September 2002

Disclaimer: This is a historical fic based on the events surrounding the
greatest natural rockslide disaster in Alberta, Canada's history. The
Frank Slide. My characters are fictional but do not belong to me. I'm
simply borrowing the likeness and names from the Sailor Moon anime to
illustrate a point in history. At the end of this story, you will find a
list of those mentioned and if they survived the disaster or died in it.

I wrote this story with the utmost respect for those who were involved in
this disaster. Having visited the slide myself and felt overwhelming
sorrow, I can only find admiration for those who had the courage to
continue on after the slide, and sympathy for those who lost loved ones.

The song is "Once in a Lifetime" by Wolfsheim, I don't own it either. I'm
simply borrowing the lyrics, which are appropriate, in my mind, to this

Once In A Lifetime.

The sound of the train whistle echoed off the pass walls as the
Canadian Pacific Rail, its cars loaded with coal, rumbled through the
Crowsnest Pass past the mining town of Frank. Snug against the base of
Turtle Mountain, the town had grown with amazing speed as the coal mining
of the mountain came into full swing.

The valley was a perfect place for the small mining town, the flats
that spread out below the overhanging mountain leaving ample space for the
cottages for the families of the miners and the tent cities that were
invariably going to spring up when men came from all over looking for
work. Autumn looked good on the valley in 1902 as Frank was touted to be
"the town of the future". Though small, it was swollen by mining
families, single men and women, who came from all over to seek their
fortunes mining the coal.

Among these were a young couple from Lethbridge. Arriving on the
Spokane Flyer, the rail connection between the small town and the outside
world, it was obvious that they were not a well off couple. She was
barely more than seventeen, her dress threadbare and worn, her red hair
wrapped tightly about her head once and then secured at the nape of her
neck in a bun. Her companion was tall, blonde and dressed in black slacks
and a coat that had seen better days. In his hand, he carried a carpet
bag holding their worldly possessions.

The young woman swallowed hard as she stepped off the train, "Andrew,
are you sure this is the right place?" her gaze was on the looming shadow
of Turtle Mountain. The overhanging portion of the peak cast deep shadows
over the mine entrance half-way up the hill and over the flat at the base.

Her husband slipped an arm around her shoulders, "Yes, Rita. Here is
where we'll search for our fortunes."

She said nothing as he stepped away and began wading through the
other people disembarking from the train. She sighed once, straightening
her spine and quick stepped after him, the shabby hem of her skirt
whispering along the planks of the train depot. She followed her husband
through the crowds and out of the depot. He'd come here on the word of a
friend, promising that here they could create a new life, beyond the reach
of their disapproving parents. She hoped so. Andrew turned to look at
her, making sure she was keeping pace before heading into the small town.

The main street was a sight to behold. Three hotels, a fourth almost
completed according to the sign, a bank, a cigar shop, a watch maker, two
restaurants, a drug store and the list went on. Rita stared in awe at the
luxury she'd not expected to find. Why, they even had a laundry! She'd
not expected much of this frontier town, to be sure. Rita couldn't read,
but by gauging the goods in the window, she could tell what each of the
shops offered.

Andrew paused, offering her his arm, "Rita, please, we need to keep
going. I have to talk to the mining office before it closes tonight."

She flushed, quickly stepping up to take his arm as they walked
quickly towards the edge of Dominion Street, the main street of Frank.
They passed houses, shops and a saloon as Andrew led them away from the
center of town. Rita kept pace with him, vowing to come back and check
the shops when they were settled into their new home. She felt a surge of
misgiving as she looked up at the mountain that stretched high above them.
Hopefully the mining office would keep its promise of a job for her

It was several long minutes of walking along a rutted dirt road
before they saw anyone else. The sound of hoof beats alerted them first
before a wagon came into view, going in their direction. A stern looking
man with black hair, an obvious miner, stopped next to them as Andrew
flagged him down. Their wagon was laden with goods from the general

"Can I help you, sir?"

Andrew nodded, "How far is it to the mining offices? I'm supposed to
talk to the manger before they close tonight."

"You won't make it on foot, son. Hope in, but don't touch anything.
If I find out you're another of those guys begging for a job."

