FC: The Lost Drill Hole
1: The Lost Drill Hole | as written in the late 1950's or early 1960's by Sam G. Keim, Civil Engineer and Father to Janice Keim Seely, Grandfather to DeLana Seely Douglas, Susan Seely Boone, and James Seely
3: Sam & Ruby Keim | (Photo taken in the mid-1930's as Ruby helped Sam survey Oklahoma roads)
4: Aspen Trail, Navajo National Monument
5: THE LOST DRILL HOLE Back in the days of the Great Depression and during the time when the Civilian Conservation Corps was developing those skills among the boys in their late ‘teens which enabled our nation to successfully conclude World War II, I worked for several years as an engineer for the National Park Service. The Civilian Conservation Corps had camps in a number of our national parks and monuments, where the boys were employed in constructing trails, roads, bridges, houses and the like. At some of their facilities the National Park Service took advantage of the skills being developed by the CCC to provide much- needed living quarters for the Service’s personnel who protect and maintain our national parks and monuments. One such location was Navajo National Monument, located northeasterly from Flagstaff, Arizona, in the general area where the Glen Canyon Dam is now being constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation. (editor's note: this was written in the late 1950'sor early 1960's) Until the Bureau started construction of the dam, this area was rather remote. In 1938 and 1939, Navajo National Monument was well off the beaten trails, in the remote high desert country of the Navajo Indian Reservation; a country lonely but thoroughly fascinating.
6: Ancient Indian cliff dwellings are the attraction of Navajo National Monument, some of the most perfectly preserved that I have seen. Here the CCC built a much-needed modern native-stone residence for the Monument Custodian. The residence was built atop a cliff, in which inhabitants of the area in a much earlier time had built what is now the beautiful Betatakin Ruins, in a natural hollow of the canyon wall. The custodian’s quarters were complete with pipe and water storage tank and all the facilities for sewage disposal -- – but no water. Here the CCC’s work ended. However, the Park Service had not overlooked the requirement for water. At the base of the cliff on which the custodian’s house was built, (and almost directly below about two hundred and fifty feet), a very small spring issued from the cliff. A tunnel was driven a short distance into the cliff along the route of the spring, and at the point of the tunnel's greatest penetration into the cliff, a sump, or storage basin, was constructed to collect and store the water from the spring. A vertical drill hole, approximately six inches in diameter, was drilled from the cliff top to end in the sump. It was planned to install an electric motor and pump at the sump, the motor's power
7: cable and the water line from the pump to the cliff top to be installed in the drill hole, where access to a gasoline drum was much easier and several hours closer than at the base of the cliff. Winters in this part of the country are severe; the water line in the drill hole and the sump within the cliff afforded protection from freezing and lessened the opportunity for contamination by small animals and rodents drowning in the sump. It is quite a job to drill a hole truly vertical, and although the drill hole started directly above the sump, when the drill reached the depth of the cliff base, it failed to penetrate the sump.
8: The construction project to which I had been assigned up in Colorado (editor's note: which was at Mesa Verde National Park) was forced to shut down by snow and very cold weather and I returned to the Regional Headquarters of the National Park Service to work on engineering design until spring weather permitted resumption of construction on my job. Shortly after I reached headquarters, the Regional Engineer called me to his office and told me about the “lost drill hole at Navajo National Monument”. Then he told me he wanted me to make some study and investigation of how to locate the direction and distance of the drill hole bottom from the sump. As soon as weather permitted, and before returning to my Colorado assignment, | Sam and Ruby's cabin at Mesa Verde, 1939, before the winter snows.
9: I was to go to Navajo National Monument and try to locate the bottom of the drill hole from the sump and, if practical, prepare to join the two. Investigation indicated an electronic gadget being used to locate buried metallic objects, principally water lines and underground power lines, promised to be the equipment needed. This equipment has a transmitter and receiver. A headset attached to the receiver permits the user to hear a steady hum, not unlike the “dial tone” of a telephone, which increases in intensity as the receiver box is turned, reaching a maximum when the receiver is oriented in a certain relation to the transmitter. I experimented and practiced with the equipment until I believed I could use it successfully for the purpose I had in mind. Then one day late in March, 1940, I was on my way to Navajo National Monument to find the “lost drill hole”. The following day, shortly after noon, I reached my destination and found the Custodian and five Navajo Indian at work repairing winter-damaged roads and trails. I had been to the Monument for a very brief period once before, but had never been in
10: the canyon where the sump was located. The Custodian asked me about help I needed and gave me two of his Navajos to help me, including the only one who could speak, or understand, English. (My knowledge of the Navajo language was limited to being able to understand and speak the equivalent of “hello” and “time to eat”!) It was an hour or so of travel by trail to reach the sump in the canyon, but once the sump was reached, the cliff-top and the sump were within hailing distance of each other, although people at either location could not see the other site. I took the two Navajos to the drill hole site stop the cliff. There, the transmitter box was set on the ground, insulated wire was coiled around a pick handle, and the pick handle lowered to the bottom of the drill hole, and the upper end of the insulated wire attached to the transmitter.
11: Meanwhile, the two Navajos watched the proceedings with expressions of wonder. They are a fun-loving, fairly talkative people, but reserved until they are reasonably well-acquainted with one. I told the English-speaking Navajo to pull out a certain button when I called to him from the canyon floor, showed him just what to do, and had him do it after I did, to assure him he wouldn’t be hurt. Then I instructed him to tell the other Navajo to take me into the canyon to the sump. Off we went, with no means of communication other then my Navajo “hello” and “time to eat”, which were obviously useless in this situation. I knew the trail leading down into the canyon did not begin until some distance down the canyon, but it seemed we were going an awfully long way along the rim without starting down. I tapped my guide on the shoulder; he stopped and a pair of questioning, shy, brown eyes looked at me.
