Here is a
1924 map in jpeg format that is a
large file, and should
take a while to
open, but I think you'll like it
For an aerial look at where we are going first,
If you lived in Cardin, Memory lane is very easy to find. In fact, there are several of them. For one, just park at the side of the road, south of Cardin, at the top of the hill. Climb the fence/gate, past the “No Trespassing” signs, and proceed in an easterly direction. Of course, the houses that were there, to the right of the road going to the Woodchuck, are long gone. Not even flowers to mark the spot where homes once stood. To the left, the second house down was where Busbys lived, and below that, Pedro Walton. James Busby and I ruled this area for years, hunting and trapping, playing various made up games, and of course, swimming. The first thing you will notice is the odor. I had completely forgotten the smell of Cottonwoods and Catalpa blooming, mixed in with the Trumpet Vine and Honeysuckle. Of course, before I quit smoking, I may not have smelled it if it was under my nose. Just close your eyes, and you’re instantly back in the fifties, and everything seems familiar to you. It’s eerily quiet. There are no close highways, so you can’t hear any traffic. Of course, if you could hear a train, or the “Lunch Whistle” from the mines, it would heighten the feeling of the fifties. The “roads” are cluttered with fallen limbs and lots of dumped trash, but they’re mostly still there. The major difference is the undergrowth hiding so much from view. Winter has to be a better season for time travel, because with the leaves off, you’d be able to see many more landmarks.
Are you starting to feel it?
The drill hole casings sticking up here and there, all the concrete bases that we wondered, even then, what they were for. The various pipes and drill stems sticking up occasionally, that someone had used for a guy wire anchor, for some long forgotten structure. I can’t locate the peach tree we always ate from. It was a scrawny thing, growing out of the chat, but it had a few peaches every year, which we usually ate green, not having much patience. Also, near it is where we once buried most of a box of dynamite that Earl Dean had obtained.
If you veer to the south, across what was once the Jay Bird chat pile, you come up on Clear Pond. Originality was never our long suit, and the name fit, so it stuck. I was immediately reminded of the day when we decided to deepen the swimming hole. That was a good idea, if dynamite worked in reality like it does in the movies, and if we’d known it floated like Styrofoam! Many a kid (and a few parents) had lots of fun in that little pond. It was the "New Beaver". Wish I had a dollar for every kid who went swimming there buck naked.
Then, you head back north and a little east. The Woodchuck. I can remember when it was still in operation. I also remember after it closed down James Busby and I used to hunt pigeons in it. When we’d kill one, we’d start a fire, clean the bird in one of the ponds, and roast it and eat it right there. We did the same thing with doves. It wasn’t because we were so hungry, it was just something different to do. After all, we were hunter/explorers, and that’s the kind of things they do. I don’t remember much of the machinery of the mill, but wish I did. But before my time, the company that owned Woodchuck owned the two mines in Cardin, proper. The “Townsite 1” and “Townsite 2”. Eventually, I guess Eagle-Picher owned all the mines in the area. Many a stupid thing was done on the Woodchuck chat pile. But then, “Stupid” covers a lot of what we did when we were kids in Cardin. It still amazes me, to this day, that no one ever broke a leg nor an arm jumping off the “cliffs” on that chat pile. It was a gigantic rush, because those cliffs were high, and the slope below them was pretty steep. I also remember several houses just west of that chat pile. (as well as a lot of other places) Nobody realized how stupid the lead was making their kids. I’m sure glad somebody from outside came in and let us know how dumb we were.
A little east of that is “the Elephant Hump” I don’t know why it was called that, except it did kinda look like a large elephant had fell on his back there. And, like I said, originality wasn’t our long suit. At that time, (the fifties) it was just a large, deep, dry cave in. After the mines closed down, and the pumps stopped, it filled with water, and doesn’t look menacing at all now. South of the elephant hump, across the road, is a powder house. Strange location for a powder house. On the North edge of the cave in is the concrete remains of a mill. Since it’s on Woodchuck land, I wonder if it isn’t the location of the original Woodchuck. Lots of mills burned, and were rebuilt on the same mining lease, just not the same foundations, because milling was changing at a rapid pace in the early days. Most of the earliest chat piles were re-milled later, to reclaim the ore the previous method had missed. Even some of the rock piles were re-milled. The chat piles of today are almost all of the “newer” variety.
