The “Glass Kickers” of
Montrose showing they do have what it takes to
reach the finals of the Tug-o-War competition
at Silverton’s Hardrockers Holidays./Photo
by Jared Boyd
Come on, Ladies!"
"Put Your Ass in Her Chest!"
The Aztecs and the McCartys are on the boards, and the
crowd is gathered tightly around the long wooden plank
that makes up the Tug o' War "stage." Body over body
like lattice work, the teams hold the mark, heels dug
into the cross bars affixed to the plank. The anchor
leans back and pulls, and the second anchor keeps her
weight down. Master Judge Ernie Kuhlman takes out his
stop watch and starter's pistol and begins to count down8510,
nine, eight 85 . He pulls the trigger as the Aztecs give
one final pull. The crowd goes wild. And the rope has
moved all of 2 inches.
This was the 30th year for Silverton's Hardrockers Holidays.
The skies were blue, the rays were searing, and Kendall
Mountain loomed over the proceedings while friends and
family of the mining tradition reunited shaking hands,
catching up and tipping back a few cold ones. Each year
the Holidays celebrate and spotlight the skill and techniques
that were necessary to survive work in the hardrock mines.
Events showcase skills in singleman drilling, handmucking,
machine mucking, machine drilling, handsteeling, spike
driving and single jacking. It's a weekend where families
compete together and pass those techniques to the next
|Single-man hand steeling was an
contestants had 5 minutes to create the deepest
hole in a refrigerator-sized piece of “San
Juan hard rock.”/Photo by Jared Boyd.
"I wanted to compete because of the family, to keep
the tradition going," said Clifford Jaramillo, son of
Dee, grandson of Amos, nephew of Dale. And that is just
on one side of the family.
"I began competing when I was 18," said Jaramillo, who
had just scored the second best time of the morning in
the Machine Drilling contest with partner, Grady Colby. "I
was kind of scared the first time I drilled, and I didn't
want to do it. But my dad needed a partner. I was just
scared of hurting my dad."
The Two Man Drilling is the premiere event of the weekend,
showing strength, skill and partnership. Two contestants
work together to drill two holes into the San Juan hard
rock using a jackleg drill and a stoper drill. The teams
have to set up, drill, change steel, move to the next
drill, drill, change steel, break down, bring the machines
back to the boards, coil the water and air hoses used
to power the drills, and raise both hands when they are
finished. The machines are heavy and powerful, they can
"You're close to your partner when you work underground," explained
Dale Jaramillo. "They watch your back, keep you safe." He
nodded to the two men who stepped up to the starting
line. "Those two have been drilling together for 30 years."
When team No. 7 was called, the Jaramillo brothers,
Dale and Dee, stepped forward and began their competition.
You could hear cheers from the crowd, "Come on uncle;
come on dad." Their finishing time was 5 minutes and
14 seconds. And when team No. 10 came up, Terry and Trent
Rhoades-father and son, as well as uncle, brother-in-law
and cousins to the Jaramillos-stepped to the line. This
was the second year they had drilled together, and Terry
patiently walked Trent through the course, gesturing
and reminding the younger man of the finer points of
"It is about keeping the mining tradition alive," said
Dorthy McCarty, "but it's also a blast."
McCarty is a smiling young woman who captured the crowd's
heart this Hardrockers Holidays by being the first woman
to compete in the Machine Drilling. When she and partner,
Jason Williams, raced to recoil the hoses and tossed
up their hands, the entire crowd cheered and threw their
hands up as well. A gracious and seemingly proud bunch
of miners advanced on the two, shaking hands and embracing
the young woman.
"I've always looked up to Judy and Shelly (Kuhlman,
a mother and daughter team who took first and second
in the Women's Pentathalon last year) and I always wanted
to be like uncle Terry (Rhoades). And I've always been
a tomboy," she said about taking on the typically male
sport. McCarty's mother, Delight, has been competing
in the women's events for 20 years as has her aunt, Janice
Jemming. The McCarty Tug o' War team is mostly family,
sisters and cousins, with a few friends along for the
fun. The team took third place last year and won the
event this weekend.
But there are contestants who are not from the mining
tradition, those who just want to learn about the history.
Doug Wall has lived in Silverton almost two years and
decided this year he wanted to compete.
"I figure if I'm living in this town, I should learn
about the tradition that this community was built on," he
said. Wall competed this year as a novice in the Wheelbarrow
Race, the Machine Mucking, Hand Mucking, Drilling and
the Single Jack. Wall also said competing gave him an
opportunity to get to know the people of this mining
community. Beyond that, witnessing these techniques also
allows one to gain an appreciation and insight into challenges
miners face. However, one also realizes the challenges
are not only limited to the physical.
|While other contestants dragged
and pulled the steel drills to place, Dee (left)
and Dale Jaramillo showed who the veteran drillers
were. Four holes, two
rocks, one steel drill and yards of coiled hose,
Dee and Dale made it look easy
in 5 minutes, 14 seconds./Photo by Jared Boyd.
"I don't always understand their logic," said Dee Jaramillo
referring to area tourists. "I would be working at a
reclamation site and they would pull up and start defiling
miners. In the meantime they were sitting in a Jeep Cherokee
made of metal with a full tank of gas, driving on roads
that were built by miners."
Jaramillo started in the mines in 1972, right out of
high school, thinking he would save money for college.
He did go to school for a year before coming home to
"I had friends who were mining, and I could make good
money," he explained. Jaramillo mined until the Sunnyside
Mine closed in 1991. He then worked for Sunnyside Gold
Corp. doing reclamation work until 2003. He spent 14
years on the Hardrockers Committee and has competed in
the event since the '70s. This year's Holiday was dedicated
"It made me proud to keep the tradition going," said
Dee's son Cliff, as he sat on a wooden bench, elbows
on his knees, hands still showing the mud from his recent
competition. The younger Jaramillo spent two years working
for the mining company when he got out of school, making
good money and working with his dad. "It gave me a sense
of pride toward my father and the miners because they
had the reputation of being hard workers and good people."
Hard workers, good peopl, and good times. That is what
Hardrockers is about.
For the second year in a row, Dee Jaramillo won best
all around miner, coming in first place in the Men's