William D. McDougald
Interviewed by: Jean McDowell February 2002 at Moab, Utah
Q: What were your parents like?
A: They were basically farmers. They started out farming and they were born and raised in East Texas. They moved to New Mexico later on. They got caught up in a blizzard somewhere around the time of WWI and Dad had 300 head of cows or something like that and he was wiped out two winters in a row there down by Roswell, New Mexico. So they went back to the panhandle of Texas and we lived there by Wellington for a number of years and we moved to Utah in 1939.
Q: How old were you then?
A: I was 12 or 13.
Q: So you grew up in Moab?
A: I was in the 6th grade when I moved here and then that was back in the spring of the year and then I graduated. I went to a special summer quarter in San Diego High later on in 1944 so I could graduate and go into the Air Force early and then they closed the Cadet program. I spent three and a half years in the Air Force and then later on I took ROTC at the University of Utah and became a lieutenant which I served a total of eleven days as. That was my military fling. The reason for that was we had the right to finish our degrees. They called me in by mistake in 1951. By the time I graduated in ’52 or ’53 the Korean War had settled itself back and so I was free to go again.
Q: So you came back to Moab?
A: Well, after two years working with Atomic Energy Commission over in Grand Junction uranium, they were the ones that had hired me, the AEC, they hired me after the University and I came back to work for them in an administration job for a couple of years. That was our schooling in those days for uranium was out of Grand Junction, you know. I was with USAEC for 2 years.
Q: In Grand Junction?
A: No, I came back to Moab in 1955 to practice geology in uranium exploration, mining and development. I graduated from the University of Utah in Science in 1952 and then I had a Masters in ’53.
Q: So you were here when Charlie Steen was here?
A: Yeah, Charles was in full bloom when I came. He was quite a guy and he had quite a thing going. Real nice guy, quite eccentric but Charlie’s a fine individual.
Q: So this was boom time in Moab when you were here?
A: Yeah, I came in on the tail end of the first one in the fifties and then we had a second boom in the sixties and that’s when I was big in consulting.
Q: That’s when Rio Algam came out?
A: Yeah, I was traveling five western states at that time as a consultant on uranium projects and then I had a service deal going at this mill out here for the uranium shippers that I worked at part time for years. Max Day helped me out in part on that. I also did work down at the Mexican Hat Mill and Tuba City. I was supposed to an expert on sampling raw ores. And they sent me down to check mainly moisture sampling and it was funny how much you can loose on these moisture samples. You take this ore and you dump it on this pad somewhere. Those guys come along and they scoop little samples in to determine your moisture and, my gosh, it depends on their disposition for that day and how they might like this company sometimes. They want to get even with this company over something, why, they purposely get into wet spots. These ores come in in the winter time and they’re mixed moisture. So moisture sampling’s a big thing. And Phil Lindstrom from Hecla mining is well known and Gordon Miner from Homestake and Virgil Bilyeau from UTEX hired me to go out here for 90 days to check out Atlas and we still had a service there when the mill closed down in 1986. Rio Algom closed in 1988.
Q: So were you tempted to become rich?
A: Well, I did this. I had some good holdings but as a consultant you had to keep your name clean. Mining is pretty critical this way. I know there’s a lot more promotions going in oil and what not but mining was kept pretty clean in that respect. I had a chance to receive and interest in some claims that were vacated out in Lisbon Valley, ran down the information and got the information and, in fact, bought some information from this guy who used to be in this area out of Wyoming. And I ended up with 2% royalty in the Velvet, later to become, and I gave away one and a half percent. The building contractor, Bill Bush, in Grand Junction wrote me a check out for $4500 or something when I set up in the consulting business to set up my office and buy me a Jeep station wagon and I still have some of the original furniture. It opened up and I was right in the northwest corner of the Prospector Lodge and at the time it was called Twenty Nine. Of course it’s been replaced with this beautiful unit there.
Q: Oh right. They tore it down just last year.
A: It used to be a log siding and I had the corner right in the northwest corner, number 29 Prospector that’s where I worked out of. One time I had five people working with me. It first operated under former mayor Winfred Bunce and Chuck Cunningham, Madge Miller’s husband.
Q: Did you get involved with oil at all?
A: No, I didn’t. I didn’t have the background for oil. See, once you get out of a general university where you have a general degree you’re not specialized and usually by the time you get your Master of Science you might be a specialist. But when you get out of these general universities like the University of Utah in mining then companies hire you and train you the way they want in some related geologic field.