I’ve Gotta Wonder

 

I’ve been using this 1963 Gibson Melody Maker lately. I bet this thing was $50 new. They were designed to be beginner instruments and I bet thousands of them were just tossed. Now they’re worth plenty. What amazes me is the great sound. Probably has better tone than half of the stuff I use that costs a whole lot more..

Readersfavorite.com Review by Jack Magnus

R.D. Saunders’s nonfiction memoir, Underground and Radioactive: Adventures of a Uranium Miner in 1970s New Mexico, is the author’s love song to the art and challenge of mining and his affinity with working underground. Before I began reading, I wondered how dry a book on this subject might be, but soon found that the author’s story was engaging and addictive. Saunders is a natural-born storyteller, and even being somewhat claustrophobic didn’t stop me from vicariously relishing his adventures while working as a laborer and eventually as a miner in Section 35. His accounts of the experienced men he worked with, and later those newer workers who became his helpers, are fascinating, especially his association and friendship with long-timer miner Cal Cargill. I found myself looking forward to the photographs that are interspersed throughout the narrative and avidly studying the machinery displayed in many of them. Yes, I’ve always been opposed to nuclear energy and fought the proliferation of nuclear power plants, but this book is not about those subjects. Yes, they mined for uranium, but the story of those miners, the life they led in that small boom town and the skills they used in making their working environment a safe one takes precedence here. Underground and Radioactive: Adventures of a Uranium Miner in 1970s New Mexico is most highly recommended.

Another Kind Review From readersfavorite.com

Underground and Radioactive: Adventures of a Uranium Miner in 1970s New Mexico by R.D. Saunders is a memoir that is so aptly and succinctly described in the sub-title. The author recreates, in excellent prose and with vivid clarity, the joys and perils, the almost forgotten memories of those associated with the “Uranium Capital of the World” as they ventured underground in 1970s New Mexico. Beginning with a mining accident that almost convinced him his underground adventures would be over, the author leads readers into what it felt like, smelled like, and looked like to work as a uranium miner.

The writing is beautiful and it opens an entire world and experience to readers; the prose leaps off the pages of the book with unusual elegance, and it is sprinkled with vivid descriptions of tools, machinery, and processes, allowing the reader to have a complete picture of what mining looked like in the ‘70s. From the preface, the reader already feels how intimate the author is with the experience when he writes: “There is no other fragrance or resonance I know equal to that produced by the Jackleg rock drill operating at full bore; no other sight that matches that of walking up to a miner sitting atop a couple of hundred pounds of dynamite and casually finishing up his cigarette; and no more colorful characters than miners who spent the majority of their working lives underground.” R.D. Saunders offers exciting stories, builds memorable characters, and makes history come alive in Underground and Radioactive: Adventures of a Uranium Miner in 1970s New Mexico.

Full Review From Onlinebookclub.og

This book is about mining. No! Wait! Come back. The book is absolutely amazing. Okay, maybe I should have led with that, but luckily, you are still here. Although the book is, in fact, about one man’s experiences in his time working in a uranium mine in New Mexico, it is also about so much more than that.

This book is about American culture in the 1970’s, perseverance, hard-work, incredible skill, and the unique challenges of working in an environment that many of us have never even thought much about. All of these themes are presented to the fortuitous reader with a healthy serving of humor and complemented with excellent writing.

Underground and Radioactive by R.D. Saunders is a non-fiction book chronicling the times leading up to and during his employment at Kermac Nuclear Fuels Corporation at Section 35, one of the uranium mines in the Ambrosia lake area, New Mexico. Saunders tells us of his college experiences and his employment opportunities (and sometimes lack thereof) which led him to him to Section 35, his experiences getting hired for the company, and his time working for Kermac. He details for the reader the trials and tribulations a new employee at a company like this needs to undergo, the hierarchy of employment working underground, the nature of the work itself, and many of the dangers inherent in the work. This is a very personal tale of Saunders’ own experiences and although it is riddled with plenty of extremely informative information about uranium mining (or any type of mining in general), I would prefer to classify it as a continual collection of anecdotes that introduce the reader to a life they have likely never imagined. These anecdotes inform, destroy some stereotypes (and likely enhance some others), imbibe immense respect for those doing these jobs, spark internal reflection into how you would personally do in these situations, and even laugh out loud.

