In the early 1960’s I was working as an ironworker at the Frenchtown Pulp Mill. My partner and friend was an ironworker named Dick Garrin. We were preparing to do some structural upgrade work inside of the #1 recovery building where it joins the lime kiln building. The recovery building is a high 200 ft. tall while the lime building is lower, about 100 ft. We were going to take some metal siding off the building, so using the crane we could insert some steel beams into the building. There was a lower roof attached to the main building about 40 Ft. above the ground. I got on to this roof with a long extension cord and an electric impact to remove the screws holding the metal siding. It was January and a very cold day. I was bundled up in winter clothes and lined Carhart coveralls over the top with warm gloves. I also had on a hard hat with a cold weather liner, so the only thing exposed to the cold was my face, and my frosted mustache. In the mill’s early years, it was a stinky place especially in the winter months when the air was heavy. I had worked on it when it was built in 1956; George Troxell, and I were the first two Ironworkers hired on the construction. One morning after the mill was up and running my Mom rode with me to Missoula to spend the day with her folks. As we were approaching the crossroads at the Frenchtown turn off before the interstate was there, the mill was really putting out the smell. Mom had never smelled it before, and thought I was letting stinkers. She finally said “Buddy for goodness sake what’s wrong with you”. We had a good laugh over this for many years.
On this cold winter day on that roof the smell was really bad on that roof, and it camouflaged the natural gas smell from me. There was a gas leak, and I was right in the center of it. When I pressed the trigger on the impact the electric spark ignited the gas cloud. I was engulfed in a huge ball of fire. I ran to the edge of the roof and jumped. My guardian angel was with me as I lit in a deep pile of snow, which broke my fall. My cloths had protected my body from the flames, only my face was burned. Dick took me to the nurse and first aid where she tended to my burned face. It had burned my eyelashes, eyebrows, what hair that was not covered by my hat liner, and my mustache off. While the nurse was working on me, I noticed Dick standing by the door with a smile on his face. As I started to leave, I asked Dick “What’s so so dang funny, I don’t see anything funny about it!” He burst out laughing, and said,
“I’m sorry my man, I can’t help it, you look just like one of those cartoons where the guys cigar explodes, his face is all black and his mustachio is all burned off. It had burned it all off, just leaving stubble here and there. I could never grow a mustache after that. The nurse heard what Dick said and she got a smile on her face too. I forgave him for laughing after the hurting was over, by then I could see the humor in it.