Cacti- The snow keeps record. The turkeys have been here! Deer and turkey tracks and a sliver of the basket showing out of the white.
Trees- The leaves are close to breaching the basket lip. I don’t want to count anymore.
Knoll- Snow instead of leaves.
Aspen- Snow covered. But, I saw the pictures framed by the snow, fragments of life underneath. And looking through the lens I lost my sense of scale and they became monumental. Brave in their endeavors, solitary and resolute.
The snow is melting and the mice tunnels are showing. They’re drawings made by bodies—bodies displacing frozen water. They are the truest figure drawings. They are beautiful in their practicality—highways, trails, paths, and memories of presence.
Perhaps this place doesn’t need a spokesperson. Perhaps it just needs a stationary object, a canvas, upon which to mark.
In 2002, Franci Alys, a Belgian-born artist, gave shovels to 500 hundred volunteers in a desert outside of Lima, Peru. They stood in a line, and on his command, moved a mountain. Well, technically it was a sand dune, but he called the performance piece, “When Faith Moves Mountains.” He had the line of volunteers climb the dune’s ridge and shovel the sand forward at every step. In the end the mountain of sand moved four inches.
Scriptures of several faiths speak of the potential for faith to move mountains. It seems the act of moving a mountain represented doing the seemingly impossible with divine aid. This idea was written before steam shovels, though. The impossible has wheeled over to possible. Yet, I believe it still requires faith to move a mountain—faith in something.
When the mountains and mine first saturated my mind, I wanted to know the architect of the open pit. I needed to know who decided to go above ground. Did he or she have a vision of what the future held—of benches, piles and an inverted mountain? I knew one person did not do this, decades of bodies and machines have, but an idea, as a spring of water, usually enters through one fissure into this world.
We credit an architect for an edifice though she does not pour the foundation or nail every board. The credit comes because of what we call her “vision,” which is a romantic way to say blueprint. It is to create in theory now what will exist tangibly in the future.
On July 21, 1906, the Deseret News published an article called, “Removing Utah Mountains by Modern Machinery.” It read,
To some people strange things are going on in Bingham just now. The great copper camp is undergoing such a transformation that in a few years the topography of the district will look much different to what it does at present. The great mountain, which spreads itself over the domains of the Boston Consolidated and Utah Copper companies, is to come down….
“How is it possible to tear down a mountain as big as those in Bingham?” may be asked. The answer will be: “It is to be blown up with powder.” But the pyrotechnics are not all to be pulled off at one time; it may take years, perhaps generations, to complete the job. But the copper kings have willed that at least one of Bingham’s highest hills shall be moved away—it is doomed. What powder does not do, steam shovels will.[i]
The copper kings have willed it.
That year, in 1906, large-scale surface mining began at Bingham. Though, the idea began a decade earlier. In the mid-1890s Daniel Cowan Jackling and a colleague, Robert Gemmell, stood on a mountain in the Bingham region known as “The Hill.” The mining industry knew The Hill held a copper deposit, but also knew it was low-grade, only 2 percent copper within the host rock. An interested investor sent a team, including Jackling and Gemmell, to evaluate the profitability of mining The Hill’s deposit. At that low of a percentage no one had deemed the deposit worthwhile or profitable. But, Jackling and Gemmell proposed another mining approach.
Their concluding report to the investor suggested, “The ore would be worked by quarrying or open pit methods, the overlying deposits of waste and low-grade material being first stripped off the ore and hauled by railroad to the convenient dumping ground.”[ii] They proposed building a concentrating plant north of the Oquirrhs with the capacity to process 2,000 tons daily. Also, work of this scale would require consolidating mining claims. With those conditions Jackling believed that the low-grade ore could reach profitability.
The investor dismissed the report, likely because of the millions of dollars required for the risky venture. Jackling, however, pursued it. Soon, he was the General Manager of the nascent Utah Copper Company. With monetary fuel from the Guggenheims mining on “The Hill” rose to the surface in the summer of 1906.