Grateful, Andrew helped Rita into the back before climbing in
himself. "Andrew Markham," he extended his hand to the other miner, "This
is my wife, Rita. And for the record, we don't beg. I was promised a job
by a friend of mine."

The man nodded, shaking his hand, "Alex Leitch. You've got some good
friends to be sent here. You done coal mining before?"

"Yes sir."

Alex chuckled and then flicked the reigns over the back of the horse,
"The coal seam is huge here, I doubt we'll mine it out in my lifetime.
Expect short nights and long days if you're on the day shift."

Andrew nodded, pulling Rita into his arms and settling her against
him so she wouldn't come to harm in the jostling cart. His hands settled
on the gentle swell of her belly beneath her dress. "I'm used to working
a night shift to be honest."

Alex nodded thoughtfully, "We can always use a few good men on the
night shift, ones that have done it before and aren't afraid of the dark."

Andrew was quiet as Alex refrained from saying anything else. He
bent his head and rested it gently on Rita's shoulder as the darkness of
the valley began closing in. His smile was soft in the silence as he
rubbed his hand over the slight swelling of their growing child.

****It's getting dark too soon,
A threatening silence, surrounding me,
a wind comes up from the islands.
When distance fades to stormy gray,
wash out from the deep of the ocean.
Here I will stand to face your wrath. ****

Andrew had no trouble securing a job on the night crew of the Frank
mine. Over the next few months, they began to settle in their new home
and Andrew made himself at home with the other men who worked the night
shift. Rita introduced herself to the other miner's wives and made fast
friends with Mrs. Leitch and their six, soon to be seven, children.
Several of the other miner's wives had quickly made her acquaintance and
she soon learned the miner's wives were a tight-knit group.

As the winter claimed the valley, production in the mine continued to
increase as the demand for coal to run the rail shot through the roof.
The men who worked the mine increased in number every day with over two
hundred at work during the days, and as few as twenty working at night.
Andrew was given his choice of shift and, more comfortable than most with
working in the dark at night, stayed assigned to the night shift. It
became apparent after three months that the Markham's were expecting a
child and Rita was quickly changing an area in their small, business
appointed home, into a nursery.

Rita hummed softly as she embroidered a blanket for the baby who
would be born in the early months of spring. Andrew was sleeping in their
bedroom and, though she normally slept with him during the day, she could
barely sleep with the energy coursing through her body. Andrew had
promised her a surprise for Christmas, which was barely five days away,
and she thought she had an idea of what he was going to give her.

A light knock on her door brought her head up and she put her
stitching aside as she stood, brushing at her plain skirt. Among other
things, she'd had time to make a new wardrobe. On light steps she went to
the door and unbolted it. Mrs Clark stood in front of her and she smiled.
"Mrs. Clark, this is a pleasant surprise."

Rita stepped from her home, pausing only to grab a shawl to place
around her shoulders as she stepped into the cold winter air, "What can I
do for you today?"

Mrs. Clark looked about, "I've heard some disturbing rumors about the
mine, Mrs. Markham," she admitted, "I was wondering if your husband had
told you anything about them that would cause you worry."

Rita sighed, opened the door behind her and motioned the other woman
in, "Andrew is sleeping, so please, keep your voice down."

Both women were finally seated at the table with a cup of tea and
Rita glanced at the curtain that blocked the sleeping area from the dining
room. "Andrew did mention that some of the timbers have had to be
replaced in the last couple of weeks," she admitted, "I thought nothing of
it, but they were good timbers who have mysteriously cracked. Mostly they
take it in stride since the tremors in the shafts are really frequent."

Mrs. Clark wrapped her fingers around her cup, "Alex and I had a
visitor the other day. A native who said we shouldn't build our homes so
close to the mountain. He had the most disturbing name for it too."


She nodded, "He called it The Mountain That Walked." The older woman
shivered, "If that doesn't give you the shivers I don't know what will."

Rita mulled over the other woman's words and glanced out the window
at Turtle Mountain. It was a very intimidating view, but in the last few
months she'd been able to push down her initial unease about the mountain
and turn their small clapboard house into something resembling a home. "I
admit I don't like that mountain very much, but mountain's don't walk."

Mrs. Clark twittered and sipped her tea, "That's what I told him, but
he simply shook his head and told me I'd regret the day I didn't listen to
him. Do you think he knows something we don't?"

