Acknowledgments and Credits

The columns and articles penned by these journalists and writers were invaluable in uncovering the full, unvarnished, and rich story of the life and career of Harvey Slocum. The author owes them a huge debt of gratitude.

Hu Blonk

Hubert Cornelius “Hu” Blonk was born in Holland in 1909 and came to the United States with his parents as a youngster. After graduating from the University of Washington, he began a long, successful career as a newspaper journalist and author. He cut his teeth at the Grand Coulee Dam, where he wrote practically every day on the goings on at the project from 1935 to 1939 for the Wenatchee Daily World and Spokane Chronicle. He wrote over 1,250 columns and probably no one knew more about the dam and the characters involved than Hu Blonk. Hu got married at the dam site and lived there with his wife.

One of his contemporaries wrote this about the quality and volume of his reporting in 1939. “In all those four years and throughout those millions of words, there has not been one proven error chalked up against this aggressive correspondent. And that in spite of rumors that fly as thick as the dust at times, in spite of petty townsite bickerings and in spite of private or special interest groups.

“He was at the dam site when only jackrabbits and sagebrush were to be found, and he was there when the President came. He wants to stay until water is thundering over the giant spillway of the high dam. Hu likes his job. He’s the man behind the Grand Coulee dateline.”

When World War II broke out, and with the Grand Coulee Dam work winding down, he took a job with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. He spent a year in Washington D.C. as a public-information officer, and then transferred back to Grand Coulee to write about the opening of the dam and its operations.

He was hired again as a reporter for The World in 1954 and was soon named managing editor. He retired in 1974 but continued to contribute stories.

Wenatchee World Editor Rufus Woods praised Blonk: “Clearly he was one of the most influential people who has ever served at this newspaper. Over the last 35 to 40 years, no other single individual has had such an impact on the news coverage of north-central Washington.”

One wall at his home was covered with awards for his work to keep government and the courts open to the public. He served on numerous statewide and regional panels dealing with freedom of information, open meetings and courts. He was the first recipient of the Associated Press Managing Editors Meritorious Service Award in 1991.

In 1992, Hu Blonk compiled many of his articles and memories of Grand Coulee into a book, Behind the By-Line Hu—A Fiesty Newsman’s Memories.

Mr. Blonk passed away in 1995 at the age of 86 in East Wenatchee, Washington. He was survived by a daughter and son-in-law, two grandsons and four great-grandchildren.

Booton Herndon

Booton “Boo” Herndon was born in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1915. He attended the University of Missouri before landing a job as a reporter for the New Orleans Item. Herndon wrote feature stories about opera stars, prizefighters, murderers and other interesting characters. World War II took him from the newsroom and eventually placed him on Normandy’s bloody Omaha Beach on D-Day—June 6, 1944. Herndon served with an Army medical unit and earned five battle stars, including one for participating in the Battle of the Bulge.

After the war, Herndon got a job as a reporter with the New York Daily Mirror and it was there he met and married Bonnie Dorrity.

After seven years in New York writing for the Mirror and the New York Weekly, Herndon returned to Charlottesville with his wife and three children, where he pursued his career as a freelance writer. Herndon penned more than 1,000 articles for top-line magazines such as Time, Collier’s, Esquire, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, True, Sports Illustrated and The Saturday Evening Post.

Herndon met up with Harvey Slocum in Mountain Home, Arkansas, at the site of the Bull Shoals Dam. His rich, deep article, “Harvey Slocum Builds Our Mighty Dams,” appeared in the May 5, 1951, issue of Collier’s. Boo’s wife, Bonnie, a professional photographer, took most of the photos that appeared in the article.

As evidenced by the several letters exchanged between them that were donated along with Herndon’s vast collection of papers to the University of Virginia, Boo and Harvey became friends. That friendship was tested and ultimately broken over Herndon’s article he wrote about Slocum for True magazine. True—The Man’s Magazine was owned by Fawcett Publications based in New York City and in the 1950’s and ’60’s was the most widely read men’s magazine in the country with over five million subscribers. In April of 1957, True gave Herndon the greenlight to write an article about Slocum.