A little more to the east you come upon the Domado/Rialto #3. That’s where the big laugh comes in. (Again, I remember when it was an active mill in the early fifties.) Any way, here’s this plugged shaft, right? It has this nice little brass medallion on a concrete pad that’s about 3X3 feet. Stamped into this brass medallion is: Stamped, Shaft # 03, Section # 29, Date Plugged, 6. 15. 05. And, about twenty or thirty feet from this safely plugged shaft is an approximately three acre lake that is in actuality the mine workings caved in. You just gotta love the irony of that! As you circle the “lake”, you encounter a pump, set up to pump water from the cave in to the chat processing going on to the south. (Back in the day, it wouldn’t have sat around unguarded for very long) When you climb the chat pile there, you can see for miles in every direction. Looking south, you can see what little remains of the "Bethel" Mill. A little to the east, the larger remains of one of the "Admiralty" mills, probably the #2. Someone ought to set up a concession to take people to the top of one of the remaining chat piles for the view. I bet they could make some money at it. Looking back toward Cardin, you can see the wetlands already in place. The huge waterhole that used to be in the road (coming south from Stringtown Road) has finally taken the road over completely.
Returning to the car, I found a generous clump of iris near the Woodchuck chat pile. So much for the writing that says you must dig and divide them every few years to promote bloom. Who do you suppose planted these, and how long do you think they’ve been here, undisturbed? And, it looks like every rhizome bloomed this year.
Further west is the remains of what I believe was an attempt to raise buffalo in the seventies. A lot of fence with railroad ties as fence posts, and lots of tin that was a building of some sort. Also, the road that went north past the Lucky Bill, and the little chat pile behind the school. Across the road from that is one of those small "Square Ponds" that we were warned about when we were kids. Usually, they were shafts.
Another optional travel, although not as impressive, is to leave your car in the same place, and go west toward the Blue Goose. You pass, to the south, the remains of the original Blue Goose. It burned down, and when it was rebuilt, it was located west of the first one. I don’t know this for certain, but by studying the early maps, and the writings of John Robinson, I came to this conclusion. Newer milling methods called for different machinery, so piers were spaced and formed differently.
The third option is a very good one. You park where Cardin Electric used to be, right by the old Bitco building (still standing) and take off up the road that went around north of the Eagle-Picher offices and maintenance barns. Whoever took out the old railroad tracks were so intent on the iron that they left the ties right where they were. I guess there wasn’t enough profit in them, or the boss didn't tell them to clean up the mess after removing the iron. What a difference from Cardin in the fifties! When I grew up in Cardin, recycling wasn’t much of an option. We couldn’t afford not to. Milk and soda came in bottles that had some value as returns. Bricks and boards weren’t thrown away, they were re-used. Orville Benschoter was a recycler’s ideal, he just never realized it. John Comba in Picher was the same. If a building was torn down, every thing, including the nails it was put together with, was recycled. I well remember cleaning mortar off bricks for what is a pittance now days, but was pretty good wages for me then. Of course, now days, it’s cheaper to buy a new brick than it is to pay a kid enough to get him from in front of the TV to clean a brick. Any way, just past the "tracks" is the first road into the “dumps”. As you go on around the road to where it turned north, you think of Romine’s house. Of course, there’s no sign of it any more, but you remember it like it was yesterday. A little to the north, you see the second road into the “dumps”. Back in the day, everyone had a trash burner, and burned their trash. The trash burners were mostly made of old discarded screens from the mills. Then, every so often, they’d hire a kid with a pickup or a trailer to empty it. Trash was hauled to the “dumps”. Not just thrown down as soon as you were out of town. Unlike the days just before all the fences went up, when people started dumping as soon as they were out of sight of a house. Somebody had to do something about Picher, or it would have been covered in trash in just a few more years. People were already dumping pretty close to homes.
But, that’s off the subject, isn’t it? As you pass “the dumps” you run out of road. Just past the road that branched off to the west and went past the Velie, there’s a large body of water in the middle of the road. One can only guess how deep it is. When we were kids, the branch that went to the Velie had a couple of those large square “ponds” that were surely shafts near by. The pond at the Velie had a rock pile on the edge of it, and that was one of the best places in the area to catch perch. Just to the west of it, was the “Goldfish Pond”. There were a few huge (in our minds, at least) goldfish in that pond. Several of us tried and tried to catch them, thinking they were of the bass family, not realizing they were actually carp!! Those ponds were all along a creek that started somewhere in that section, and were utilized by the mining companies, one after another, as water sources for the mills. Lots of roads that were used daily in the fifties are simply not passable any more. Mainly because of “road blocks” including barbed wire fences, but also because of cave ins, but also tree falls. Those Willows just aren’t long term trees. Nor are the Cottonwoods, although they get huge.
NOTE: I started writing this some time ago, meaning to finish it and post it. I haven't finished it yet, and may never do it, but here it is, in unfinished version. Perhaps one winter, I'll get back to it. hope you enjoy it.