"Besides blowing the top of the mountain, I doubt the Indian could
move the mountain."

They laughed together at the absurd notion of moving a mountain and
Rita eagerly began to ask the other women about her five children. Their
conversation was low so not to disturb the sleeping Andrew and when Mrs.
Clark finally left, Rita turned back to the view of the mountain, a frown
on her full lips. Could the Indian be right? There weren't many that
came to the valley, in fact, they seemed to avoid it. A shiver ran down
her spine. She'd ask Andrew if it was possible when he woke up for his
shift. Somehow she managed to put the thoughts to the side, to push the
fear of something she couldn't name out of her mind, and went back to her

"The mountain that walked? Are you sure, Rita?"

She nodded, "Mrs. Clark was adamant. That description scares me,
Andrew, I don't want to lose you if the mountain suddenly collapses on the

He hugged her, kissing the top of her head, "Don't worry Rita, the
mountain is safe. They had to check out all of the possibilities before
they begin blasting and mining. If that thing comes down on our heads it
won't be any time soon. Rest easy."

She hugged him back, closing her eyes and trying to fight the
inexplicable fear his words sparked. "You'll be careful?"

He nodded, bending down to kiss her lingeringly on the lips, "I
always am. Sleep well, Rita, I'll see you in the morning."

She watched him walk out the door and sank back down into the chair
she'd pulled by the stove. Silently she began to pray that Andrew was
right and that, other than the unpredictable cave-in's, which were a
hazard of all mining operations, he was right.

Christmas came and Andrew presented Rita with the gift she'd never
expected to receive. Land. They now owned a small parcel of it just
north east of the company homes, on the other side of the railroad tracks,
and south east of the town itself. She was ecstatic. Close enough to be
there for her friends if they had need of her, or she of them, and yet far
enough away for privacy. At last, Andrew and she had something of their

As the months began to pass and they turned their new property into a
home, the child in her belly grew and began to kick. Her fears of the
mountain were increasing but she kept them to herself as Andrew's love of
the limestone mass became apparent. He would spend a few minutes after
his shifts watching the hillside like he did her; like a lover. An
unattainable lover. Carefully guarding her tongue, she turned her efforts
to their home as the winter began turning into spring.

****Why are we ever so afraid.
Calm down my heart don't beat so fast,
don't be afraid, just once in a lifetime.
Calm down my heart don't beat so fast,
don't be afraid, just once in a lifetime.****

Rita awoke with a start on a cold morning in April, her breathing
ragged. Something had drawn her from sleep, but what? A hand on her
chest, she felt like she was suffocating, being buried alive. She closed
her eyes, gulping in breath after breath. A feeling of doom hung over her
as her gaze went to the mountain. Andrew was still on his shift, he and
twenty other men, deep within the mineshafts of that limestone coffin.
"Are you alright?" she gasped out, praying that what she felt was little
more than nerves.

The familiar sounds of the train and the distant workings of the mine
echoed through the night air, comforting in their consistency.

The baby in her womb kicked, drawing her from her thoughts. He was
late already by a week or so and she gently caressed her hard abdomen.
"Are you ready to meet your father, my son?" she asked him, smiling. She
believed the life inside her was a boy where Andrew was adamant she
couldn't know for sure. Somehow, she just knew.

Lying back down, she closed her eyes to sleep, her fears forgotten
and a smile on her face.

It was April 29, 1903 and the clock read 3:57 am.

Deep within the bowels of Turtle Mountain, the twenty men on the
night shift worked diligently to mine the black rock that was the life's
blood of their families. Shovelling the black rock that fell from the
ceiling, Andrew Markham swiped a forearm across his forehead as he checked
the other men around him. They were covered in black dust, the same color
as the rock they mined, and worked without pause. He continued to shovel
the coal onto the rail car that would take it back to the entrance.

"Andrew," a hand clamped down on his shoulder, black as the rest of
the man. "Are you done with that load there? Fred and I are heading to
the surface."

Andrew turned his head, "Go ahead, Alex, it's as full as I'll get

Alex Clark slapped him on the shoulder, his eyes barely visible
behind the thick goggles he wore, and nodded. Alex and Fred Farrington
disappeared into the darkness that led back to the face of the mountain,
the load of coal moving slowly behind them. Andrew turned back to his
task, starting to fill another of the cars with the black rock.

