#140 Post College Life

[I’m working on a side project and was looking through my old college notes for some information I thought I had. While doing that I came across the following little gem. My university had a final course for graduating seniors called “Senior Seminar”. It was a great course that was designed to put your life in perspective so you can evaluate where you have been and what you want to do. The following is from an exercise where we had to evaluate where we came from and what we wanted out of life after college. I didn’t quite hit the mark but I feel like I’m still somewhat on course. This was not edited and is presented in it’s original form. Enjoy.]

What do I want to do in my post-college life?  That is a good question.  I’ve already lived through my twenties and had the starts of a few good careers.  I’ve been in the Navy, and I’ve been an aircraft electronics technician.  I’ve been a quality assurance inspector and a supervisor at an international corporation.  Throughout all those jobs I always felt that there was something missing.  Passion.

I really enjoyed being in the Navy.  When I was in high school I never even applied to any colleges.  I was signed up for the Navy before my senior year even started.  At the time, my passion was going into the Navy.  It’s all I thought about and it’s all I wanted to do.  From day one I had planned on making a career out of the military.  I’m not sure why I felt this way.  It might be in part because I knew that I could never afford college.  Not that I would have known what to do in college had I gone.  My parents were broke all the time and no one ever told me about government student loans.  Gotta love those guidance counselors.

When I got to my squadron in the Navy I had responsibilities and shortly after arriving I had people under me.  I was hooked.  I didn’t really like working on planes but I loved being in charge.  I enjoyed that fact that everything that happened on that shift was my responsibility.  I loved having a task to do, delegating the people to do it, and coordinating the efforts to get the task done efficiently and timely.  I also really liked the chain of command in the Navy.  The only time I didn’t like it is when someone over me was doing a bad job or making bad decisions.  I had a hard time taking orders from people that didn’t know what they were doing or that I didn’t respect.  In the end, that’s ultimately why I got out.  I knew that it would never get better in that respect.  That’s when I went to flight school.

In flight school I discovered that I really liked to fly.  I also discovered that I didn’t like to fly on a rigid time schedule.  I didn’t figure that out until I moved to North Dakota and transferred to UND.  When I got to UND the flying atmosphere was so rigid and sterile that it put me off flying completely.  I still enjoy flying but I could never see myself flying for a commercial airline or even for a corporation.  It would ruin flying for me.  I wouldn’t mind flying tourists for sightseeing or flying smaller planes in Africa on safaris and other trips like that.

Luckily, I was taking anthropology classes at UND when my taste for flying started to go sour.  I have always had at least a casual interest in anthropology, especially human origins.  I have to admit that I’ve always been somewhat of a cultural anthropologist too in that I enjoy observing people and trying to figure out what makes them tick.  I do that to people I know too.  When I’m having a conversation and I hear something that doesn’t sound right, I’ll press them to cite their sources for the information and back-up everything that they have to say until they are blue in the face and get mad at me.  I’ve always enjoyed going to coffee shops, or even just to work, and sitting back and observing people.  Seeing how they handle the situation they are in or watching the little things they do with their hands or the way they shuffle their feet when they are uncomfortable or when they are lying are all things that I’ve done for as long as I can remember.

It’s this varied job history and my personal interests that lead me to believe that my passion is truly anthropology and scientific debate.  Every time I’m with people that enjoy talking about topics in anthropology, I just let the time slip away.  I don’t even notice it.  I love reading about history and texts on early human origins.  I can’t see myself doing anything else for the rest of my life.  I might not end up in a classroom but I’ll certainly be involved somehow in the search for our ancestors.

