In a tourist town like Central City or Blackhawk there are a large variety of interesting summer jobs. One year mom got a summer job working in a mine. Seriously.
Of course, it’s not what you might be thinking with a helmet and headlamp. She was a tour guide for the Little Colonel Gold Mine.
This wasn’t as fancy as the “donkey pulled mine train” across the street. But, there was rarely a line and it was cheaper, so I suspect that a lot of families stopped here instead. It also helped to have our friend Joe’s teepee, or my Dad carving spoons in a lawn chair, or someone panning for gold in the half barrel in front of the mine. Or even my little brother standing in front of the teepee. It all helped to bring visitors in.
This was a real mine (at one time) and after collecting the $1 admission at the entrance, mom would guide them by foot into the dimly lit, horizontal hole in the mountain. Fascinated children would hold close to their parents as she pointed out the stalactite on the low ceiling of rock. Admirers had to look very, very close and try to understand that this was a young stalactite and therefore only a few disappointing centimeters long.
Not far in, the mine appeared to end, but just as you thought your party would have to turn around, the tunnel turned left and went further into the mountain. Mom brought them deeper into the gloom to another left turn. Then all of a sudden the rock turned to concrete and the darkness changed to the indoor lighting of the gift shop next door to the mine.
Yes, wasn’t that a convenient surprise? This is one of the many places you could stop and buy souvenirs of your trip to the mountains — from fools gold to decoupaged aspen leaves to corn cob toilet paper.