The mining lights were little help in the darkness of the shafts as
the miners worked diligently. The three were suddenly blown off their
feet by a blast of air from deep in the mine, sending them careening into
the walls. Andrew felt his head swim as his head connected with a
sickening thump. The floor heaved beneath him as coal and rock showered
down from above.

Shouts of panic echoed through the narrow tunnels as the bracing
supports split and cracked, echoing like gunshots down the halls. Rock
fell and dust filled the air, choking the men as they were knocked from
their feet. The roar of falling rocks was deafening in the tight spaces
as some of the tunnels began to collapse. As suddenly as it started, the
rumbling died. An eerie quiet descended on the miners as they regained
their senses.

Andrew struggled to push himself off the floor, feeling as if he'd
been hit by a train. Blood ran into his eyes from a nick on his forehead,
but he quickly wiped it away. His helmet lay a few feet away, the mining
light shining on the tracks to the left. Dust clouded the air as small
showers of coal and rock continued to fall.

A cave in was every miner's worst nightmare and it had come true.
He'd lived through it. He felt a quick surge of pride at the thought
before his mind went back to his companions. "Is everyone alright?"

The two men who were in the shaft with him pushed themselves to their
feet. "Aye."

"Just fine, Andrew. Yourself?"

"We've got to get out of here," he coughed, choking on the coal dust.
One of his fellows pressed a semi-clean cloth against his mouth, filtering
the coal dust and keeping it from his lungs.

"Easy there lad, it looks like you've hit your head pretty hard."

"I'm fine," he replied, pushing himself to his feet before repeating
his earlier statement, "We have to get out of here."

Neither man argued as they left their tools and began running towards
the entrance of the mine. The shafts were quiet, save for their
footsteps, and none of the three men could feel the mountain moving
anymore. Was it really over? They almost skidded into the stationary
forms of the other miners as they stopped near the entrance. They were
the last of seventeen to arrive.

Timbers and other debris littered the collapsed entrance, blocking
their only exit. Andrew leaned against one of the walls, his eyes
closing. What kind of cave in destroyed the entrance to a mine but not
the tunnels leading out to it? He closed his eyes, trying to focus his

"Lads, we're in a bit of a spot."

Andrew opened his eyes as one of the other men spoke. He recognized
the voice of Joe Chapman, the shift foreman, though the man's appearance
gave no evidence. They all looked the same. Blackened, covered in coal
dust, and some injured. Himself included. He listened attentively as Joe

"We have two options. We can try and dig our way out through here,"
he waved a dark hand at the entrance, "or we can check the lower levels
and the entrance there to see if it's in any better shape."

They considered the blocked passage way. A voice from the middle of
the men spoke, "We can't be more than 15 meters from the surface; we could
clear that without much of a problem."

Another miner echoed the sentiments before one of the older miners,
who'd worked the mine since it'd opened in 1901 and knew it, better than
the rest of them, shook his head. "You're dreaming. We're at least 90
meters, if not more, from the side of the mountain. Digging through that
wall will take more time than we have."

"The we go down and see if we can get out through the lower

A man who'd injured himself on the rail tracks nodded to the foreman,
"I'll just wait here to see if you boys find anything."

The foreman clapped him on the shoulders, "Good man, Will. We'll
come back for you if it's clear."

William Warrington nodded as the sixteen other men turned to go.
Andrew spoke up, "I'll wait with you, Will."

No one begrudged him the time as they went down into the shafts to
check the entrance.

Andrew settled next to the other man, "How's the leg?"

William grimaced, "Hurts like a son of a bitch. I hear your wife's
expecting soon."

Andrew nodded, allowing himself a smile, "Rita says she's going to
have a boy. He's overdue though. The midwife says if he doesn't come of
his own accord she's going to have to help him along."

William clapped the younger man on the shoulder, "She may have
already had him."

Andrew was quiet as he mulled over that thought. Hopefully whatever
had trapped the men inside the mine, be it slide or avalanche, hadn't
touched much of the town. "I hope not," he said at length, "I'd like to
be there when he'd born."

