Some of these poems were written in the 1960s and 1980s in the interior of BC at mining and mineral exploration projects, while others were penned during the writing of my book From the Erzgebirge to Potosi. Then more recently there are reflections on my family and life in general while living in Vancouver, BC and travels to and work in Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador. Two poems are in memory of my son.
Much of the inspiration comes from down-to-earth people encountered in my work like diamond drillers, geologists and miners from the Highland Valley Copper Mine (HVC) in south central British Columbia and people from the El Mochito Mine in Honduras. It could be said that the poetry represents the wisdom of those involved in the heroic struggle for production and scientific experimentation.
The heroic struggle for production and scientific experiment was conducted at HVC and in Mexico and Honduras, by me and the miners and other engineers and geologists, so this poetry is partly to promote that struggle which is in integral part of a mine or factory and which unites us from Canada to the US and Latin America.
Whether struggling with the bentonite during the installation of a piezometer and innovating how to get past the plugged drill rods in the middle of a cold winter night. Or dealing with dynamite fumes and pouring groundwater from the fractures underground geological mapping in Honduras. Or indeed drilling and blasting at the tunnel face by the Honduras and Manitoba miners, we were all involved in some ways with the same struggle.
As well, the solidarity of the miners unites them throughout the Americas in their fight for better working conditions through their unions. Another way in which the Americas are tied together is through their mines and their consistently rich mineral resources throughout the Western Cordillera be in Canada through the US, through Mexico and Central America, through Peru and Bolivia and down to Chile.
Two of the poems about the challenges of mining-related activities - for example installing piezometers in diamond drill holes and to divert surface water all around one side of one of the Highland Valley Copper open pits to keep water out of the toppling zone on the west wall of the Lornex Pit.
Decipher the Earth
"It takes 20 years to get 20 years experience"
Was the Lornex/HVC refrain,
Oft repeated, again and again,
Another way of saying
No short cuts to knowledge
In an active mine
Testing the design
Spent at the drill
On the frozen hill
A test of one's will
Deep down the hole
Until you're searching your soul
And exhausting work
Taking it's toll.
Or mapping the face,
Reading the rocks,
For those who know,
The granite, it talks
As do the faults,
The fractures and the dikes
A story they would tell
For those who listen well,
The clues are there
To decipher fair and square
Nature has a pattern
Observations are made
To be correlated
That can make one elated.
Farewell to Highland Valley People
This poem is about when I left Highland Valley Copper mine (retired) and all the rich experiences I had there. I say I went to the ‘University of Highland Valley Copper Mine' ie the school of hard knocks in which most experiences became indelibly burned into my consciousness.
Nineteen years ago it was
That I first laid eyes on this office
And met a chubby fellow and
His bearded sidekick (still bearded I might say)
Got a job? I asked
I'm here on spec
My family and I came here
On a vacation trek
I'm a Bee See boy
But-what a stroke of luck!
I was coming from the same province as Mr. Holowachuk.
That night I made my application
In the Davey Crockett Inn
And lock, stock and barrel
Soon we were here-my family and I
That is-my wife Carmen from El Mochito Silver Mine
Down Honduras way; and two kids
Born in Toronto and Thompson
And without them I couldn't do half of what I've done.
And the years whipped by, they passed like a whirl
For at those millions of projects, myself I did hurl
Sample for the dump
Funk Bros Merritt
They knew no fear
Any 4x4 bush road
It'll do -no worry
The Bear claims-we'll get there
But not in a hurry
In the pioneering spirit
That is a Canadian trademark
The voice of experience spoke clearly
Step out-drill deeply said the ghostly Wally Marsh
(The veteran geologist of Rio Algom he was)
Wind up the Connors drill
2000' down-no problem!
Deep Lornex orebody here we come
Log that core-and sample it too!
Keep on with one drill, then two,
Until we were through
The site cleanup man
In those days of yore
Was Andre Couture (no brother of Ron)
He later went to Services, and I asked him
"Do you miss me?"
"Yeah" he said with a laconic grin
"For about 20 minutes I did"
My crazy drill-site clean-ups
He finally got rid.
Do that job-and do this too
Map that face, map that wall
Map that pit
Note that water, note that hard toe
So the years they passed
And the seasons too
Winter snow and spring melt floods
Hot Highland Valley summers, and falls'
Other drillers came and
Other drillers went
Maitland Smith, J.T.Thomas, Tonto and BAT
John Rutherford and Wally Neufeld oft said,
"Where's my hat?"