I’ve only recently made these decisions in my life.  Prior to the start of last semester I didn’t really know what I was going to do.  I had just started a job with FedEx and I was actually thinking that a career with them might not be so bad.  I’m not sure what triggered the change but something happened shortly after the school year started, a light bulb went off in my head, and a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.  I’d figured it out.  I would go to Arizona State, get my Ph.D. and work in the paleoanthropology field for the rest of my life.  I even have a back-up plan.  If ASU doesn’t accept me on the second try, I’m moving to Africa.  I’m not sure where yet but probably Kenya.  That doesn’t even scare me.  I’ve moved twice now to cities where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t even have a place to live or a job.  I know it’s possible if I put my mind to it.  I’d rather go to Africa with my doctorate because I know what kind of significance the scientific community puts on that sort of thing but to me personally, it’s just a check in the block; something that I have to do to get to where I want to go.

I’d like the career path that I have chosen to eventually take me to a nice university where I can have a big office and a big cherry wood desk with books everywhere.  I’ll be teaching classes, doing research and enjoying life.  It’s something that I really look forward to.  I picture the situation where the old professor walks everyday from his house to his office in the picturesque setting with leaves falling and students rushing off to class and think, that looks nice.  Maybe I’ve seen too many movies but I don’t care.  It’s my dream to have all that and if I even get a fraction of what I dream for, I’ll be happy.

Well that was fun. The writing isn’t too bad but I’ve seen better. As you can see I didn’t become a paleoanthropologist. Just didn’t have the grades for those schools. ASU wanted a 4.0 and I didn’t have it. Also, I didn’t know the world of CRM existed or that contract archaeology was even a possibility. I thought that academic archaeology or TV archaeology were the only ways people in that field made a living. Lessons learned, for sure.

I think I’m still on the path I set for myself. It’s nine years later and I’m still in archaeology, have a Master’s Degree, and I’m starting my own company. It’s not a cherry wood desk and an idilic, ivy-covered, college campus but I have no regrets. I still have passion, though, and that’s what counts.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!

#7 Tonopah Wrap-Up

I just finished up what was likely my last session in Tonopah, Nevada for a while. That is, until they add even more to the survey! I thought I'd give a quick History of Tonopah and a summary of the field work because it all turned out to be quite interesting.

Early 1900s Tonopah.The modern city of Tonopah was founded on May 19, 1900 by Jim Butler. Butler was traveling through the area and stopped for a little break. A popular version of the story is that Butler's mule wandered away and he went to look for it. When Butler found the mule it was standing near a rock outcrop that appeared to be saturated with silver. Butler took a few samples to send to the assayer. After one assayer said the samples were worthless, another confirmed Butler's suspicions of rich silver ore deposits in the Tonopah area.

Word was sent to Butler concerning the rich silver in his samples, however, Butler did not respond rapidly. Instead, he stayed at his Monitor Valley ranch to finish up his hay harvest. Butler's neglect to file a claim on his lode site nearly lost him a fortune. Word spread of the Butler Claim and scores of miners flocked to the Tonopah area to find it. The claim remained elusive to all but Butler.

On August 27 Butler finally traveled to Belmont, Nevada to file his claims. Belmont was the county seat of Nye County at the time. Butler filed eight claims including the famous Desert Queen, Burro, Valley View, Silver Top, Buckboard, and Mizpah claims. These six claims turned into some of the largest producers of silver that the state had ever seen.

Once the Mizpah mine was started in October of 1900 a small camp called Butler began to form. In December Butler decided to lease all of his claims for a period of one year. Butler and his partner, Tasker Oddie (future Governor of Nevada and namesake of a street I live near) would receive 25% royalty on all gold and silver mined from the claims.

The town began to grow. In January there were 40 men in the camp. By March there were 60 men and within a few weeks the population was 250. A post office named Butler opened on April 10, 1901 and it wasn't until March 3, 2005 that the name changed to Tonopah.

Nearly $750,000 in gold and silver was produced from Tonopah mines by the summer of 1901. The mines were consistent producers for the next 40 years. By 1901 the town had assay offices, doctors, lawyers, lodging houses, saloons, merchants, restaurants, and a population of 650.

By 1902 Butler consolidated his claims into his new company, the Tonopah Mining Company. The company controlled mines in several states as well as one in Nicaragua. In Tonopah, the company owned three shafts, the deepest of which was 1500 feet. The ore was mined in more than 46 miles of lateral tunnels. Other companies produced ore at similar rates and soon processing facilities would be built at Tonopah. Until then the ore was shipped to other towns for processing.