William shifted his position, carefully moving the leg he'd wrenched
on the rail tracks. The sound of the men moving down in the shafts
finally died, leaving the two completely alone. The sound of debris
shifting in the entranceway of the mine echoed in the stillness. "Have
you ever been trapped before, Andrew?"

Andrew nodded, "Back east. Only once though. I got stuck in a
tunnel with rotting timbers and they collapsed on me. I was lucky though.
They found me and dug me out before the end of the hour. A friend of
mine, Greg, wasn't so lucky. Rita and Amy were the best of friends before
we came here. Amy moved back overseas to raise her six children with her
parents when her husband died."

William winced, "That's tough. God willing my wife won't be going
through that and neither will yours."


They fell into a silence that remained unbroken until the sound of
the returning miners could be heard. Andrew pushed himself to his feet.
Joe came into view, shaking his head, "It's no use, the river's blocked by
something and the damn thing is flooding the tunnels below. We can't get
out that way."

Andrew swallowed. He felt like he'd been buried alive and wanted to
scream. The men were amazingly calm, self-disciplined, as Joe organized
them back into their work gangs. It was apparent to all of them that if
this entrance was blocked, their airshafts were more than likely in the
same condition. The foreman quickly ordered them back into the tunnels
and areas they'd been assigned, with orders to recover all the tools they
could carry to begin working at the blocked entrance.

The men moved with haste, aware that the tremors could have opened
pockets of explosive gases, which would settle into the upper chambers,
and make them exceedingly dangerous. They didn't have much time before
they either suffocated, drowned or ignited the gases.

The time was just after 4:30am

****No rain can wash away my tears,
no wind can soothe my pain,
you made me doubt you made me fear,
but now I'm not the same. ****

Around 8am Andrew stepped away from the debris blocking the entrance
and shook his head, "We're never going to get out this way, it falls back
in as fast as we can move it."

The other men were reluctant to agree with him, most of them seeing
this as their only viable escape option. Andrew looked around, "I'm sure
I'm not the only one who's having a hard time breathing right now, we'll
never be able to open this entrance before the gases kill us. Especially
if we're 90 meters away."

Another voice spoke up, "There's a vertical shaft back in the mine,
it's pretty deep and far from here, that could very well reach the surface
before we do here. If nothing else that shaft will give us time to work
it since it's lower down. The gases will rise and we'll have air for
longer. We have a choice, men, we can keep working at this entrance,
blocked by thick stones, or dig through clay and coal to try and get out."

Andrew nodded, "Good idea. I, for one, don't want to die in here, I
say we try that vertical shaft and get the hell out of here."

The men agreed and the small party of miners quickly made their way
into the bowels of the mine and towards the shaft that, hopefully, held
their salvation.

By 9am the men were hard at work in the shaft of coal, working in
shifts of two or three at a time as the others cleared the debris. Their
pace was slow, but steady as they pushed forward. Some of them sang songs
as they worked to help pass the time and most were loath to give up their
position when their turn to dig was up.

Andrew thrust his pick into the coal seem and pulled mightily,
bringing the large chunk from the wall. A part of him was lamenting the
fact that so much coal wouldn't be brought to the surface, but most of him
just wanted to get out. His panic was slowly rising, barely contained, as
he continued to hack at the walls.

Around him the men continued to sing and a smile found its way onto
his sooty face. Singing helped pass the time and occupy the mind. As
someone shovelled the coal away from his feet, he lifted his voice with
the others.

Sometime in mi-afternoon he was asked to go check the possibility of
the mine entrance being reopened faster than this seam. Grudgingly, he
accepted and two other miners accompanied him. Their footsteps echoed
through the quiet shafts as Charlie Farrell led the way through the criss
-crossing maze. The last of their party was quiet and Andrew couldn't
remember his name.

It was futile. The boulders that blocked the entrance were littered
with broken supports. The word was snapped like straw and stuck out at
every angle, the boulders seeming to have gotten bigger over time. Andrew
shook his head, "We're not getting out that way."

Charlie nodded, "I'm inclined to agree with you. Come on boys, its
almost our turn at the shaft again."

Andrew waited while Charlie and the other miner started back before
his lips twisted. "Once again into the breech dear friends," he said
softly, cynically. Shaking his head, he ran to catch up.