Dan McKinney, Assistant Managing Editor for True, wrote Herndon, “First, everyone is enthusiastic about Slocum…You can of course feel completely free to reproduce his speech as it comes out of his lips—with most of the profanity intact…This should be lively and salty, like Slocum, who is just about the perfect man for this magazine.”

Boo’s approach was to use a lot of what he wrote for the Collier’s piece and update it with Slocum’s work on Bhakra Dam. In July of 1957, the two met in New York to do just that. By early November, Boo had sent Harvey a first draft of the article titled “Harvey Slocum—The Best Dam Man In the World.” Slocum was very unhappy with it. Slocum had his lawyer, Garfield Anderson, a senior partner at Thelen Marrin, (the firm founded by another boy from National City, Max Thelen), send a letter to Herndon instructing him not to publish any article without Slocum’s OK.

On November 18, from India, Harvey followed up with his own handwritten letter addressed to Herndon. “I knew that I was right in being hesitant about anything being printed in True magazine, and now I’m sure I want nothing about me published now or ever in True. I trust it will not be necessary for me to have Mr. Anderson contact the editor of that magazine and so inform them. I would like the pictures returned to me or throw them in the fire. I will instruct Mr. Anderson to return the copy I mailed him of your article along with my comments. I regret that you went to the trouble to write about me, but I have learned for all time to not be written about—O.K. to think or call me what you please but don’t put it in print.”

But that wasn’t the end of it. Several letters, telegrams and phone calls were exchanged over the next four months among Slocum, Herndon, True’s editors and Slocum’s lawyer. Slocum and his counsel repeatedly threatened to sue True and Herndon if they went ahead and published an article that Slocum had not signed off on. True, on the other hand, was adamant that since most of what was in the draft article appeared in the Collier’s article and the piece Rand did for The New Yorker—and Slocum, apparently, didn’t have a problem with those—they’d run the article whether Slocum liked it or not.

Herndon was caught in the middle. He was trying to find a way for True to run the article and at the same time appease Harvey. He wrote McKinney at True, “It bothers me to think that when this is all over I will probably have lost a friend. It bothers me even more to think that said friend, Harvey Slocum, will have me encased in concrete and buried at the bottom of one of his dams somewhere.”

Whether Slocum ultimately signed off is not known, but Herndon’s article, “Harvey Slocum—Dynamic Dam Builder,” appeared in the July 1958 edition of True. There were a lot of changes—mostly deletions—from the first draft that were, presumably, demanded by Slocum.

Herndon even got some more mileage out of his article. In 1959 the United States Information Agency published a much shorter and sanitized version of the True article and paid Herndon $150. Eliminated was Slocum’s ubiquitous profanity and, as pointed out by the USIA editor, “as a government publication, we cannot have anything that casts aspersions on Indian methods or workers.” The article appeared in the Agency’s America Illustrated magazine in both Russian and Polish languages and was distributed in eastern Europe.

Booton also authored 23 books, including the autobiography of World War I ace, Eddie Rickenbacker, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, and The Great Land.

Several months before his passing in March 1995, in the home in which he was born, Herndon received a career achievement award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Christopher Rand (The New Yorker)

Christopher Temple Emmet Rand was born in New York City in 1912 and raised in Connecticut. After graduating from Yale, he was a copy boy for Time Inc. and then went to work for the San Francisco Chronicle. During World War II he was stationed in China with the Office of War Information. After the war, he joined The Herald Tribune and was sent to China and then Tokyo to cover the Korean War.

In 1951, Rand joined The New Yorker magazine, and over the next 17 years travelled the world writing 65 articles. In 1956, Rand went to the Bhakra Dam to interview Harvey Slocum. His colorful article, “Something Stupendous,” appeared in the December 8, 1956 edition of the magazine.

Christopher Rand also penned several books including, Hong Kong—The Island, and Los Angeles—The Ultimate City. He passed away in 1968 in Mexico City, survived by five children.

