Oral Histories

Dorothy R. Rossignol


Dorothy Rossignol

Q: Did you know at that time that he wanted to be a miner?

A: No. I thought I had it pretty well made. Homemade cakes and pies and he could cut up a quarter of meat in just nothing flat and everything was just fine. I thought I had it made. One day – they always have spring break-up when the frost goes out of the ground and they can’t get the trucks into the forest – He says, well I think I’ll go back mining. I said “Go back?” “Oh, yeah, I just do this temporary.” Boy, my old scheewh (chin?) hit the ground.

Q: That started your life of moving from spot to spot?

A: Our first anniversary was in Clearlake Oaks, California. We were in Guerneville and Genner by the Sea. I did see a lot of country. Even when he was working, he would tell me what he would like to have and how to fix it. I’d try to do part of the work. When he was making the living, I could at least try to cook, but I had 2 or 3 things that I could do pretty good.

Q: Then you did start to learn to cook?

A: Yeah, never fancy, never good. And I still don’t.

Q: It was your husband’s job that took you to the Happy Jack and Deer Flats, etc., right? You weren’t working down there as an employee?

A: Not at White Canyon, no.

Q: Had you worked before then?

A: When we lived in Green River, I waited tables.

Q: When did you go to Green River?

A: When we left the Happy Jack we moved to Green River In ‘63

Q: That’s when you started waiting tables, in ’63?

A: Yes,

Q: How long were you in Green River?

A: Until (we went back to Nevada a couple of times). But everywhere we went, the mines were closing. Tungsten mines. Mercury mines in California. Everything was closing. That’s why we left the Happy Jack because they were going to move to Green River. That’s why we went to Green River. We bought some land and we were going to put in a trailer park for all of the employees. Texas Zinc was the company and they had some property they called the Snow Property somewhere between Green River and Hanksville. They went down 20 feet; shut down, and folded up.

Q: What kind of mining was this for?

A: It would have been for uranium.

Q: That was uranium. You mentioned Tungsten and other mines.

A: That was in Nevada and California.

Q: So your husband actually mined whatever was available?

A: Whatever. I mean, when you move as often as we did, five states in one year, you know you can’t remember exactly everything.

Q: Right; and I don’t think the dates are as important as what you can tell us about what you did. When you first came to Deer Flats, was that uranium mining?

A: Yes

Q: And was that a Uranium camp?

A: Yes, they had housing. I was the only woman. In a lot of these camps, I was the only woman.

Q: Where is that from Moab?

A: It was close to the Bears Ears. Closer to Monticello.

Q: And you moved from there to Happy Jack? And that also was like a company camp?

A: Oh, yes. It was a big company camp.

Q: Why don’t we talk about the Happy Jack? At its top population, how many other people lived there besides you and your husband?

A: This Bronson and Cooper from Monticello discovered and mined it and they sold it to Texas Zinc. We went there after the big boom, but it was still mining. They had a nice camp, all trailers lined up in a row. The families lived there usually in the summer, because we had no school. So the ones that had school-age kids, the women, moved back to their homes in Monticello and Cortez and Mancos and wherever else they lived, for the school year. They did get a school at Fry Canyon but it was only for the little ones. When they got into high school, back to town they went. And a lot of times, I was the only woman there.

Q: The wives moved back and the husbands stayed there working during the school year. So the biggest populations would have been during the summer when the wives and kids were there. How many people do you think then?

A: Well, they had two rows of trailers; they could handle twenty, twenty-five families. Everybody had their own trailer and most of them were families; some of them were bachelors but most of them had families.

Q: Let’s talk about some of the facilities other than your home. Water. How did you get water?

A: Water was hauled from Fry Canyon, about 12-15 miles from the spring. You did not waste water. You didn’t wash your car. We had laundry facilities, a wash house. Each woman had 2 hours (they worked 10 on and 4 off) twice in that 10 days to do your laundry. Wash it, get it outside on lines to dry or whatever when all the people were there. There were some women there during the winter that didn’t have any children so they could stay. I got myself a job there. I took care of the “guest house”. When the big shots would come, they had a trailer for them to stay in. I would do the laundry and clean the trailer and stuff like that. And when the First Aid teacher came to teach the men how to take care of people if they got hurt, I fed them and they stayed in the guest trailer. Kind of interesting.

Q: Was this a nicer trailer than the workers’?

A: No, it was the same. It was probably bigger; it had three bedrooms instead of just 2 so that if they had several guests like when somebody from New York came. We were one of the few places in the whole United States where you could get an airmail letter for a 3-cent stamp. You sent it for 3 cents and you got it for 3 cents. That’s the only way we got our mail was by air. The little plane would come to Fry and get our mail and go down to White Canyon and drop their mail and go on back.

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