By Ben Moody, Jr. Tri-State Tribune, August 10, 1989



 BULL BIT: A bit used under certain conditions, but was not the exclusive bit used. This bit was called a chisel bit in other mining fields.

 BUMPER: A workman who pushed the loaded cans of rock to the hooker in order that the hooker could hook the cans on the cable hooks to pull them to the surface.  He would also keep the empty cans pushed back so that they would not interfere with the hooker.

BRUNO MAN: A workman who cleaned up the small amount of rock left by the shovelers.

BRUNO PADDLE: Usually a No. 2 scoop shovel that had worn down or been cut down.  Sometimes it was a shovel smaller than a No. 2 scoop shovel.

CANDIDATIN: A miner going from one mine to another seeking employment.

CAN: A round metal container 33 inches in diameter and 33 inches deep with two inch steel bail fastened to two sides of the can.  The bail was I slightly bowed in order that the hooker could easily insert the hook on the end of the hoist cable.  These containers were used to hoist the broken rock from the mine to the surface hopper.  These cans were made to hold 1,650 pounds, but because of less lead and zinc in the rock held as little as 1,250 pounds.

COKEY BUTTER: A type of grease used by the track man to lubricate the wheels of the cars on which the cans of rock were hauled to the shaft.

COKEY HERDER: The straw boss and time keeper of a mine.  Usually these men were training to become ground-bosses.

            DRAG MAN: Operator of a machine which would drag the rock from where it had been blasted loose to a hopper from which cans could be loaded and then pushed to the hooker and hoisted, to the surface.  This equipment would have two or three large cylinders upon which cable would be wound or unwound.  These cables were fastened to a large scraper and this scraper would drag the broken rock into a hopper.

DOG HOUSE: A building in which the miners changed from street clothes to work clothes at the beginning of a shift and from work clothes to street clothes at the end of a shift, leaving their clothing in baskets or lockers for safe keeping.  Also, most of the time had showers for the miners to use.  Also, the platform upon which the hooker at the bottom of the shaft landed the empty cans was sometimes also called a, "Dog House".

DRY POPPING: Sometimes boulders were blasted from the faces that were too large to fit into cans to be hoisted to the surface.  A stick of dynamite or part of a stick of dynamite was laid on the boulder and covered with clay or fine rock. The fuse to this dynamite was ignited and the explosion broke the large boulder into smaller boulders that could be loaded into the cans.

DUMMY: This was actually the driller's helper. He did the hard jobs of carrying drill steel, setting up the drill, etc. The miners called these workmen dummies, because they considered them not smart enough to run a drill until they had          more experience.

DUMMY EGGS: A weight that fit onto the bottom of each of the three legs of the tripod on which the drills were mounted.  The miners in the Picher field would either not buy these weights or would throw them in the scrap iron pile.

GOAT TRAIL: A narrow path cut into the rock walls of the tunnels or drifts in order that a miner could walk from one level to another.  They were so narrow that the miners had to be almost as sure footed as a goat to walk on these paths.

GROUND BOSS: This was the mine foreman - in other mining fields he was called captain or foreman.  The miners of the Picher field called him boss of the under­ground - or as shortened by them - ground boss.     

HERDER: A shortened version of cokey herder.

            HIP WRENCH: A large steel wrench which the drillers used to tighten and loosen the large bolt holding the drill in position.  The driller welded a length of steel onto the end of the wrench. In this manner he could place the wrench against his hip and get more leverage.

HOOKER: A workman who fastened the loaded cans onto the hook at the end of the hoist cable.  These cans would then be hoisted to the surface, and dumped into the hopper by the hoisterman.  The hoisterman would then return the empty cans down the shaft to the hooker. It was something special to watch this operation.  The hooker and the hoisterman had no signals between them, but the hoisterman, with his hand on the cable could feel when the loaded can had been attached and would pull it to the surface immediately.  (Some mines had a wire running from the derrick to the bottom of the shaft, with a bell at each end.) Pulling a loaded can to the surface, emptying it and returning the empty can to the hooker would sometimes take only 30 seconds, depending the depth of the shaft

HOPPER PULLER: A workman who filled the cans with rock from hoppers either filled by the drag man or by trucks in the later days.