****And when the silence comes back to me,
I find myself feeling lonely,
Standing here on the shores of destiny,
I find myself feeling lonely...
I had a life to give, many dreams to live,
don't you know that you're loosing so much this time.
Beyond the waves, I will be free.****

It would be thirteen hours before the seventeen miners broke the
surface, the pick of Dan McKenzie slicing through the clay and into the
open air. Sunlight poured into the shaft with the fresh air, drawing a
cheer from the miners. Dan made to stick his head out but ducked back as
falling rocks bounced by.

"Sorry lads, we're not getting out of this one."

Joe chuckled, "We'll dig another shaft... here. Come on boys, we're
not that far from home now."

Renewed by the sunlight and fresh air, the men began to eagerly
attack the earth with their picks. Continuing to work in shifts, it
wasn't long before they'd dug another tunnel and broken the surface again.
Coming up on the lee side of some embedded boulders, Dan McKenzie widened
the hole and stepped out into the sheltered area.

Andrew helped the men pull William Warrington, who was strapped to a
plank, into the sunshine before he stopped and took a look around.

Over 3000 acres of rock and mud spread out below them as the sweaty
and exhausted miners pulled themselves from the bowels of the Frank mine.
Rocks continued to fall, infrequently, to the east of them as they
surveyed the damage. People were swarming like ants over the rocks and
debris looking for survivors. The makeshift tent camp of men looking for
work was gone, buried beneath thousands of tons of rock. The whole
southeastern corner of the town was submerges by an ocean of limestone, a
cloud of dust hanging like a fog over the valley.

Andrew collapsed to his knees, his gaze finding the very place where
he and Rita had begun to make their home. There was nothing, only a pile
of rubble, the trees having been crushed like match sticks, the cabin
nowhere to be seen. "No," he whispered, horrified. Rita! She had to be
alright, she couldn't be dead, she couldn't! Beside him, he felt William
grasp his arm in fear. The Warrington cabin had been obliterated.

Andrew made to scramble down the hillside, but a strong arm
restrained him. Another of the miners, his eyes wet with unshed tears,
shook his head. "Andrew, you'll break your neck if you go that way."

Andrew closed his eyes to fight the tears and sorrow that were
starting to leave him blessedly numb. With a nod of his head he waited as
the men began picking their way down the side of the mountain. In
surveying that blanket of rock, Andrew felt any love for the mountain die.
This mountain had most likely taken his wife and son from him, had killed
any future he would have had in this valley. He'd had so many dreams and
plans for this venture, so many ways of building a new life here for Rita
and their family. Now there was nothing. Nothing but rock and death.

****No rain can wash away my tears,
no wind can soothe my pain,
you made me doubt you made me fear,
but now I'm not the same.
You took my wife, my unborn son,
thrown into the deep of the ocean.
I don't pretend that I love you
'cause now there is nothing left to lose.
The love in you it does not burn,
there is no lesson you can learn.
And there are songs you cannot hear,
and there are feelings you can't feel.****

Andrew stood on one of the limestone boulders where his house had
once been. The neighbours of Frank, Blairmore in particular, had rushed
to lend their aid to the stricken town. Everything on the southeastern
end had been buried or destroyed by the slide. The unofficial death count
was seventy people so far, with another countless buried in the mining
camp, and the three men who'd been outside the entrance of the mine at the
time, yet to be counted. The most appalling fact was a third of those
were children.

"Rita!" he screamed, cupping his hands and turning in a circle.
There was no trace of their cabin. No wood, no straw from their
mattresses, no blankets. Everything they'd had had been destroyed or
buried. He dropped from the top of the boulders, easily the size of their
small cabin, to another the size of a wagon before finding a patch of
ground between the stones. He knelt next to some of the smaller rocks and
began to push them, hearing the gravel in between shift and fall.

Most of the residents, save for a handful, had evacuated the town
with the fear of another slide looming over their heads. Andrew had voted
to stay behind. He couldn't give up on Rita, not yet, maybe not ever.
His back muscles clenching, he heaved his weight against the rock and
shifted it to the side, lifting it and moving it away. He wiped a forearm
across his face, trying to stem the flow of tears and sweat. He was
weary, exhausted from his fight in the mine, but he couldn't give up on
her, she had to be alright!