The synergy of railway, dynamite, and steam shovel turned the once-termed worthless ore profitable. While Jackling wasn’t the first to use steam shovels, dynamite, or rail, he is generally credited as the first to combine and apply the technologies to low-grade copper on such a large scale. Jackling created a new level of scale and speed. And so, in 1907 The Copper Handbook wrote of Jackling’s company: “The mining work of the Utah Copper Co. is an evolution, yet it may prove to be the beginning of a revolution also…. The mine must be regarded as a step in the advance of anything heretofore accomplished in mining…[and] opens a new and vast field of possibilities in the mining world.”[iii]
I had a name: Daniel Cowan Jackling.
I read about his life: He was born in Missouri. Both his father and mother died before he turned three. Left an orphan he was passed between relatives for the next fourteen years. He rarely spoke of his childhood later in life. He “earned his own keep from an early age by driving plow teams and working other farm jobs.”[iv] He initially wanted to teach and be a farmer, but one day he saw a civil engineer mapping out a city street with a transit. The precision of the craft and tools captivated him. So, in 1893 he graduated with a bachelor of science in metallurgy.
Jackling was the originator of this mark. Honestly, I detested him for his work.
It is comfortable to cast those involved in mining as villain. . It is easy. I didn’t want easy. So, I sought out his own words.
In 1940, Jackling was awarded the Washington Award, a prestigious engineering award whose past recipients included people such as Henry Ford and Orville Wright. The presenter graciously introduced Jackling, who then addressed the audience. He said he felt unworthy of such an honor.
He spoke of his work at Bingham. “I became convinced,” Jackling said, “that this ore occurrence, long known and theretofore considered as worthless, could be made the basis of a profitable operation if worked on a sufficiently large scale of daily tonnage. Very few others, either engineers or investors, were sympathetic with my conception…. It required a matter of four years of almost constant endeavor on my part before…the small beginning was successful…. From it grew the gigantic operations of today.” [v]
The majority of his remarks fell under the title “The Engineer’s Province and Obligation in Organized Society.” He said that “engineering is the art of directing the great sources of power for the use and convenience of man” and that “the engineer’s sphere…is as extensive as the surface of the earth.” He declared that the engineer “is responsible, primarily, basically and almost wholly for mankind[’s] welfare and the progress of civilized advancement.”
He finished his remarks by saying,
The sage who commented ruefully that there was nothing new under the sun did not reckon with the capabilities of modern engineering…. [The engineer’s] obligations demand of him both courage and persistence in seeking and finding solutions to attendant problems…because the economic and sociologic destiny of mankind must rely upon his achievements and guidance more than upon all other classes or orders of human relationships combined.[vi]
I finished and wanted to read him Janine Benyus’s words, “Imagine designing spring.”[vii]
I heard in his words technological determinism. “The idea that all technology that can be feasibly produced is desirable and is likely to be developed and become available.”[viii] “It is the assumption that technology is both autonomous and has determinate effects on society.”[ix] It is the idea that if we can, we will. This view seems to say that technology decides, not us, and in that acquiescence we forget that our bodies, and all life, are fluid with and dependent on our surroundings.
I try to remember that the cultural mindset has changed. As the philosopher Bruno Latour said, “The paradox of ‘the environment’ is that it emerged in public parlance just when it was starting to disappear. During the heyday of modernism, no one seemed to care about ‘the environment’ because there existed a huge unknown reserve on which to discharge all bad consequences of collective modernizing actions. The environment is what appeared when unwanted consequences came back to haunt the originators of such actions.”[x]
I found out there is a statue of Jackling at the state’s capitol building.
I’ve been anxious to see him, as an honorary of the state. You can see the Oquirrhs and the smokestack from his perch. The plaque reads that one of the statue’s donators was Kennecott and that Jackling’s vision was inspired. The pit’s benches are shown in relief. The paper in his hand must represent ideas overlaid on a surface—a blueprint, the future to be delivered and set in motion. It says, “Loyal friend of Utah and its people” and I know he was disloyal to his wife.[xi]
I’m conscious that I move around him. I’m the visitor. He’s solid, up here on the hill. Aren’t all statues meant to be that way? They tell us in their permanence that we must adapt to them, to whatever life or ideas they represent.