            LAY OUT: Boards were laid to the face of drift after the shoveler and bruno man had cleaned up rock from previous blast. This was done in order that rock from the next blast would go onto these boards and the shovelers could load the rock into cans easier and faster.  This was called by the shovelers "'their layout". 

            LAY BYS: A track on which cans on cars were left to be used and loaded by the shovelers.

            MACHINE: A rock drill that was powered by compressed air.  This was used to drill holes in which the dynamite was placed to blast loose the rock containing lead and zinc.

            MACHINE MAN: Operator of a drilling machine.   

MULE SLING: A piece of canvas reinforced with leather straps about six feet wide and five feet long. This sling was used to put the mules in to restrain them from kicking and threshing round in order that they could be lowered into the mine shaft by means of attaching the sling to the hoister cable. They were also removed from the mines in this manner.

POST: Iron column that reached from the floor to the roof of the drift on which an arm was attached that held the machine into position for drilling a hole.

Powder Monkey:  The man who handled the dynamite, in charge of storing it and poking each charge into the holes drilled by the machine man.

PROD: A nickname for a tripod which held the machine for a different type of drilling.

            PULL DRIFT: A drift or tunnel through barren ground connecting one body of lead and zinc with another.

ROOF TRIMMER: A workman standing on top of a high section ladder held upright by men stand­ing on the floor of the drift holding ropes attached to the top of the ladder and on exceptionally high ladders additional ropes were attached to the middle section of the ladder.  Roof Trimming was the first job done each morning.  The roof trimmer with one hand holding onto the ladder and the other hand holding a long metal bar with which he pried down loose rock from the roof of the drift. This kept the roof arched and prevented rock from falling onto the miners working below.

ROPE RIDER: A workman who rode the string of cans on cars, either with full or empty cans, being pulled from and to the working face by cable hauler.

RUSTLIN' CARD: At one time a miner candidating for a job had to have a card known as a "'Rustlin' Card" which showed he had passed the physical examination that showed he was able to work.

SCREEN APE:  A workman with a sledge hammer in the derrick or mill whose job it was to break the boulders into smaller boulders when the boulders would not go through the openings in the grizzly or screen over the hopper. The space between the bars on the screen or grizzly was deter­mined by the size of the crusher in the mill.

SHEET GROUND: Sheet ground was a formation with the rock lying in horizontal sheets laminated with lead and zinc.

SHOVELER: This workman was called a mucker in other mining fields. He was the workman who with a number two scoop shovel loaded the rock containing Iead and zinc into cans which were pulled to the surface. He was usually paid on a per can basis and the more cans he shoveled the more money he made.

STOPE HOLE: The bottom of holes in any given drill round. In other fields they were called lifters.

TRAM CARS: Cars that were used on the surface that ran on small rails and carried the rock which contained lead and zinc. These were pulled by a cable on a tilted tramway and dumped into an elevated hopper for gravitational feed into the mill.

WINDY: A can of rock loaded by the shoveler to leave as much void as possible, yet to make it appear to be a full can for which he would get the full pay for a can shoveled.


BACKING JACK: Jack (zinc) and lead was hauled by wagon or truck to be loaded into box cars for shipment to the smelters. Those hauling the jack or lead would unload it into the center of the box car and jack backers inside the car would shovel it to each end of the car to maintain equal weight on each part of the car.

            FLOAT MAN: A workman who operated the flotation machines in the flotation department of the milling system.      

            FLINGER OPERATOR: A man who operated a machine called a flinger.  Zinc and lead were loaded directly from the mill by conveyor belt into the box cars.  Since the conveyor belt could only deposit the lead and zinc into the center of the box cars it was necessary to have a machine to take the place of the jack backers. This machine consisted of a 2 ft. by 3 ft. hopper with an endless 12 inch belt running at a high speed below the hopper.  By turning this hopper in any direction the lead and zinc would be flung to that direction and the cars could be loaded evenly.

       HOISTERMAN: The workman, in the derrick, who raised and lowered the cans.

JACK BIN:  A bin in which the zinc concentrate was stored after milling.

JACK HAULER:  The workmen that hauled both the lead and zinc from the original mill storage bins to the box cars.  This was first done by team and wagon and later by trucks.