Somewhere in the distance some more rocks made their way down the
mountain, but Andrew didn't look up. Their cabin had been near the center
of the slide where some of the biggest stones had come to rest. He worked
as he had in the mine, ignoring the sting of his injury, not caring that
he was still coated in coal dust, or that his head ached abominably. He
had to find Rita.

Slowly he managed to clear an area that would have been Rita's
garden. Somehow the transplanted flowers she'd added the day before were
still there, the early spring bud beginning to bloom. He had an
irrational urge to destroy it, to pluck it from the stem and crush it in
his hands. How could something so beautiful, so trivial, have survived
when his wife was still stuck in that maze of rock? He sobbed, dropping
to his knees and cradling the flower between his palms. This was
something of hers, something she'd been ecstatic to find and plant.

"Rita," he sobbed, tears leaving trails of white on his blackened
face, "my lovely Rita, please God, let her be alive." His pleading was
soft as his tears soaked the ground. Mud coated his clothes as he lay
next to the flower. Finally, he pushed himself to his feet.
Determinedly, he set to work on moving the rocks and trying to find his
wife. She couldn't be dead. She just couldn't.

It would be several days before Andrew admitted defeat. The
northeast face of Turtle Mountain had collapsed on the tiny town, killing
an estimated 100 people in a city of 600. No one had escaped unscathed.
Everyone knew at least one person affected by the slide.

Andrew curled up at the base of the rocks where he estimated his
cabin had been. Without landmarks, it was hard to tell. His shoulders
drooping with wariness, he'd neither eaten nor slept in four days. His
chest was hollow, any hope he'd had having diminished as the days wore on.
Nobody found any trace of his wife or their child. Finally, he was forced
to accept that they were buried under the rock. Rock that was, in some
places, 30 meters deep.

Closing his eyes, Andrew laid his head against the rock at his back.
Rita. Her smiling face was imprinted on the back of his eyelids. His
throat ached with the force of unshed tears. Slowly, he opened his eyes
and stared at the mountain she'd never wanted to come to. Turtle
Mountain. The mountain whose majesty had made him ignore its threat; the
mountain who'd stolen his future. He'd go back in if they reopened the
mine, but never again would he claim to love such a treacherous mistress.

He looked back to the ocean of rock that was his family's tomb.
Rita. His eyes stung and this time he let the tears flow. Bowing his
head, he closed his eyes. He should have told her he loved her before
leaving that fateful night, should have taken the time to kiss her
goodbye. Guilt eating at him, he put his head against the rock and
silently cried for his wife and the child he would never meet.


Author's Notes:

For a detailed account of what happened that night in the city of Frank I
suggest you try the following site: this is where I drew
most of my information from. That and my series of historical books:
"Alberta in the 20th Century: The Birth Of The Province Volume 2, 1900

I have no way of knowing exactly what went on in the mining shafts of the
Frank mine when the top of the mountain fell on the community below and
sealed the men inside. All of the events that take place inside the mine
are pure speculation on my part except for certain parts, of which I drew
my information from the above site. Most of the time stamps are of my own

The official time of the slide was at 4:10am on Wednesday, April 29th,

Lastly, the official death count of the slide is 76, 21 of those children,
though it is estimated that the slide claimed over 100 lives.

A list of Characters from my story:

Andrew & Rita Markham - fictional

The seventeen miners mentioned in this story, except Andrew, were all real
men who surpassed amazing odds and dug themselves out of, what could have
been, their tomb. The names used in this story are from the history
books. Each of these men survived to dig their way out. Dan McKenzie, as
illustrated by the story, was the man who struck the blow to the outside

Alex Leitch and his wife, as well as their four boys died instantly when
the slide struck their home, one of the business owned cottages for the
miner's families. Their two girls, Jessie and Rose-Mary were pinned in a
double bed by a ceiling joint but lived with minor injuries. Their infant
daughter, Marion, was thrown from the house and found safe on a bale of
hay from the destroyed livery.

Alex Clark and his wife along with their 5 children died in the slide.
Alex was counted in the history books as one of the three men who were
outside the shaft having a mid-shift break, as stated in this story. Mrs.
Clark and her 5 children died in their house when it was buried in the

William Wellington survived the slide but his wife and 3 children were
buried in their home.

Thank you for reading, if you have anything you'd like to say, please
write me at

Thank you for taking the time to read this story.