The peak in ore production for Tonopah took place from 1900 to 1921 with $121 million in gold and silver extracted. 1913 produced the most ore at $10 million. By WWII only four companies remained in Tonopah and a huge fire in 1942 destroyed one of them, including a nearby hotel. The end of the major mining period in Tonopah came when the Tonopah Goldfield Railroad ceased operations in 1947. The tracks were removed and no railroad connects to Tonopah to this day.

Over the years since the boom individuals and companies have made claims at mines in the Tonopah district but nothing substantial was located. Now, however, a new resurgence is beginning.

With the ongoing technological advances in mineral extraction technology companies like Allied Nevada Gold are coming back to Tonopah. High yields of deep ore deposits are forecasted to earn millions of dollars for the modern gold companies and their stockholders. This would likely mean an increase in populations and a resurgence of business activity for some of the former great towns of the gold and silver rush era.

That leads me to our current survey project outside of Tonopah. All of this information, by the way, is publicly available. Check out Allied Nevada Gold's website and you can see presentations on expected mineral yields and profiles of core drilling projects. They are entirely transparent as a company because they are publicly traded on the NYSE.

For our survey we first conducted a thorough walk-over of the entire area. We mostly found evidence of historic mining with only a handful of prehistoric sites recorded. Most of the mining related features that we recorded were prospecting pits and mining claim cairns. Over 1800 of these features were recorded!

Some of the larger sites that we recorded included larger historic mining sites. These sites often contained a large waste-rock pile with a leveled platform at the top where access to the shaft was located. In all cases the headframe was gone but the internal frame of the mine shaft remained. Sites also included foundations for hoists and generators and leveled platforms for other mine support buildings, such as tents, blacksmith buildings, and carpentry buildings. These sites always included a large amount of historic trash that was used to date the sites.

Again, this information is all publicly available. A large portion of the project area is on leased BLM land and there is frequent local recreational vehicle traffic through the area.

I gained an appreciation for historic artifacts on this project that I previously did not have. My interests have always centered around the axiom, "The older the better!" However, I've always liked how datable historic artifacts are. If you know a bit about can manufacture and bottle maker's marks you can almost date a site to a single year, if not a narrow range. That is pretty nice. I even encountered a concrete platform that had a date engraved right on it! You can't ask for better dating.

While working on this project I bought and read several books on historic mining and the history of Tonopah. They gave me a better understanding of the town and its history. They also showed me the value of understanding an area before you go to work in it. Since I've worked in many areas across the country I have always tried to find literature about the cultures in the area before I go there. That was especially important here because none of us knew anything about historic mining practices and equipment, yet, we were asked to describe these sites and, essentially, reverse engineer what we saw for our site descriptions. We learned a lot as we went along and I'm sure our site recording accuracy improved every day.

I can't count the number of times that I've gone to a project and worked with people that just put their heads down and walked. They were looking for, what? I don't really know. When you have worked all over the country you realize that not every historic site and not every prehistoric site is the same. That might seem silly to say out loud but think about it. How much do you really know about the unique cultures and their life-ways before you work in an area? Did they build subtle earthworks? Did they have pottery? Did they build mobile structures like teepees or did they built pit houses? All of these things have different expressions on the ground after hundreds and thousands of years of neglect and abandonment. We have to know how to tell what we're looking for. We have to be professionals. We have to be committed to the archaeology and to the people who's history we are trying to describe.  That's not to say that I haven't worked with some really great, dedicated, archaeologists.  There are those out there that really enjoy their job, and not just during work ours.

I highly recommend a stop in the sleepy town of Tonopah if you are traveling US95. It's the main highway between Las Vegas and Reno. And no, you will not see alien spacecraft as you pass the Nevada Proving Ground and the infamous Area 51. Critical thinking is a skill that you have to work on and develop every day.

Cogito Tute! (Think for yourself)