I paid my respects to Blondie last week.
It was part of a trip into the mountains in search of ruffed grouse. A grouse covert I have gone to over the years bears the scars of mining operations from over a century ago. It’s a creek bottom that was mined with hydraulics, using high pressure hoses, similar to fire hoses, to break down the creek’s banks, sending dirt downstream, and hopefully exposing traces of gold in what was left.
In recent years there has been remediation work downstream to move some of the dirt that washed down and to restore the stream. In the area I hunt, Mother Nature has been working, this past century, to return the creek bottom to a more natural condition.
It’s a tough area to walk, as there are piles and rows of rocks left after the dirt washed downstream. Walking on those rocks demands care so as to not trip or fall. Still, trees and brush have grown up in that creek bottom. There are boggy spots, thick aspen and willows, and some fallen trees. It isn’t easy to get around in there, but it is ruffed grouse habitat.
I hadn’t hunted there in a few years. In fact, the last time I’d hunted it my old Lab, Flicka, was my hunting partner. She’s been gone for over four years now, and it was several years before that when we last hunted that boggy creek bottom.
In these intervening years, it seems like the brush has gotten thicker and the boggy spots boggier. The grouse are still there. In some of the thicker spots I heard a couple grouse flush and fly away. I never saw them but it’s always good to know the birds are there.
There are a couple old log buildings on a hillside, slowly falling into the ground, that still mark the remains of an old mining camp.
As it had been a few years, I decided it was time to go up the mountainside to pay my respects.
Something like 30 years ago, on one of my first walks into the covert I came on the grave on a hillside overlooking the creek bottom and old mining camp. What caught my eye was a little picket fence outlining what appears, by its size, to be a child’s grave.
The picket fence had been painted, more than likely about 20 years earlier. Now, 30 years later, that paint job is at least 50 years old and it shows.
While paint peels and fades, the concrete cross at the head of the grave seems impervious to the elements.
On the horizontal cross member, an inscription reads, “BL. CARRON.” On the vertical, it reads, “Nov. 1908.” A medallion set into the concrete reads, “Our Darling,” an expression of love and grief from a heartbroken family.
I don’t know what BL stands for. It might be Blanche, or, in my mind, possibly, Blondina, and so I think of her as “Blondie.” I don’t know how old she might have been, or what might have been the cause of death. In those days before immunizations for many childhood diseases, childhood deaths were not uncommon. I know my mother grieved, much of her life, the loss of a little brother who died in childhood.
A few years back, I searched, without result, through old newspapers at the Butte Archives to see if there was any information about Blondie’s life and death.
I suspect that, aside from a few hunters, few people are aware of or have visited this forgotten place of rest on this wooded mountainside. With the passage of time, anybody who knew her or grieved for her has long since gone to their own eternal rest.
The mountain seems to be looking after her. A nearby large beetle-killed pine tree had fallen since my last visit, but it fell some ten or so feet away from the picket fence, not disturbing the grave.
Rest in peace, little one. I hope to check up on you again in a few years.