and we loaded up all of our stuff, the deep freezer in the middle of it. It was full of meat and food and the bed springs on the back. I borrowed $1,000 to have moving expenses and, with the four little girls, we moved to Moab. We drove all night and when we got here, I didn’t even stop in town. I drove right through town up to the Boulden Ranch so my wife, Mary, could see that beautiful ranch.

Q: When was this?

Pete: This was in (END OF SIDE 1, TAPE A)

Q: So you came to Moab. What was the date?

Pete: It was around the 4th of March 1953 that we got here.

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