fishermen, Alva A. Simpson used to bear patiently with the usual protests from
his wife whenever he set out on a little weekend search for trout in the
mountain streams around Santa Fe. For all his patience, though, the protests
bothered him. Even if the fish weren't biting, his wife's remarks were. But
eventually he solved the problem, and in a rather simple way—with only an
outlay of $30 for a Geiger counter and the announcement that he was out to make
the family fortune. The counter went with him on his fishing trips and so did
his wife's blessing.
Geiger counter just about ruined his fishing. He began to watch the needle
jump, and pretty soon the cutthroat and the rainbow became less attractive than
uranium. In such unlikely places as the Truchas Peaks north of Santa Fe, around
Cordova and Trampas, he began to stake claims, not only for uranium but for
mica and beryllium as well.
Simpson was New
Mexico state welfare director then (about two years ago), but now he is
president of United Western Minerals, whose officers include people like Jock
Whitney and Pat Hurley. It is one of the West's biggest uranium outfits.
"Some of my
friends," Simpson says, "have chided me about giving up sport in favor
of business. But they're all wrong. It's just that uranium hunting has turned
out to be a more exciting sport than almost any other kind of hunting I've
That's as may be,
and there are certainly those who would disagree with Simpson, among them
perhaps his field superintendent, Big John Verna of Pueblo, Colorado. Big John
was an elk hunter mostly. He owned a grocery in Pueblo and when the hunting
season arrived he would just close the store for the duration. He has collected
a huge jar full of elks' teeth as mementos of his prowess and some of his heads
have record-breaking spreads.
Verna began in
the usual way, by taking a Geiger counter with him on hunting and fishing
trips, and pretty soon he had the uranium fever. It gnawed at his conscience
and he still has a little remorse about it.
"I even began
buying a bull license, then would forget to shoot my bull," he confesses.
The uranium sickness disturbed him a good deal, chipping into his hunting time
that way, but Big John finally solved it with a neat compromise. He sold the
store, joined Simpson's outfit and has a humane understanding with the company
that he can quit uranium hunting for a few days any time other kinds of hunting
or fishing look too good to be passed up by a moral man. Now he has found some
wonderful, untouched fishing streams in Utah and intends to make the most of
them before the state starts advertising them and the tourists pour in. Came
across them while uranium hunting.
counters—and mine evaluators and ore analyzers—have become standard merchandise
in quite a few sporting-goods stores of the Mountain time belt. They can be
rented for $5 to $20 a day, and it is possible to buy a cheap Geiger counter
for as little as $15 or a scintillation counter (much more sensitive to certain
types of radiation) for as much as $500 or more. These have become common
equipment in saddle packs and tackle boxes of western outdoorsmen.
While some, such
as Simpson, have abandoned themselves to uranium, others seem to be able to
take it or leave it alone. It takes stamina, but a determined, strong-willed
man can cure himself of the uranium urge without joining Uraniacs Anonymous.
Jerry Rogers is one who has done it. Jerry made a fortune in oil and natural
gas and retired to Farmington, New Mexico, to hunt and fish.