Keyes Beech on Iwo Jima

Keyes (rhymes with “size”) Beech was born in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1913. He began his newspaper career as a copy boy in St. Petersburg, Florida, and then worked as a feature writer for the Akron, Ohio, Beacon from 1937 until the start of World War II.

Beech joined the Marines in 1942 as a combat correspondent. He was attached to the Second Marine Division that landed on Tarawa Island in the South Pacific and was part of the invasion force on Iwo Jima. Beech was the first correspondent to climb to the top of Mount Suraibachi where the iconic photo was taken of six Marines planting the American flag. His character had a role in the 2006 film, Flags of Our Fathers.

After the war, Beech became a correspondent for The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and then The Chicago Daily News for which he served as the Far East correspondent from 1947 to 1977 covering Japan, China, Korea and Southeast Asia.

His work reporting from the front lines during the Korean War earned him the Pulitzer Prize in 1951. Beech also covered the United States involvement in the Vietnam War from beginning to end. Beech first met Harvey Slocum at the Bhakra Dam in 1954 where “Slocum insulted all of his Indian associates in my presence and assured me he was crazy to take on this job.”

In addition to countless columns, Beech also authored several books including The U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima, Uncommon Valor, and Tokyo Points East. Keyes Beech died in 1990 in Washington D.C. at the age of 76, survived by his wife and three children.

John M. Kemble

John M. Kemble, a local historian, explorer and author, has spent countless hours in the field researching and working with local museums, historians, state officials, news archives, and private collectors to gather and write pieces of the history of Grand Coulee and eastern Washington. He is the author and administrator of the website, The Little Virtual Museum In the Coulee ( that features several of John’s fascinating stories about the characters and places in the Coulee.

Early on in my research, I happily stumbled upon John’s rich piece, “Harvey Slocum and the Spirits of B Street,” on his website.  John probed the darker side of Slocum and his struggles with his demons-alcoholism.  He also pointed me to the treasure trove of newspaper articles written about the construction of Grand Coulee Dam at the University of Washington, and Hu Blonk’s book, Behind the By-Line Hu.

John is  the author of several books including, Dry Falls and Sun Lakes (Images of America), Steamboat Rock (Images of America), and Banks Lake (Images of America), published by Arcadia Publishing. 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Visit to Grand Coulee Dam, August 4, 1934

President Roosevelt delivered these remarks during his visit to the dam site on August 4, 1934.

“People are going to understand some of the implications of building dams in the higher stretches of rivers all over the country. The Chief Engineer here was telling me a few minutes ago that the eventual completion of this dam is going to mean the doubling of potential power of every site on the Columbia River between here and the mouth of the Snake, and that is a lot of power.

“It is going to mean from the Snake down to sea level, adding 50 percent to potential power than they have today. That means a lot. It is going to affect not only the Columbia River Basin, but the whole of the Mountain States and Pacific Coast territory. We are going to see, I believe, with our own eyes, electricity and power made so cheap that they will become a standard article of use, not merely for agriculture and manufacturing but for every home within the reach of an electric transmission line.

“I am going to try to come back here when the dam is finished and I know that this country is going to be filled with homes not only of a great many people of this State, but by a great many families from other States of the Union—men and women and children who will be making an honest livelihood and doing their best successfully to live up to the American standard of living and the American standard of citizenship.

“So I leave here today with the feeling that this work is well undertaken; that we are going ahead with a useful project; and that we are going to see it through for the benefit of our country.”

How I Found Harvey Slocum’s Story—Or, More Accurately, How It Found Me

In August of 2022, I was going through some photographs passed down by my grandmother, Henrietta Ellis Case, to her daughter, my mom, Barbara Case Gauntt. There were two I had not seen before. The one of Harvey with the Dalai Lama jumped out because I immediately recognized the smiling young man wrapped in robes with his pointed shoes.

