To the Editor:
My dad Elmer was a mechanic at Inco and retired in 1992. He adopted my sister and me. I was always daddy’s girl, helping him cut wood and whatever he needed. He always told me that I could do anything if I put my mind to it. I was his little tomboy.
A year-and-a-half ago my dad was diagnosed with cancer. It’s been almost a year since I decided to undertake one of the hardest challenges in my life. I had been telling people for many years prior that I wanted to lose weight and get fit. I wanted to join the King Miner contest. I was always told it was a man’s competition but I wanted to be the first women to join it and make my dad proud.
I had no previous experience in the mining industry, and I was no way in shape, as I wasn’t going to the gym or even lifting weights. I was working in a laundromat, at Rapid Cleaners, at the time, but I found the courage to show the world I could enter a competition that would not only push my body, but my mind and soul. I decided I wanted to try and do the King Miner contest in my dad’s honour. I wanted to do it before he passed away.
I signed up and when I showed up the day of the contest I was surrounded by 15 men all competing to be the next King Miner. I knew I didn’t have a chance to become the first female King Miner but I would be the first female contestant to compete, to show my dad I can do anything and show him how strong of a girl he raised.
The first task I did was shovelling. I was told it takes an average of 46 shovels to fill the sand cart, so as I stood in line with all those miners I was told to shovel 46 scoops of sand into the cart, and not to stop until I had shovelled all 46 shovels of sand. I can remember getting through that competition by counting the shovels, thinking I did it, and then moving on to the next competition. I chose the ladder climbing, thinking I would give my arms a break. Man was I wrong! Climbing a ladder at a 90-degree angle was way more challenging. I quickly learned that pulling my body up the steps was more strenuous than anyone could imagine, but I did it.
As that morning continued I completed another three events. When I sat for lunch, all I could think about how I could quit. I had shown that I did five events and I could walk away and be proud. I had accomplished more than people expected. As lunch finished and the other competitors were sitting around and sharing stories, eating and getting rehydrated, I sat in silence, contemplating finding the nerve to walk away from the competition. I played it over and over in my head. I knew I should be proud of what I did and that I could walk away with my head high, but I also knew that I should stay and finish, not just for my dad and my husband but also for myself. My husband Paul goes to work many levels underground, enduring aches and pains but still goes to work. How could I give up when he goes to work every day to provide for our family? I remember Paul telling me the crib building was the hardest event. My thoughts then turned to completing the crib building and then I would leave the competition. I wanted to do it for my husband, to show him I could do it.
I stood up and went over to my last event. I heard the rules I needed to follow, and took a deep breath as those logs were taller then me, and weighed so much. I lifted the first log. I placed it on the rail, to pass it over to rebuild on the other side. Log by log I did it. I asked for a time count and I was at six minutes. I reminded myself to think smarter not harder. I started to line up the six logs on the rail. Somewhere between moving the logs, I saw blood. I wondered where it came from but kept on moving the logs. To my surprise I did it. I finished the crib building. I stopped and realized the blood was coming from me, pouring down my glove. I went to first aid and got it cleaned. Somewhere between the blood or maybe the adrenaline, I convinced myself to finish the competition.
I continued. The last three events were wood-cutting, jackleg and stoper drilling. I can remember a few old timers standing at the fence yelling at me, to help and guide me. It amazed me that the fellow competitors talked to me, explaining how to do the different events. Eventually, everyone was done competing, except me. I was the last one. I told the guys that if they wanted I would stop, because of the time, but they all encouraged me to finish and they all sat down and waited for me to complete the final events.
One of my proudest moment of the day was when my two nephews helped and guided me on my last two events. I was never so humbled and proud at the same moment. I did it! I completed the King Miners contest!!
I attended a meet and greet later at the union hall. They surprised me and gave me a union watch that had Queen Miner on it. One contestant also gave me one of his plaques to make sure I had something to remind me of my accomplishment. I was never so touched. I couldn’t wait to tell my dad! I did it!
I know he is just so proud of me. Even months later, at the cancer care unit, he told the doctor that I was his daughter, the one that had competed in the King Miner contest.
Although I didn’t win any prizes, I did earn the respect from a lot of people for taking the courage to put myself through such a challenging competition.
The reason I am sharing my story is last year the competition had a low amount of participants. Just like everything else, if people don’t participate this event may be in jeopardy. Why would the union put long hours to have an event to have only a few competitors join?
I challenge any person in the mining field, the firefighters, the RCMP or even just the general public to enter. It was a great experience and I learnt a lot about myself. If I can do it, anyone can.