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Poems and songs of area

Rhea Davis 60 Tons

Some fellows say a boss is made out of mud.
I know he's made outta muscle and blood.
Muscle and blood, and skin and bones,
A back that's weak and a mind that's strong.

You run 60 tons and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don't you call me down off the hill
I owe my soul to the San Miguel.

I was born one morning by the San Miguel
I picked up my hard hat and I walked to the mill,
I worked on the roasters and I worked on the hill,
If the roasters don't get me, then the scrubbers will.


I was working one morning, - it was drizzling rain,
I said to myself I'm gonna complain
I was raised in a canyon where they had no mill,
But they keep sending me to the top of the hill.

Chorus (repeat)

If you see me comin', better step aside
A lot of miners didn't and a lot of them died.
Cause I'm from Uravan where we're all tough
If you don't step aside boy it really gets rough.

You run 60 tons and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don't you call me down off the hill
I owe my soul to the San Mighel.


Gerry Black Early Uravan

A dusty dirty mining town 
And certainly not very pretty, 
Closed in between two canyon walls, 
Ninety miles to the nearest city.

We don't have much in Uravan
And not much to be thankful for:
A post office, drug store, garage
And, oh yes, There's the friendly store.

But there are some things I would like 
To name----- and here's a few:
Our kids are home in bed by nine
There's nothing else to do.

The town's employment rate 
Has hit an all time low,
Because if you don't work here, Mister
Then you pack your duds and blow!

There is no crime in Uravan
No robberies, rapes or drugs.
Our kids COULD walk the street at night
And worry not of getting slugged.

Our loyalty runs pretty high 
In this "dirty dismal mining town."
We sorta take offense to it
When someone tries to put us down.

Oh yes, we're proud of Uravan
The town that never sleeps.
For Carbide's mill runs day and night
And seven days a week.

And so in passing, may I say
Before I put my pen to bed.
What other ONE WHOLE TOWN can say
We thank you for our daily bread.

So if by chance the AEC or Willard Wurtz
Would close us down.
Then everyone in Uravan
Would leave this dismal mining town.

I wonder how our cause would go
If to Montrose we fled
And sent this note to Welfare
"Thank you for our daily Bread."


Eric Leatha Requiem for mining town

When I was in college, I wrote a String Quartet which dealt with these ideas and I wrote a poem to accompany the piece. The music borrowed Native American rhythms and melodies, but my mind was on that image of Uravan and the greater irony of the earth swallowing its own. It reminds me that we will most assuredly vanish from these canyons, leaving others to wonder our fate, just as the Anasazis did. Anyway, thought you might like to see the poem that accompanied the Quartet...

Requiem for mining town

Little left
   that filthy bastard town
crumbling from a hillside
  in southern colorado
the mines closed in '82
  blanched yellowcake
  burns in the sun
she died shortly after

I arrived in '85
  all full of hopeful dreams
  only to watch her slump
    from a hillside
      a buzzard beats its wings
      against stagnant air
     over the last curve
       toward Uravan
  they buried her in '87
                    the earth turned
   swallowed up that which
gutted her
            its entrails steamed
on winter mornings
            silence echoing from the crowded

The Anasazis lived in these cliffs
    disappeared suddenly
        leaving us to question
    and the fresh snow falls
           on the rotting yellowcake

-Eric Leatha Jan. 25, 1991 Portland, OR

1st movement of string quartet
2nd movement of string quartet (The poem above was written to be read listening to this quartet)
3rd movement of string quartet

string quartet liner notes

It has been 8 years since I began working on my first string quartet. I had just finished my first symphony which was an ode to the prairies of Montana and I had a nostalgic desire to return to my home in Colorado to write musically about the land and people there.

The seminal event to this piece occurred way back in September of 1985 when my family moved from the suburbs of Philadelphia to Naturita, Colorado. On the drive down from Grand Junction, I was first introduced to the town of Uravan. At this time there were still 8-12 families still living in and around Uravan and there was talk about the cleanup in the works. I did notice that Uravan had effectively become a ghost-town. With cleanup impending and the mass exodus of these few families, it would be wiped clean and only the memories of its former inhabitants would remain.

This seemed the ingredients of tragedy or at the least a lamentable sorrow for former residents now flung nationwide. I started my idea at first of a film about the uranium towns of the area entitled, "Requiem for a mining town".

From these early gestations of material I toyed with writing a full symphony, but I actually wanted to hear it performed someday and decided the string quartet would be more suitable. I spent a week in the summer of 1991 in the canyons and towns of Naturita, Nucla and Uravan reliving the experience of being amongst both ancient rock and what I saw as the failure of man to tame the wilderness. It was during this time that a former neighbor drowned in the San Miguel river. That also figures highly in this work. That is what I took away from the canyons and that is what I tried to infuse into the piece.