Quite bluntly, I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed this book. I loved the descriptions of the mining community and how every single inch of respect gained during employment is solely earned on the coattails of hard work (and often keeping your mouth shut). I loved reading about the ladder of employment that one climbs while working at a place like Section 35. Just because you work underground doesn’t mean that you are a miner. You are an underground laborer and can only hope that the crappy (sometimes literally – Saunders had a stint filling in the mine’s underground latrines for a while) jobs will lead to more interesting positions such as a miner’s assistant (or eventually an actual miner). I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how Saunders managed to climb these rungs over a relatively short period of time due to his hard work, commitment, and sometimes luck. One chapter of particular note and interest for me was both a lead-in to an upcoming story and something that we surface dwellers would rarely think about: darkness. Saunders explains how a mine is a place of complete and utter darkness (if you turn the light off); there is absolutely no light around whatsoever. This can be terrifying, peaceful, dangerous, and disorienting all at the same time. He tells anecdotes of dead headlamp batteries stranding miners for hours on end and even of a mysterious light that literally haunted one of his mining stopes. I think one of my biggest takeaways from this book, besides the pure and simple enjoyment I had reading it, was the utmost respect I have for those that work in mines like this. Not only is it absolutely grueling, thankless work but there is much more to the work than meets the eye. There is an extremely acute instinct and intelligence required to be a successful miner. I learned that there is a definite science to detonating charges underground. You need multiple holes, in distinct patters, timing just perfectly, such that one explosion leaves room for the next to expand, and so on. Beyond this, a miner needs to be so in tune with his surroundings that he is able to foresee every possible consequence of even the smallest actions he takes (at least if he wants to get out alive). I wish I could fill this page with all of the great anecdotes and things that I learned while reading Underground and Radioactive but I guess I’ll just have to let you read them for yourselves.

If I was forced to say one thing that I disliked about this book, it would have to be that the title is somewhat misleading. Undoubtedly the “Underground” in the title works quite well, but quite honestly, there is nothing “Radioactive” at all in the book. Besides the fact that this book is talking about mining uranium ore, there is only one mention of radioactivity at all. Saunders presents a minor (excuse the pun) nugget of information that a small chunk of uranium ore has about as much radiation as a bunch of bananas. I realize that using radioactive in the title is likely an attention grab to make it sound more interesting, but it has little to do with the book.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I loved this book, and it is with distinct ease that I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. In Underground and Radioactive Saunders gives the reader an enlightening glimpse into a world many of us will never see or know anything about. All the while, he makes it entertaining, informative, and downright interesting. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who reads non-fiction and loves learning new things in a fun manner. If you absolutely, 100%, only read fiction, I guess this one wouldn’t be for you. If you find yourself thinking too hard about whether or not you should read this book, go with your gut and follow the advice that one of the miners Saunders worked for gives, “It just doesn’t pay to be doing too much thinking.”

First Dates

Ok, I love reality TV.  For a few years now  I’ve been enjoying the dating show First Dates thats been airing in the UK, Australia, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand. (I have a note elsewhere on here about how I do that via Kodi) Pretty basic show where we get to observe actual blind dates in a restaurant run specifically for that purpose. I find it fascinating. My wife and I used to go to a couple of places that were known as blind date hangouts just to overhear some of the conversations. Actually we met on blind date so I know a little about it myself.

Even though First Dates does have some class, I always wondered why we didn’t have the show here in the U.S.

There is zero age discrimination on this show. There other day I saw a UK Blind Dates show where the guy was 90 and the woman was 88. You might expect different reactions but there’s no difference  between 18 and 90 when it comes to dating.

There is no gender or sexual orientation discrimination on the show either. None. It’s just great that way.

Big surprise it was to find First Dates finally showing up here on NBC a few weeks ago. Same exact format as in the other countries I mentioned too. No scripted fake drama inserted, just blind dates we get to listen in on. Looks like Ellen DeGeneres is behind the U.S. version so many thanks to her.

There aren’t a lot of actual reality shows around but Blind Dates is one of them.

Kodi Time

I found out about Kodi recently. If you don’t know what it is and you like to browse Internet TV and movie content you’ll be interested in Kodi.

Kodi comes in a small box that connects to your home router via wifi or hard wire and instantly gives you access to, literally, the world.  It’s open source so I’m not advertising anything here. You could download Kodi software right now for free and use it on your computer but buying a small box with Kodi and many free viewing apps pre-installed from one of many online retailers makes it a whole lot easier.

There are hundreds of thousands of programs and movies available via Kodi and a lot of it is actually legal to access.  Although you’ll have access to just about everything shown anywhere on any service, network or theater, you’ll have be careful not to infringe anyones rights of ownership.

One look at Kodi videos on YouTube and you’ll soon understand the scope of what I’m talking about here. It’s truly astounding. Yes, there’s a rather steep learning curve but with semi-moderate computing skills and/or interest you’ll be enjoying a world of entertainment you didn’t know existed.

Without getting too technical I’ll say there are two important things to have once you choose a Kodi box. One is a virtual privacy network, VPN. Gotta have that to protect your anonymity just in case you screw up and watch things that infringe the rights of those that own it. The second is a Debrid service like Real-Debrid or AllDebrid.  Basically a debrid service is an unrestricted downloader that allows you to quickly download files hosted on the Internet or instantly stream them into an innovative web player like Kodi. A debrid service will reliably speed up your streaming. Gotta have one. Both the VPN and debrid service are extremely inexpensive.

As for the Kodi box just do a little research and read the reviews before you choose one. They’re cheap. I have one box that came fully loaded and cost me under fifty bucks and another that was around seventy bucks. The only difference I can see is one box looks pretty sleek and fancy and the other is a little ugly square thing about the size of a pop-tart. They both work great.