Harvey Slocum with the Dalai Lama at Bhakra Dam in India, about 1955 (Source of original photo:, Vernon C. Gauntt)

Someone had written in pencil on the back “Dalai Lama.” My mother had written with her ubiquitous red pen: “Harvey Slocum-Biggest Dam Builder in World.”

The other photo was actually a postcard. Henrietta wrote in the left corner “January 26, 1944, Tia Juana, Mexico.” She wrote on the back to her daughter-my mother-in her gringo Spanish:

“Buenos Dias, Senorita Barbarita,

Madre Enriquetta, Elena S., Vera C.”

L to R Henrietta Ellis Case, Helen Slocum and Vera Cunningham, January 26, 1944, Tijuana, Mexico (Source of original photo, Vernon C. Gauntt)

My mother also wrote on the back: “Helen Slocum, Vera Cunningham.”

The “Slocum” name was vaguely familiar to me; “Cunningham” was not.

My mother, the relegated repository of most family knowledge, transitioned in June of 2012. So, I reached out to my mother’s younger brother, my uncle, the late Stanford Ellis Case. He confirmed Harvey and Helen Slocum were good friends of his parents, Vern and Henrietta, and that Helen is seated in the middle of the postcard photo.

Thank goodness for a good memory at age 93. Stan recalled, “Harvey was a dam builder, and one of the best. He and my dad may have done business together, and Vern may have worked for Harvey as a young man. I do know that Harvey was in charge of building Gibraltar Dam in San Barbara in the early 1920’s. In the 1940’s Vern’s company, Case Construction, was hired to expand the dam by adding 15 feet in height.”

Vern Case, my namesake and ten years younger than Harvey, was born and raised in Willits in northern California. Armed with an eighth grade education and a burning drive and tireless work ethic like Slocum, Vern went on to found one of the country’s most successful deep-foundation construction companies. Case Foundation installed the drilled caisson foundations for some of Chicago’s most recognized skyscrapers including Sears Tower, Standard Oil Building, John Hancock Tower, Marina City and Trump Tower.

Vernon Drury Case

Stan also said, “Henrietta and Helen were good friends and regular bridge players.”

He did not initially remember Vera Cunningham.

At the time the photo of the three women was taken in Tijuana, Vern, Henrietta and 15-year-old Stan were living in the Hotel Del Coronado, just across the border from Tijuana. Vern’s company was under contract with the Navy to dredge out San Diego Bay to enable the deep draft warships to enter the protected waters.

Given the family connection and the moniker “Biggest Dam Builder in World,” I decided to do some more research on Harvey. That turned out to be a slippery slope, and I was soon sucked into and consumed by the incredible breadth and depth of the man. Upon discovering he was born and raised in National City and San Diego (where I’ve lived the past 44 years), I reached out to the San Diego History Center and gained access to their treasure trove of historical newspaper articles and photographs from the early 1900’s and of Harvey’s first dams, Lakes Hodges and Henshaw.

My research was greatly assisted by the fact Slocum was an incredibly colorful character in charge of some of the biggest construction projects in the world who gave great soundbites. He and his dams were featured in many national magazines—Life, Collier’s, Time, The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, and True—and newspapers all over the world.

My subscription to Ancestry’s yielded a gold mine of details about Harvey’s life as a boy in National City, as a laborer, steel worker and champion rower in San Diego, his introduction to dam work, and how he worked his way across the country and world to ultimately become regarded as “the best dam man in the world.”

It was through a 1953 Spokane, Washington article that I was able to connect the dots to Vera Cunningham. That article featured excerpts from letters written by “Mrs. Joseph A. Cunningham” about life in Nangal, India. In those days, married women’s first names were not used. On a hunch, and armed with a home address from the article, I did a search on for Joseph Cunningham and found the recently released 1950 census record. It listed 61-year-old Joe Cunningham living in Richland, Washington with his 52-year-old spouse, Vera.

Further research on Ancestry turned up a photo of Vera McDonald taken on the day of her marriage to Joe on June 27, 1923, in Spokane, Washington. There was no doubt this was the same woman in the 1944 photo with Henrietta and Helen.

