03 August 2009
Skywatch Friday: A looming Gallows Frame
The Original Mine "gallows frame" silhouetted against an evening sky.
Butte, Montana (aka "Butte America") was a hardrock copper mining town. Underground mining was a tough way of life: if a roof fall (called a "Duggan" after the local funeral parlor) didn't get you, "miner's con" (miner's consumption, or silicosis) might. As yet another expression of the dark humor that pervaded underground culture, miners often referred to the headframes (100-foot+ tall steel structures used to lift ore and men) as "gallows frames." Butte has a strong historic preservation movement that began 30 years ago with saving a dozen or so headframes as cultural monuments.
History and the environmental cost of modern technology are a part of everyday life in Butte. I've come to love my adopted town because of this honest acceptance of our Faustian bargain. Maybe we can even learn from it.