12: I pointed into the canyon, the brown eyes lighted in understanding, he nodded and motioned ahead along the rim, and sure enough, about another half mile and we headed down into the canyon. Arriving at the tunnel, I unpacked the receiver and attached the headset and called to the Navajo at the transmitter to turn it on. I put on the headset and picked up the receiver and headed into the tunnel while my guide backed to a respectful distance and squatted to watch me disappear in the damp darkness. I attended to my business and as I came out of the tunnel, my guide still sat on his heels, peering quizzically as I turned the receiver slowly from side to side. Reaching up, I grasped both earpieces of the headset, lifted the headset, and extended it toward the Navajo. His eyes shown and he nodded enthusiastically, but when I motioned for him to come nearer, he shook his head negatively, So I walked to him, put the headset on him, paid out the wire, and took the receiver into the tunnel entrance, being careful to keep it turned so no tone would be received. I pointed a finger
13: at my ear and shook my head negatively and immediately my guide shook his head the same. A slight turn of the receiver, and again I pointed at my ear and nodded. My guide nodded, his face puzzled. I turned the receiver to get the maximum signal, nodded, frowned, and put my hands over my ears. My guide nodded and a shy smile briefly lighted his face. I called to the Navajo at the top of the drill hole to shut off the transmitter, packed my receiver, and my guide and I hiked out of the rapidly darkening canyon. At the top of the canyon it was dark by the time we reached the Navajo at the top of the drill hole. While I removed the pick handle and wire from the drill hole, the Navajo language flowed in a torrent between the Indians, in marked contrast to the shy reserve of a couple or three hours ago. Then the English-speaking Navajo said to me, “Can I hear?” So I set the transmitter and receiver in close proximity and gave a brief demonstration of the sounds my guide
14: had heard below in the canyon. Then I finished my packing, while the Navajos moved off to the hogan, still talking as they were lost in the gathering darkness. Next morning, I sat in the Custodian’s house and worked at his desk, calculating the distance from the sump to the drill hole, the quantity of dynamite needed, and the probable cost of connecting the sump and drill hole. The Navajos came and went through the house at will, and talked in their native tongue with the Custodian and his wife. The wife spoke the Navajo language fluently. After a while she said to me, “That is what they are calling you” and repeated the Navajo words. “I’ve probably been called worse in a language I could understand”, I replied. “Oh, this isn’t bad”, she said. “They are calling you “ ‘The Man Who Makes the Ground Sing’ ". Yes, the lost drill hole was found several weeks later, about ten feet from the sump as our calculations had predicted.
15: ADDENDUM: The Monument Custodians (husband and wife), the only permanent National Park Service employees at Navajo National Monument, asked if it was a requirement that I hurry back to Regional Headquarters at Santa Fe. If not, they would like for me to stay at the Monument for an extra day to permit them to make a hurried trip to Flagstaff. I told them I was due to return to Mesa Verde the following week to resume contract supervision that had been suspended for the winter, but I could remain at Navajo an extra day and still make it. They left immediately, telling me they would be back late the following day. Should they be unexpectedly delayed, I should lock up and be on my way. They instructed the Navajo employees about work to be done before they left and the Navajos went about their work and I stayed and wrote my report. Late in the day, the weather clouded and it began to snow heavily and the Navajos disappeared into the storm, to be seen by me no more.
16: Next morning, April 1, 1940, two to three inches of snow had changed the landscape. As I had nothing to do, and to get a little exercise, I walked perhaps a mile and a half around the upper end of the box canyon and along its easterly rim to a point where I could look down at the Betatakin Ruin. The sun had just appeared and shown on the beautiful ruin framed in snow. It was a memorable, enjoyable walk. | Sam on rim above Betatakin Ruins, about 1963
17: I had intended to ask the Custodian’s wife to repeat for me, in Navajo, “The Man Who Makes the Ground Sing”. I hoped I would be able to learn the phrase phonetically when she returned from Flagstaff. However, early that afternoon, as the weather again became threatening, I departed for Santa Fe and have never learned the Navajo language for “The Man Who Makes The Ground Sing”. Sam G. Keim, Civil Engineer | Navajo language for "Man Who Makes the Ground Sing"
19: Later Note: At the time all of the above happened, in early 1940, Sam and his expectant wife, Ruby, were living in a cabin at Mesa Verde National Park while he worked as Engineer on construction of the Visitor Center in the Park. Sam and Ruby's daughter, Janice, was born in July of 1940, shortly after they left Mesa Verde. In later years, Sam contacted experts at the University of Arizona and was able to get the Navajo phrase written out, in Navajo, but pronunciation remained a mystery....
20: As good fortune would have it, in 1996, Janice and her husband moved to Cortez, Colorado, near Mesa Verde. There Janice was introduced by a neighbor to a Navajo artist, Jerry Cohoe. Jerry was kind enough to provide the pronunciation for the Navajo phrase so Jan could hear and record it. (Jerry also said that a more exact translation would be “Ground Sings With”, | Sleeping Ute Mountain, seen from Cortez, Co, near Mesa Verde National Park
21: as the Navajo language does not actually use the word “man” when referring to someone who is not Navajo.) And so the tale ends in the country where it began. | Cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde National Park
22: Tsegi Canyon, Navajo National Monument
23: Far View House, Mesa Verde National Park (A favorite ruin of Sam's. He and Ruby named their house in Chickasha, OK, after it.)