Vera McDonald Cunningham wedding photo (Spokane Chronicle, June 27, 1923)

I shared this find with my uncle, and that triggered another memory: “I remember Vera, now. She also was a regular bridge player with my mother and Helen Slocum.”

That 1944 photo is the only one I’ve found anywhere of Helen Ensminger Slocum.

Helen Ensminger Slocum

I have to admit, I was very proud of myself for finding Harvey Slocum, his story and the connection with my family. That was until I visited a medical office in San Diego in August of 2022, to get a steroid injection in my neck to address my painful arthritis.

When I checked into the ambulatory surgical center, I was greeted by the intake nurse. Her name was Bita. She was thin, maybe five-two, with a dark complexion. I pegged her age at mid to late 40’s. Hard to tell with a mask covering most of her face. She looked tired around dark brown eyes. If I was to guess, her family originated in the Middle East or southern Asia. Bita was very professional and polite.

I had with me Hu Blonk’s book, Behind the By-Line Hu, I’d received from Amazon the day before. It was on the armrest of my recliner chair.

Bita asked, “What’s the book?”

 “I’m doing some research for a story I’m writing about a guy named Harvey Slocum. He was a good friend of my grandfather’s, and Harvey was revered as the ‘best dam builder in the world.’ This book surfaced in my research. The author, Hu Blonk, was a journalist for a Spokane newspaper and he wrote many articles about the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam in the mid-1930’s. I’m curious to see what he wrote about Slocum.”

Bita looked at the cover of Blonk’s book that features a photo of Grand Coulee Dam with a huge volume of water spilling over it.

Bita pointed to the cover. “Did he build that dam?” I said, yes. “He also worked on the Hoover Dam, built the Lake Hodges Dam and Henshaw Dam in San Diego, among many, many others. His last project was supervising the construction of the massive Bhakra Dam in India which he worked on from 1952 until his death in 1961.”

She wanted to know precisely where in India. I thought to myself, ‘she or her family might be from India.’ I said, “Nangal in northern India, in the foothills of the Himalayas.”

Her interest became even more intense. “What got you interested to write about this man?”

I explained how I had stumbled on the two photographs and, with the help of my uncle, learned of the connection between Harvey and his wife and my grandparents.

“So, I decided to do some more research. When I learned Harvey and my grandfather came from similar backgrounds—poor, eighth-grade educations, who achieved success in their respective fields of heavy construction—I decided to write a story about him.”

Bita pulled a pen and a piece of paper from her pocket and wrote down Harvey Slocum’s name.

“I want to find out more about him. Was he revered in India?” I said, he was.

“India was a fledgling democracy in 1952 when Harvey was brought on the job. This project transformed northern India by creating an enormous reservoir that supplied hydroelectric power and fresh, controlled, irrigation water to millions of acres of newly created farmland. Slocum was a national hero in India because of his work on the dam.”

I explained Slocum’s close ties with Prime Minister Nehru and how he went toe-to-toe with Khrushchev during his visit to the dam in 1955.

Now, here’s where it got interesting.

Bita paused, looked at me and said, “You know, spirits come through with messages for us, or if they want us to do something for them. They don’t have to be family. And they can be separated from us by generations. This Harvey Slocum has come through to you.

“You didn’t find his story. He found you. He wants you to write and share his story. He wants more people—a lot more people—to know his story. People like me. I don’t know why, and you probably don’t know either. That’s not important. What is important is that you heard him, and you are doing what you are supposed to do.”

I actually laughed as goosebumps coursed through my body. “Oh my, you and I couldn’t be more on the same page!”

I briefly told her the story of my third-great-aunt, Mary Sawyers, and my first experience with this phenomenon of distant ancestors coming through: Came to California from Missouri by wagon train in 1854 at the age of 15; an Indian attack; married at 16 to a goldminer. A year later Mary and her baby daughter survived the sinking of the SS Central America off the coast of South Carolina which claimed the lives of her husband and 436 others. She served as a nurse with the Union Army during the Civil War and was a close friend of the 22nd President of the United States, Chester Arthur.

