Oral Histories

Harold Provonsha

b.1924

Harold Provonsha

Q: Did you rock hound around Moab?

A: We hunted agate and stuff. We saw a few arrowheads.

Q: How did you prospect for uranium?

A: I hooked up with Fred Frazier and Bill Tibbetts to prospect in the Millard Canyon area on the Green River. Bill Tibbetts and I went in and prospected and staked some claims. We had a camp on Anderson Bottom. In fact we found a little seep there and set up a tent. We made an airstrip there on Anderson Bottom by dragging the weeds down with a couple of saddle horses. After we sold the ranch, we kept some of the horses and took them down on Anderson Bottom. We dragged a log back and forth and wore it out so Fred Frazier could land his plane in there. He would fly us in and fly groceries in to us. Bill Tibbetts and I would go down and stay two weeks at a time staking claims in Millard Canyon. It was rough country down there. It was rough country to get those horses down there the first time, too. We had to go down a trail at the head of Millard Canyon that was really a rough trail that the old outlaws used. One day when Fred was flying, I told him I had dreamed that he broke his leg down there and I had to fly him out. He was superstitious and said “Well, I’m going to teach you to fly.” He did. Then he sold me that J3 Cub that he had. He got another plane and I got a private flying license. I souped up the Cub. I had a chance to buy an Air Coup that had been wrecked and had a 85 hp engine in it, which was quite a bit more power than the Cub had in it. Put that engine in it and a special prop on it and then we could fly the rim. Then we could prospect with a scintillator flying around the rims. That plane would just about go straight up souped up like that. I sold that plane and bought another one over in Dove Creek. I flew it back from Dove Creek, then sold it and bought a Super Cub, kept getting bigger all the time. Prospecting all the time with these. Fred and I were still in partnership, but we bought Bill out. By the time I got the Super Cub, the uranium boom was going busted, but I flew that thing all over the country, just playing around. One day a windstorm came up and blew it loose from the tie-downs and tore it all to pieces. That put me out of the plane business.

Q: When you were flying and locating with the scintillator, how did you get the claims?

A: You would have to get on the ground somehow. The trouble of it was, that a lot of time you’d pick up a big low-grade bed from the air and you’d get on the ground and couldn’t find anything. It wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. (Billie: that’s when the horses and pack outfit came in handy, getting on the ground).

Q: When you would get in, you would locate and sell the claims?

A: Yes, when you could. That bunch in Millard Canyon, we got an outfit (A K Wilson in Oregon) interested. He flew Fred and Bill Tibbetts and I to Oregon to talk to him about the claims. He bought us an airplane ticket to fly up to Oregon. He made a deal and went down there to try to work them, and see if they amounted to anything or not. He set up camp down there and we had to make a little strip there to land on. It didn’t have room enough to make a good strip just by dragging with the horses and rolling a few rocks out of the way. You could fly in with a load, but you couldn’t take off with a load. One day when Fred came in, a guy named Wally Windfield decided to follow him in. He came in and lit down there. We had a kid working down there that wanted to quit and get out of there so Wally said he would fly him out. Fred told him he couldn’t get off; there’s a big rock at the end of the run-way and you can’t get off with the extra weight. “Oh, yeah, I can.” He says. So he put that kid in there and he had a little dog, too. He took off and tried it; hooked his landing gear on that rock; and tipped him bottom-side-up and went right down in the wash. It wrecked the plane, but didn’t hurt the people. The kid decided to go back to work. We had to take them down to Anderson Bottom with horses where we had a better airstrip to fly them all out of there. It was quite a ways from the camp up in Millard Canyon. One day I went out there and a big windstorm had come up and blown down a big tent we had there for everybody. There they were all about to freeze to death with the tent down. They all wanted to get out then. It was just before Christmas so we got them all out. Now that country is in the Canyonlands National Park. We had a road; we did get a dozer in down there over what they called the Flint Trail down in Elaterite Basin. We had to come way around the rim there. You can probably still see the tracks there. We had another airstrip out on what we called Flint Point. When you took off there, you had to goose the plane to get it over some trees, and then dive off into the canyon to pick up airspeed.

One time I was prospecting out here in East Dry Valley. That morning I could see the flashes in the west where they were setting off the bombs in Nevada. There came a big rainstorm and I got soaked. It made me sick, vomiting. When I got home that night, I put my Geiger Counter on me and I was hotter than a firecracker. My clothes pegged the Geiger Counter on the least sensitive scale. That rain had picked up radiation from the Nevada bombs and soaked my clothes.

Read the other Oral Histories