JIG MAN:  A workman in the mill who operated the jigs and hauled the lead and zinc produced by the jigs to the storage bins.

JIG SPUDDER: A long metal bar with a chisel blade on the end, which was used on top of the jig plungers to keep the rock from settling too tight before it could move on to the next operation.

SLUDGE MAN: The workman who operated the department of the mill called the sludge mill.

            SLUDGE TABLE: A shaker table with long variable slats upon which was fed the “fines” con­taining lead and zinc from the main mill by water .  This process separated the fine sands from the fine lead and zinc.

TAILING HERDER: A workman whose duty it was on top of the tailing pile to see that the flow of tailings at the discharge would con­tinue to flow across the top of the pile, thus extending the pile out farther, instead of letting the tailings become clogged up at the end of the discharge.




By Earl “Pat” Patterson, Tri-State Tribune, August 13, 1981


A hoisterman was the man who runs the hoist in the tall derrick. He pulled the "dirt" up. Ore was always called dirt.

A "hooker" was not a gal from Fourth Street, but the man who hooked the cans of dirt on the cable at the bottom of the shaft.

A "can" was the barrel or tub with a bail on it, 32 inches high and 32­ inches across the top. It was called a '''Sixteen-Fifty” I think, because of the pounds it held, unless a shoveler had built a “windy" out of “handy rock”.

Handy rock was any flat slab of rock that would stand on edge against the side of the can and create an air space  hence the word

"windy”.  Any good shoveler could pick up 100 cans a day, netting him $12~$18 daily.

             A "powder monkey" was the man who poked the powder into the holes to blast the dirt loose.

A "bumper" pushed the cans of dirt to the hooker.

A "machine man” drilled the holes for blasting and his helper was known as a "dummy."  The tools they used were called "junk”, consisting of a machine or jack hammer cradled on a rig called a sash with a feed screw with a crank to run the machine back and forth as you cranked.  Then there was the air hose, 50-100 feet long.  

The post was a piece of 3-inch, triple strength pipe, with screw jacks on the bottom.  It could be from six to twenty feet long, depending on how high the roof was.

The "arm" was bolted to the post to set the machine on.

The "rocker" held the machine in place on the arm and allowed you to raise, lower or turn the machine.

The "toe board" was a two by twelve (board) with toe plates fastened to it to hold the jacks on the post, to fasten from floor to roof.

The "prod" was a three-Iegged tripod of two inch pipe.  The man who invented it should have been “hung”.  I never used one, without pinching or mashing the fingers on both hands and mashing at least one foot.

The "stope" was the solid rock at the bottom of the dirt pile; the "heading" was the top. Some ore veins were 100 feet or more thick, which made quite a hill to lug a machine man's junk up and down.  We usually found a hole in the heading to hide everything from the blasting, or cover it with dirt. The hose, we just turned loose and let the shovelers out run it to the bottom.  However, the "mule skinners" were a little leery about bringing the last load of empties up the drift at quitting time, as the hose rolling down scared the tar out of the mules, they would "run away," scattering cars.

The "ground boss” was the head honcho of the “diggings" (mine) and the "cokey herder" was the straw boss who went around snitching on the shovelers, especially "high grading".

"High grading" was miners taking pieces of pure lead home with them. You could usually tell a "high grader" because he had the habit of eating his dinner under­ ground, so he could fill his dinner bucket (lunch Pail) with high grade.

Then when the shutdown came in the fall, or the first freeze when the mills couldn't run for lack of water, the high grader had a little pile of lead he could take to the Galena smelters to buy their kids a little something for Christmas.

When the depression peaked, and the mines all shut down, Eagle-Picher and C. Y. Semple built huge mills, called tailing mills, to reclaim the ore that had been left in the tailing or chat piles that stood like mountains all over the prairie.

Then a bunch of us who knew nothing but mining, started sub­leasing from companies that still held leases.  We were known as "gougers."  We'd take a bucket and small pick, and wander around the old diggins, picking up small pieces of ore that had been left.  We gouged pieces out of the walls and pillars, until some of them looked like apple cores...    ­(causing weak roofs, and cave-ins)