Lots and lots of international programming available so if you like shows from the UK or Australia for example you can watch all their shows. Many, many other countries as well. I haven’t seen anything from North Korea yet but it might be there and I’ve just missed it. Sports fans will love Kodi. So, if you love new TV programming both domestic and international plus a new and exciting source for movies, check out Kodi.

Underground

One thing that’s aways bothered me over the years has been the lack of books written by miners. One notable exception is the making of a Hardrock Miner by Stephen Voynick but by in large there’s practically nothing.

Most books about mining are just that; about mining. No stories, no anecdotes, no character studies, no description of what life is like underground. The fact is, it’s an interesting life. A little dangerous at times but interesting.

My own book, Underground and Radioactive, is heavy on anecdotes and characters and pretty light on technical mining information. There’s a certain mining vernacular that has to be explained a little but otherwise nobody is going to learn how to mine anything by reading my book.

A couple of years ago I took a trip to the Mining Hall of Fame in Leadville, Colorado. I was expecting to see a whole wall of incredible miners and explanations of their amazing careers. Nope. There was a wall alright but almost everyone was wearing a suit. Lots of mining executives and incredibly few miners. I have to say though that there was some abstract imagery that pays homage to the people that do the physical work of mining.

I thought about that for a while until I realized that the people actually doing the work, the hard labor, do so in virtual anonymity. They work, more or less, alone and in the dark and other than a few co-workers who’d ever know how good they are at their jobs? So, there is no hall of fame for those workers because nobody has a clue who they are. I try to shed a little light on who they are in my own book

I found the people underground to be fascinating and just as importantly, rather amusing characters. Not that they were trying to be funny but the stuff that happened underground was fairly hilarious. Hopefully, I did a decent job of explaining that in my book through anecdotes.

So, if you want a technical book about mining my book isn’t for you. If you like character studies and humor then maybe it is.

 

 

On the Road

I love to drive and it’s a good thing because I hate to fly. Last week I took a 1,600 trip from Albuquerque back to the mid-west. It started out interestingly enough when I discovered that I-44 through Missouri was closed due to flooding. Naturally, I found out about this the night before I departure. That left me with some major re-routing so I ended up driving mostly two-lane roads for 10 hours. That prospect seemed pretty bad until about 3 or 4 hours into it I noticed I wasn’t seeing anyone else on the road. That was good news. I have a supercharged pick-up that likes to get up and go and with all the empty roads that what I did. I think I averaged higher mph than I would have on the interstate. Extra added bonus was zero police presence on all those deserted roads so the old radar detector never made a peep.

In addition to tunes I usually load up on many hours of pod-casts prior to trips like this. I like Strangers and Risk quite a bit. If you’re into true stories those two are very good. There are others of course but those two come to mind.

A week later on the return trip I-55 and I-44 though St. Louis were mostly open again so I was back on the interstates but I sure missed the lonely two lane roads.

Things have changed on the interstates over the years. The sheer volume of heavy trucks is astounding and as far as the drivers of those rigs go, well it ain’t like it used to be.

I’m going to talk a little bit here about a few drivers so don’t go nuts on me because it’s just a few. But, a few out of hundreds of thousands ends up being quite a few.

Now I know drivers have a job to do and they want make good time, and hate to down-shift for any reason and in all fairness the majority are decent. But, dang  so many will pull out directly in front of you. Then you’ll sitting behind them at 60 mph in a 75 mph zone waiting for them to clear whatever slower rig they’re trying to pass. If you’ve been out there you know exactly what I mean. Nobody behind me, (that they can easily see) and they just pull to the left and sit there. Besides being dangerous it’s incredibly inconsiderate.

There’s not much someone in a smaller vehicle can do about it. I guess I could flip them off but then 100 miles down the road you’re both at a rest stop and then what? So, I’ve taken to carrying a hand held CB radio and discussing the driving techniques of some truckers over the air. Seeing as I have no antenna they have no clue where the comments are coming from but man I let em have it verbally when a trucker yanks a rig right in front of me. Some of the reactions are pretty funny and some not that funny. A few drivers will then sit in the left lane longer than they would have otherwise but the  vast majority won’t and instead pull their rig over to the right fairly quickly. I noticed that my method works a lot better on drivers working for a large cartage company than it does those who are independent.

Some cities have taken to requiring trucks to use the right hand lane only and that’s a huge help although, even then a few knucklehead drivers don’t observe the law. Not many but a few.

I know everyone who’s out on the interstates notices the same thing that I do and it probably infuriates them as much if not more. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a regulation coming that would require trucks to use the right hand lanes only one day. I know a very few members of congress have tossed that idea around a little. It would actually be too bad if it came to that because the majority of truckers are pretty decent out there.

I was more activist about it a few years ago but I guess I’ve come to expect this behavior from a few drivers now. I don’t accept it though so, for now, I’ll keep on talking to those few rude, inconsiderate and dangerous drivers over my secret CB.

Underground and Radioactive Now Available

Underground and Radioactive is now available at most e book retailers and paperback.  My publisher is McFarland Books and they have a great site for browsing quite a few topics as well as for ordering my book. I like to browse their site for biographies and memoirs. Even if I don’t include myself, they have some exceptional authors so please browse their catalog. I highly recommend it.