But think of something as firm as a tree, Jackling.
Trees are miracles, any tree, every tree. I think we forget that so many factors must fall into place, so many finicky variables must marry: seed, soil, air, water, and sun—all in the right amount. It starts vulnerable.
These are moments when all the right parties have arrived. Some moments wait for years and others just an instant. And that “moment” is tenuous ground. We forget, looking at an oak we can’t circle with arms, that it may not have been. Trace anything back and you come to that moment when its existence was as sure as a coin toss. Things we see as entrenched, solid and destined, were at one point only an option. When all other parts are equal and ready, parties with unsettled volition decide. The lot is dropped on one side and the choice begins breaking ground, moving against a world used to being without it, until it is entrenched and other vulnerable decisions find themselves beaten down by the one who got there first.
When that step is taken to one side it can be adjusted easily, but take it further and further and the return to that moment seems improbable, too difficult, impossible. Decisions grow exponentially. So don’t tell me small acts can’t do anything. By small things are great things brought to pass and there are always other options.
He died in 1956, fifty years after 1906. By then Bingham was the largest humanmade excavation on Earth.[xii]
Daniel Jackling was quoted in a newspaper article as saying “ . . . he had no sympathy for ‘so-called’ conservationists who would allow river water to ‘run away to the sea and be wasted’ instead of being harnessed for hydropower, and he considered it sheer idiocy to let any mineral deposit sit idly undeveloped when the technology for its economic exploitation was at hand.”[xiii]
To Jackling, the truest conservationists were those who harnessed the Earth. He’d probably call me a fool, a “so-called conservationist.” I’d probably tell him to go take a hike, in the Oquirrhs. I’d tell him to walk with me to the baskets, where we’d meet the bluebird that lives at the third bend on the path.
[i] “Removing Utah Mountains by Modern Machinery,” Deseret News, July 21, 1906: 25.
[ii] Kenneth A. Krahulec, “History and Production of the West Mountain (Bingham) Mining District, Utah,” Geology and Ore Deposits of the Oquirrh and Wasatch Mountains, Utah vol. 29 (1997): 189- 217. From page 197.
[iii] H.J. Stevens, ed., The Copper Handbook (Michigan: Houghton, 1907), 1129-1130. The Copper Handbook was published annually by the Stevens Copper Handbook Company.
[iv] Timothy J. LeCain, Mass Destruction: The Men and Giant Mines that Wired American and Scarred the Planet (Piscataway: Rutgers University Press, 2009), 113-114.
[v] Daniel C. Jackling, “The Engineer’s Province and Obligation in and to Organized Society, ” Journal of the Western Society of Engineers vol. 45, no. 2 (Illinois: Western Society of Engineers, April 1940): 57.
[vi] Ibid., 56-58.
[vii] Janine Benyus, “Boimimcry In Action,” speech at Ted Global, July 2009.
[viii] “Technological Determinism,” Dictionary of Media Studies (London: A&C Black, 2006). Credo Reference, web February 6, 2015.
[ix] “Technological Determinism,” Collins Dictionary Of Sociology (London: Collins, 2006). Credo Reference, web February 6, 2015.
[x] Bruno Latour, “Love Your Monsters,” Breakthrough Journal (Winter 2012). Online at thebreakthrough.org.
[xi] It is known that while Jackling and wife Jeane lived in Salt Lake City, at 731 East South Temple, he “supported two notorious ladies ‘of easy virtue,’ one in Salt Lake City and one at Bingham.” See Ken Krahulec’s “Bingham History” on page 200. Also see J. Goodman, “Refined Home Is Fit for a Copper King,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 18, 1997: D2.
[xii] LeCain, Mass Destruction, 110.
[xiii] Ibid., 130.