But through it all
We face the elements-
-350C, strong winds and snapping pvc
Huge run-offs filling the pits
And we faced the man-made problems
Big humungeous holes in the ground
Pressure of machinery on the run
Decision makers-under the gun.
Tony said-at ol' Ruttan Mine (from Manitoba)
"The scoop trams are waiting-just give me a line-
But life goes on
With its constant changes
And its new demands
For I've heard it said-You have to change
To remain the same
And I thank you all
For your help and advice
And I've never met so many solid people
In all my life.
Last word of advice:
Always believe in yourself
And if you are right
Stick to it until you are proven wrong.
And don't allow yourself to be
Snowballed by someone else
Just because they act too strong!
So from the coyotes howl
To the ravens' cry
I wish you a wholehearted
The race was on
Bentonite is a very old clay mainly originating as volcanic ash. It is named after Fort Benton, Wyoming which has a good supply of it. It is used in the case of this poem to seal in piezometers. Piezometers are instruments installed in drill holes to measure water pressure for groundwater and are used both in civil engineering and also in open pit mines. This poem is about an ordeal at the Lornex Mine in BC, Canada of an all-night shift to install some piezometers in a diamond drill hole.
Well we hammered and we pounded
And we washed and we sounded
Over and over again,
Four very determined men
Let me introduce you to them:
Al and Ray, the brothers McKay
Diamond drillers of the finest grade
They ran the drill machine
With a speed you've never seen
From Thompson to the banks of the mighty Stikine.
And with them on their shift
Were two tough geologists
One short and stout called Nelson
And one tall and thin called Sean
The former from Manitob-i-ay
And the latter from Bee Cee
Nelson poured the gravel and the bentonite
And Sean punched the counter and the calculator
According to the figures on his hunk of paper
But they disagreed with the truth of nature
For the nature of those West Wall rocks,
Cut by some great big muddy old faults
Said, "you can't drill me at 65 degrees
And leave me open for over three weeks
And pack me off and blow me out
And pump me up and swab me down,
And still expect my walls to stand
Contrary to the laws of the land".
So that hole began to misbehave
And her walls they a-started to cave
The all-night race was on!
So we chucked bentonite* down her throat
And she coughed it up into the rods
Where it swelled and stuck against all odds
So we hammered it and we pounded it
Over and over again,
From dusk to dawn
With mind and brawn
With bloodshot eyes and bitter sighs.
We made a pinprick hole in it
And pumped it out to a finger's width
Until we broke it through,
That brownish-grey volcanic glue
No more bentonite we said!
Not on my body dead!
Cement that's the thing
It's heavy and it will sink.
So that's what we used
And wisely did we choose,
For then we did install,
Our gravel, piezometers* and all
Until we got above the fault
When we knew twas safe to halt.
And fall into our beds
To rest our weary heads
With the battle finally over
We fought fair and square
And fair and square we won.
This poem is about how we dealt with a water diversion project above the ‘5112' ditchline at Highland Valley Copper large open pit copper-molybdenum mine in southern BC. Sean was the geotechnical geologist in charge of this project and Loyed was his surveyor helper and Carl and Ross were the excavator operators to rehabilitate an existing drainage ditch, Ron and Art were in charge of the road crew, Terry was the logging contractor, Garnet was in charge of the mine electrical electrical department and Pierre Lotay was our civil engineer mine consultant.
It was the summer of ‘95
The Lornex west wall was a-moving
Strong action was required and our crews became inspired
Carl and Ross they manned the backhoe
And Sean and Loyed they drove them wacko, on the 1632
They dug that ditch till they were blue
But never quit till they were through
Even hard spots couldn't stop them
For Leaverite and the blasters did shock them.
Many crews were involved to make that big project evolve,
John York and the pipefitters, and Ron and Art's crews
Worked hand in glove to complete the new pipeline up above
Where Terry's loggers had cut and grubbed.
Discussion led to action-Garnet and Ron talked of a fine contraption
The SS James Teit began to take shape-
The shop welders and carpenters and Orville
Made a transformation-an old pump scow became a spiffy ship
Complete with Lotay "motors" wired to perfection by the finest electricians
And now the spring has come and the water does a-run
But not just as it wishes, but along the new ditches
And while Teit Creek sump does fill, the new pumps suck it up the hill
The war with nature is not over, but one battle has been won
Thanks to each and everyone!
Sean Daly's website is www.seandalyauthor.com for info about his first book called From the Erzgebirge to Potosi and his blog. Also, there is info about his next book, of poetry, called Joy and Sorrow, Sorrow and Joy presently being published and scheduled to come out about late July 2023.