String Quartet No.1 was premiered April 30, 1993 at Boise State University. It has been performed on occasion for master classes in Idaho and Utah. There is a very poor recording available from the premiere. Over the years I have thought about reworking and editing the piece, but in the end I have decided to let it stand as a snapshot of where I was at that moment in time.

The following are notes on particular movements and their significance:


During the summer of 1986, I raced the San Miguel river in an inner tube with my friends, but when I drove the support vehicle, I listened to Dvorak's String Quartet in Ab. The introduction of this movement is lifted straight from that work to center the listener into that spot. I originally conceived the quartet as a musical equivalent of "Huckleberry Finn", a proverbial journey downstream on the San Miguel, Dolores and finally the Colorado River. That way we would pass the towns of Naturita, Uravan and Gateway, the entrance to the Unaweep Canyon. If you start this river journey at the Nucla Station, a power plant on the river, 3 miles upstream from Naturita, the dichotomy of technology vs. nature becomes apparent.

The First theme is all about technology. It is mechanical and motoric in nature with very punctuated accompaniment switching between cello and 2nd violin. Then follows a more sweeping 2nd theme with towering arpeggios in the 1st violin mirrored by a descending cello line. There is an extensive development of the two themes as they are juxtaposed in several genres. There is a blatant lift from Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" thrown in for good measure (ala Disney's Fantasia). There is a short recap of the first theme and a closing chord held in a sforzando.

II. Adagio Sostenuto ("Requiem for a mining town")

     This movement started as a free-form piano improvisation I worked out while in Nucla and recorded and transcribed for quartet. It took extensive editing to create the terracing and colors only a string quartet can produce. It is performed completely with mutes. The MIDI version of this file does not do justice to this as the sustaining nature of the instruments is not evident. Also, the melodic line does not exist in just one line, but rather is traded off throughout the entire quartet. This takes an extremely well-seasoned group to pull off seamlessly and I have yet to hear a quartet pull it off as intended.

The odd parallel fourths heard midway through the movement are due to a MIDI transcription problem. I am actually employing string harmonics (artificial tones 2 octaves higher than what you hear in the MIDI file). These are notated as fourths and that is how the computer plays them.

The poem "Requiem for a mining town" is to be read over this, although it never has been. We decided in all its performances that this was a tad too self-indulgent. Rather I should put the poem in the program and let the audience work it out. Someday I'd like to work out a narrator/quartet score that would emphasize the poem and vice-versa. This is also dedicated to Mark Odom, the young man who drowned that summer of '91 in the San Miguel.

III. Rondo

Now we're swinging. This movement is what I had intended for the entire piece. It uses Native American rhythms and accents in an odd (5/8) meter to achieve a blocky pulse as we swing past the ancient ruins of the Anasazis down the Dolores river. We hear the music of the Anasazis (or what I thought it might sound like) in theme 1. This theme also represents the natural state of the canyon before the 19th century. This theme repeats and then transitions into theme 2, a sweeping melody carried by the viola. It is meant to depict the panoramic view one commands from Gateway looking northwest into the La Sals and Arches National Park. There is a return of the first theme chopped up and varied followed by a brief transition wherein we here a variation of the second movement (more in style and harmony than in thematic material).

Theme 3 represents the entrance of the white man into the canyons in the mid-nineteenth century. There is a central theme that is played at a regular rhythm, followed by entrances at progressively augmented rhythms over the top, smearing the original theme into one huge noise. These are wandering peoples, each with a different agenda. Farmers, ranchers, miners, merchants, engineers. Each have different desires to mold nature in different forms, and the result is cacophony.

Theme 1 returns in a different form, intensely motoric and punctuated. This is almost present day. We see the mills going in, the mines, the leaching ponds. The ore trucks scrape up the roads. The canyons disgorge their entrails onto the surrounding hills, surrendering their ore. It is the mechanization of nature to serve society. In the midst of all this marching about and jackbooting, the first theme from movement 1 shows up, a highly-regimented form in strident tri-tones. Everything has gone awry. Mother nature is not happy. After an abrupt slicing of strings we hear the recapitulation of theme 1 as a lone voice of reason that we are spoiling our most precious nest. There is an enormous "winding-up" of the quartet into a frenzy that suddenly just stops. Economics has triumphed over progress. In subdued tones we hear the first theme again, as a gentle promise that this valley will return to its natural state despite all we may do to tame it. Our last glance is of Uravan today, nearly as it stood 100 years previous- impervious to man.