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Historical Note - Week of February 8th

Big Timber Pioneer, February 11, 1897

Gnawed His Way to Liberty

It isn’t often that a man owes his life to a good set of teeth, and yet to Tom Robbins of Cooke City, belongs that distinction, says the Helena Independent. Ex-Sheriff Henry Jurgens, who is managing the Daisy mine, in a letter to his family, tells how it all happened. Robbins is a prospector and like all the men of that section, is a hardy mountaineer.

He left Cooke City for his prospect with is located about six miles from the camp. The snow in the mountains about Cooke City is unusually deep, and that means more of it than most mining camps of considerable elevation in Montana have. Robbins, however, was not to be deterred by the snow. Strapping on his skis—long Norwegian snowshoes—he set out and reached the Daisy mine, where he stopped and ate dinner with Ex-sheriff Jurgens, who made a hospital host whether in the mountains or in the city. After dinner he started on to his property. About a mile from the Daisy, west of there, on the divide sloping to the Stillwater side near Crown Point, he was caught in a snowslide on the Mountain and carried down a considerable distance. He was alone and covered with snow for several feet. He had a heavy pack on his back which, because of the weight of the snow upon him, interfered with his movements and, try as he would, he was unable to make any progress. His arms were pinioned, but at last a brilliant idea came to him. He would gnaw through the rope that held the pack. His teeth were good and in time he broke the rope and freed himself from the pack. Then he was able to take off his skis and finally, after much effort, forced his way out of the slide. It was a narrow escape, indeed for Robbins.

There are a number of such accidents in the mountains about Cooke City every year, but they do not always result so fortunately as did Robbin’s mishap. Mr. Jurgens says that the men as they plough through the snow on the side of a mountain cut a line that often causes a slide of hundreds of feet. The line gives a chance for the snow to break, and when it does it may carry the unfortunate man who is responsible for it down with it.

Mr. Jurgens, although he has found many obstacles to contend with, is making a success of the Daisy mine, which is owned by eastern capitalists. In it operation he is using electric drills and finds them entirely satisfactory. The electric drill, he says, is certain to some day do away with the air drill altogether. His drills are the only ones of that kind being used in the Cooke City district.

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