As I Remember, Chapter 21

This entry is part 21 of 39 in the series Ted Bio


      After I returned home, I went right to work experimenting on Freezeout Hill, sand. There was one thing for sure, there was enough of it. Probably one of the largest deposits in the world. Most everyone discouraged me. “It’s not worth a damn for anything.” They would say. “It won’t even make concrete or plaster. “In a few years, it falls apart.” I took a shovel and a wash tub and brought a couple of hundred pounds of it down to the house. I gave it a thorough inspection. I got a hold of a set of testing screens. I made sure the material was good and dry, then I started sifting. I come up with about ninety percent pure white sand and ten percent just plain old clay. It was easy to see why it wouldn’t make good concrete. That fine bauxite clay would dilute the cement. Make it rot away in a few years. And, the sand was far too course for the many things it would be used for. It would have to be crushed. I went back to the hill and brought back a pickup load of the stuff. I sifted out all the clay and put it in some used paper sugar bags. Then I looked around for a crusher.

      One of my neighbors, Walt Smith, had a hammer mill. He did custom grinding. I talked him into running this batch through his hammer mill. At first, we had the thing going too fast. It was turning everything to dust. But after a bit, we found the right speed and salvaged most of the sand. Boy, it was now sure pretty and white. The stuff looked like table salt. I had brought back samples of Ottawa sand. I compared them the best I could. They looked quite a bit alike but the Ottawa sand was round like bird shot. This, was jagged and sharp.

      Brother Dell and I always confided in each other. We shared with each other, like brothers should. He was building an apartment house in Boise. I went to see him. I told him about what I had done and showed him the sand. There was a fellow in Boise that was a professional sand blaster. His name was Ben Stadler. We went to see him. I had a small bottle of twenty mesh in my pocket. I handed it to him. He poured out some in the palm of his hand and looked it over carefully. “Sure is sharp.” he said. “Boy, I’ll bet that would sure cut. And if the price is anywhere near what I have been paying, I could use a hundred ton right now.” I helped Dell finish the building and we took off for Portland. The west coast was where the big market would be, we decided.

      At that time, wall board was not allowed in that area. Maybe not even yet. It would draw moisture and fall apart in that damp climate. We contacted Pacific Building Material co. The largest in that area. We had brought along several bags of thirty mesh. This was the size best suited for the finish coat. George Erwin, the manager, took one look and said. “One of our best plaster contractors is working on a building right down the street. We will let him give it a try.” We held our breath as we watched the guy finish one room with our sand. When he was through, there was a big smile on his face.

      “Boy, “ he said. “That is the best sand that I have ever used. And it goes about twice as fast as that Del Monte sand from California. It isn’t round and doesn’t roll under the trowel like that beach sand. No chicken tracks.” “And you would use it if it were available?” “Sure. And so would every other plasterer in this area.” We explained to George that we weren’t quite ready yet. But as soon as we were, we would get in touch with him. He gave us some good advice. “Some low cost items carry a special freight rate. And sand is one of them. Go to the railroad and apply for the same mile rate as Del Monte and Ottawa and you will be sitting pretty. You are much closer than either one of them.” We thanked him and took off for home. Then we designed and built that first sand plant. No one else was involved. Just Dell and myself. We had a lot to learn about processing that sand. And no one to teach us. Naturally, we made mistakes. Controlling the dust was a big problem. And there were other things. One of them was, we had run out of money before we got going. But we borrowed from the bank and finally made it.

      Dell run the plant. And I was on the road again. Selling sand. From the day that we started up that plant, we never shut down for a single day. I sold all the sand that it could produce. But we had lots of trouble. The old power shovel that we had bought to load the sand was old and kept breaking down. The trucks that hauled the sand were also about worn out. And everyone was yelling that we should be shut down on account of the dust and the noise. We sure shouldn’t of built that close to town. But we were learning the business. And our sand was in big demand. We were shipping from one to two car loads a day. Fifty to a hundred ton.

      Again, I could write a whole book about our experiences in those years that followed. But I will cut it as short as I can. We could see that we had a great thing going but we were in need of a new plant. This little pilot plant, had served it’s purpose. Also we needed a new shovel and trucks. And a lot more things. Oh yes. There is something else that I must bring up. I made a lot of trips to Portland, Spokane, Seattle and other cities in the Northwest. I usually went through Baker and LaGrande. And of course, right through the town of Durkee Oregon. In this town, was a huge Cement plant. Oregon Portland Cement. They had been there a good many years and their mountain of limestone was about gone. The word was out that they were going to move.

      I was aquatinted with one of the fellows that worked at the plant. One day, I was stopped at the restaurant having lunch and he come walking in. We talked a while, then I asked him. “I hear you are going to move?” He nodded. “I guess so. We are about out of limestone.” Then I asked him. “How about the mountain up the canyon about a mile. The one across the road?” “The one all covered with brush and juniper?” “That’s the one.” “Our company hired some engineers to look the thing over. I guess down underneath all that overburden, is solid granite. Anyhow, that was their report. Anyhow, a couple of old boys has mining claims filed on it. I guess they think there is something valuable under there.”

      One day when I had just returned home, I told Dell. “You haven’t been away from here for a long time. I think you need a vacation. Take your wife and go up to Durkee. Then I told him what I knew. Also what I suspected. They took off. Well, I certainly didn’t send a boy to do a man’s job. About a week later, Dell returned. And with a handful of contracts. A guy by the name of Ivan Thompson and another guy had staked out that big mountain. They had dug some holes and found limestone. Dell had told them how we had started the sand plant in Emmett. He convinced them that we could help them. They signed a contract. What ever he could sell that mountain for, they would get half. The other half would be ours.

      By this time, those two Dewey Bros., Ted and Dell, were getting quite will known. They had the reputation of being a couple of goers. I told Dell to finish up what he had started. He jumped in his car and went to Boise. The home of the famous contracting co. Morrison & Knudsen. He sure didn’t start at the bottom. He made a good sales pitch. The cement co. was running out of limestone. All the sugar companies would need a new source. And the many paper companies in the north west would be out of limestone. The thing was right on the railroad and all it would take to find out if it was there, was a drilling crew for a couple of weeks. The next week they started core drilling that mountain. In about a month’s time, they had proven over ten million tons of pure limestone. And for sure, there were millions more. They put in a railroad siding and giant crushers on the mountain. Soon they were shipping from twenty to thirty car loads a day. We and the old prospectors at Durkee divided twenty five cents a ton royalty. Thanks to brother Dell, we had done this one in a hurry.

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