I received and nice letter form Tom Miller, following up on a phone call he made requesting a copy of my book. I asked if he could share some of his Cobalt Memories. Attached is a copy of his letter: Tom Miller’s Letter
Last spring I learned about a self-published book contest at Writers Digest and entered our book to see what the results might be. With 20,000 entries the competition was very strong. Here are the results:
Entry Title: Cobalt: The Legacy of the Blackbird Mine
Author: Russell Steele
Judge Number: 35
Books were evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.
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Structure and Organization: 4
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
What did you like best about this book?
COBALT is a very cool book. I liked that Mr. Steele’s presents his facts clearly and simply. He puts in good details, for instance the fact that pack mules were the only way to get supplies in and ore concentrate out of the mine for quite a while. I found it extremely interesting to learn how mines opened, closed, and opened again based on the price of the materials they mined. Innovative to link the book to a web site where more material can be enjoyed by a curious reader. I liked Mr. Steele’s personal stories of life in the mining town, as well as the photos. Without them, the book would be weak, but with them it’s stronger.
How can the author improve this book?
As for improvement, Mr. Steele does make a few grammatical errors (some consistently, like using ‘it’s’ instead of ‘its’ to show possessive) that could be corrected in the next edition of COBALT. A bit more personal stuff at the beginning instead of strictly mining history could draw the reader in earlier. Or if not that, maybe some more details of the workers’ life, like what the guys might have been wearing during that long trek through the snow, and how they might have felt, and what the ground might have been like. I would have been interested to learn more about the actual technology of mining, maybe even with some schematics showing just how the ore was brought out, then concentrated. But overall, a really interesting book about a way of life that few people know about.
I think was was remarkable for a first effort. I had a huge debate with myself on which should have come first, my stories or the history. According to the reviewer I made the wrong decision. Live and learn.
I will be adding some of the details that the reviewer found missing. That is one of the strengths of a hybrid book.
My apology for not updating this site on a regular basis. I will attempt to do a better job this fall when I have more time.
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One of the nice things about writing a book and having a blog is I can share reader feed back with all the visitors to this blog. The other day, a large envelope appeared in my mail box. The return address was Sandy Sims. In the envelope was a copy of stock certificate certifying that James G. Sims is the owner of thirty-seven thousand five hundred shares of Capital Stock of the Uncle Sam Mining and Milling Co.,Inc. The certificate was issued on the 22nd day of May 1939 at Salmon Idaho. I sent Sandy and thank you note and requested his permission to post a copy of the certificate. He invited me to visit his current mining activity this summer and he will tell me some more Blackbird Stories, which I will share here upon my return.
I have attached a pdf copy of the front and back of the certificate.
This is the opening page to a personal story from my first spring in Cobalt, even before the town site was named. It was published in the October issue of Idaho Magazine which is on the newsstand now. When the December issue comes out, I will post my Wagon Thief story here.
Pam Russell, has sent a link to some family photos of Cobalt. She has agreed to share them with the readers of Cobaltmemories. Link to Photos.
Joe Uknavage and his family lived in the little mining town of Cobalt, Idaho from 1956-1959. Mike made a trip back in 1967 and took photographs. Joe and Judy Uknavage were there in 1972 for a Cobalt Reunion. Pam was there in 1988.
Cobalt: Legacy of the Blackbird Mine was reviewed in the Idaho Librarian, the Quarterly Publication of the Idaho Library Association. The reviewer was LeAnn Gelskey, Assistant Director at the Hailey Public Library, Hailey Idaho.
Cobalt: The Legacy of the Blackbird Mine is an insightful booklet that offers a chronological history of the Blackbird Mine and many of the people who had a hand in the legacy of the area. It further provides a glimpse into the life of Russell Steele and his family, residents of Cobalt from 1949 to 1952, and again in 1956 and 1957.
The Blackbird Mine is located west of Salmon in a region referred to as the Idaho Cobalt Belt. The first mineral discoveries at the future miningsite were made by a Lemhi Indian by the name of Little Tommy in 1892. These discoveries included copper and gold and then cobalt, minerals that were used extensively during wartime. The history concludes by describing the cleanup of the environmental damage caused by human activities at the mine site. The author has done extensive research on mining in this area and includes many photographs.
Steele shares personal anecdotes and life stories of the Blackbird and nearby town of Cobalt. He recounts some of the hardships the families encountered but also relates fond memories of life at the mine. One of the more humorous stories is that of a rowdy poker game that ended after a miner lit a stick of dynamite with no explosive cap. The card players were unaware that the stick would not explode and ran out into the cold night.
This book is unique in that it does not end on the last page. Steele is continuing the story of the mine on his blog, Cobaltmemories, where he is building on the the material presented in the book by adding more photos, stories, video and audio clips, and related links.
Throughout the book the author educates his reader on mining, processing, and environmental issues without injecting his own political views or ideas. The historical and factual information regarding the early years of mining in Idaho make this book a welcome addition to any library. Readers will also want to follow the author’s blog for an interactive experiment in recording and sharing history in the twenty-first century.
I attended the fifth grade at the Cobalt school-house right after is was opened in the fall of 1950. My most vivid memory of the school-house is the book-case behind Mrs. Pence’s desk. This book-case served as the Cobalt Lending Library for many months. Mrs. Pence would send a letter to the Idaho State Library requesting books. We would write a note listing the books we wanted to read and leave it on her desk. She would request the book from the State Traveling Library. Also, Community Club bought books for the library and community members donated books, including as set of Encyclopedia Britannica.
It was a big event for me when the books arrived from the Traveling Library in Boise. Some times I was disappointed when the specific book I had requested did not come, but there was always something to read.
After the school-house was finished it also served was the community center. Each Sunday church services were held in the school-house, including Sunday school for the children. Multiple denominations used the school for church services including the Mormons. The current emphasis on the separation of church and state would most likely prevent the use of a school-house for church services, if anyone cared.
Monthly dances were planned and held in the school-house. Each dance had a theme, Valentine’s Day, Fireman’s Ball, Halloween, etc. The music was often provided by local band members, using the school piano and members own instruments. Community plays and talent shows were also held at the school-house. It was the community social center until the Rec Hall was built in and opened in the fall of 1955.
Here are some pictures of the school house, it is sad to see it in such disrepair. McDonald: http://cobaltmemories.smugmug.com
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