The Wolf Fang

Deep in the Mountains, a Family Mine

By Robin McRae

Photos Courtesy of Robin McRae

Recently, the author provided an account of minerals prospecting by his family as part of a 2017 report compiled by Richard H. Holm, Jr., for the Payette National Forest Service Heritage Program, USFS. The following story includes numerous verbatim passages used with permission from that report.

During summers of my youth in the 1950s, I left Boise to help my parents run their mining operation, McRae Tungsten—or the Wolf Fang, as most everyone called it, after the nearby mountain peaks—in the remote upper reaches of Elk Creek Summit east of Warren in the Payette National Forest.

In 1955, after I finished ninth grade, I was paid $1.25 an hour to do janitorial work and to split wood for the cookhouse. The latter was my main task, because the wood stove was kept going from 5 a.m. until 8 or 9 p.m. to cook breakfast and dinner for six or seven men. A diesel engine from a PT boat ran the whole camp, including a generator that provided electric light from about 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Miners entered the tunnel at about 7:30 a.m. and the first load came out roughly an hour later.

On days off, I hiked trails and fished the beaver ponds on Smith Creek, always catching the limit. I fondly remember how the year-round employees trained the local marmot population to join them during their lunch hour. Some of the marmots had become tame enough to practically eat out of their hands, but not out of mine—the critters didn’t trust the summer help.

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