Mary Sawyers Swan Cook (1839-1924)

I told Bita, “I randomly found a piece of Mary’s story on, but I had the distinct, inexplicable feeling her story found me. No one in my immediate family knew her story. I told of the doors that easily opened for me at the U.S. Library of Congress and other libraries across the country to help me with my research—most of them getting back to me the same day—I strongly believed it was Mary who opened those doors and left me breadcrumbs to chase down and uncover the nuggets of her story.”

I pulled up on my phone Mary’s story on my website, and Bita copied down the link on her piece of paper.

“I am definitely reading her story, and please send me Harvey’s when you finish it.”

I did.

Coalwood Jackhammer Jockeys

I spent the summer of 1968 in Coalwood, West Virginia. I was 18 years old and recently graduated from high school. My grandfather’s and father’s Chicago-based construction company, Case Foundation, had a job there to install a 1,200-foot ventilation shaft for a new section of the coal mines for Olga Mining Company.  When I arrived at the mining camp in deep Appalachia, the shaft was 400 feet deep.   This is from the “Coalwood” chapter of my 2015 book, Suffering Is the Only Honest Work.

I considered myself reasonably fit, but my first shift in the shaft made me realize that a passion for golf and gymnastics couldn’t prepare me—or anyone—for the rigors of underground mining. I got kitted out in my yellow, waterproof suspendered pants and coat, strapped the battery pack for my miner’s lamp to my waist, settled the wide-brimmed metal hard hat on my head, and stepped into the skip, a metal can a few feet square that acted as a crude elevator to drop us down to the bottom of the shaft. The sides came barely above our waists. Tafon, Hub, and Rat, all Coalwood boys, rode down with me.

“Keep all the body parts you wanna keep inside this here skip,” Rat informed me, “or whatever hangs out will come back a bloody stump.”

Fear rose in me as the skip began to drop. I pressed my arms close to my sides. This mine would not claim any of my body parts if I could help it. The skip picked up speed, plunging four hundred feet to the bottom of the shaft, where I’d spend the next eight hours. The jagged rock walls blurred as we plummeted past.

The skip slowed and stopped. I hitched up my britches and stepped out into darkness pierced only by the headlamps we wore. My first day of work had begun.

I was handed a pneumatic drill—a jackhammer. My job was to drill holes into solid rock to accommodate the sticks of dynamite that would shatter rock and deepen the shaft. The jackhammer was about two feet in length and weighed sixty pounds. Tafon Hylton, the foreman, showed me how to clip a five-foot drill bit into the business end.

“Hold it as far above your head as you can, and keep it tight to the rock,” he instructed. Fortunately, I had grown quite a bit the past couple of years and was about six foot two and a whopping one hundred fifty pounds. I set the bit against the rock and pressed the trigger.

Oh, shit! It felt like my teeth were going to shake out of my gums. The noise was ferocious. As I drilled my way down into the two-inch diameter hole, the work got a little easier and I learned some tricks of the trade, thanks to Rat Kirk, the only guy on the crew skinnier than me, with an Adam’s apple big enough to rival Johnny Appleseed’s. Once I got the drill handles down to chest level, I’d throw one of my legs over the drill to add more weight to force it down. When it worked its way a little lower, I sat on it.

More than once the drill bit would suddenly bind up in the hole and I’d get bucked off the drill like a cowboy tossed from a bull’s back, slamming into the wall and getting pretty banged up. The other miners guffawed, thinking that was about the funniest thing they’d ever seen. I’d struggle to my feet, shrug, and do it all over again.

Drilling through solid rock, even with water-cooled drills, created a blinding swirl of dust. The solution? Red Man chewing tobacco. I’d put a big chaw of that in my jaw and as I breathed in through my mouth, the slug of wet tobacco acted like a filter and trapped some of the dust—at least in theory. Of course, it never dawned on me that I was swallowing the dust, along with the nicotine, which made me feel like I could work forever and never get tired.

