Blast from the past
30th annual Hardrockers Holidays celebrates Silverton’s rich history

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!"

"No Mercy!"

"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 generation.

Single-man hand steeling was an event where 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 be dangerous.

"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 the competition.

"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 mine.

"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 to him.

"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 Pentathalon.







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