My mom would have been horrified at such a dirty habit. I could almost hear her: “If everybody jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?” Well, I felt like I was figuratively jumping off a cliff when I climbed into the skip, and if I was old enough to do a man’s work, I was old enough to pick up a man’s habits.

The noise pounded us from all sides, deafening, suffocating, exploding, and crashing off the solid granite walls of the fourteen-foot-wide shaft. Compressors pumped air to four drills, creating a cacophony as we miners punched sixty firing holes in the rock floor. I would soon learn that the noise never stopped. Never.

Eight weary hours later, ears ringing from the constant hammering of the drills, bodies drenched in sweat, we packed ourselves like sardines inside the skip and began the slow, cautious ascent from this hell-pit. Water seeped constantly from the walls of the shaft above us, pouring off the brims of our metal helmets and running inside the collars of our heavy jackets. Even our waterproof coats couldn’t keep us dry. The seeping water added to my misery.

After we passed through a maze of cables, hoses, and steel supporting the jaws of a gigantic metallic shovel, the skip surged upward, cementing our boots to the floor. The noise dissipated as we rocketed toward a dime-sized circle of bluish-gray light, the doorway out of hell. Large droplets of water smashed into my face, turning into rivulets that carved tracks through the rock dust caked on my forehead and smooth adolescent cheeks. I wiped the muck from my eyes as turquoise light surrounded us, dancing upon the cavern walls retreating beneath.

I looked down through the receding murk. Through the damp, dust-filled air, tiny pinpricks of yellow light, the rapidly vanishing headlamps of the second shift heading into the hole we’d just left, winked up at me, like lightning bugs that filled the muggy summer nights in suburban Chicago with magic. I was a long way from Chicago. I wanted to scream, “How the hell did I end up here?” The noise was so damned loud, I could have shouted at the top of my lungs and the three local men crammed in the bucket with me wouldn’t have heard a thing.

Coalwood Jackhammer Jockeys, Coalwood, WV, 1968. Seated L to R, Charles “Tafon” Hylton, Herbert “Hub” Alger, Casey “Long Ass” Gauntt, Gene “Ringo” Kirk. Standing L to R: Zachary “Squirrel” Fleming, James “Muss” Alger, Marty Valeri, and “Big Pete” Burnett

Notes and References for Part Five

Acknowledgments and Credits

Blonk, Behind the By-Line Hu, 131

“Newsman Hu Blonk Dies at 86,” The Seattle Times, March 22, 1995

David Maurer, “Yesteryears: Booton Herndon,” The Daily Progress (Charlottesville, VA), October 28, 2012

UVA Herndon Papers, letter from Dan McKInney to Herndon, April 23, 1957

UVA Herndon Papers, letter from Slocum to Herndon, November 18, 1957

UVA Herndon Papers, letter from Herndon to Dan McKinney, November 26, 1957

UVA Herndon Papers, letter from Albert Roland, United States Information Agency, to Herndon, September 2, 1959

Beech, “Best Dam Builder Goes Home: Harvey Slocum’s Laid to Rest”

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Author Bios

Write Me Something Beautiful Authors - Casey and Jimmy Gauntt

Casey Gauntt

is a retired attorney and former senior executive of a major San Diego real estate company. He lives in Solana Beach, California, with his wife, Hilary. Casey grew up in Itasca, Illinois, graduated Lake Park High School in 1968, and received B.S., JD and MBA degrees from the University of Southern California.

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Jimmy Gauntt

was born and raised in Solana Beach and graduated from Torrey Pines High School in 2002.   A prestigious Trustee Scholar at the University of Southern California, he majored in English and Spanish. He authored six plays, five screenplays, and a multitude of poems and short stories. Beginning in 2010, the USC English Department annually bestows the Jimmy Gauntt Memorial Award—aka “The Jimmy”—to the top graduates in English.  Jimmy passed over to the other side in 2008 at age 24.

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