Weekly Gem #282, Where "out to pasture" was a big step up

Published 2/4/23

Location: This hidden gem is located … well, we actually can’t tell you, because the animal spirits that reside here are stubborn as a mule, and they like their privacy.

The story of this pasture starts in Butte, Montana, and all the mines that crisscrossed under the “richest hill on earth.” During its mining heyday, the entire city of Butte would fit into a square 2 or 3 miles on a side. Within that small area were about 75 major mine shafts, dug up to a mile deep to access the copper ore below. From these shafts, there were nearly 10,000 miles of horizontal tunnels, through which all the mining equipment moved out and all the ore moved back.

As you can imagine, there was a lot(!) of equipment. But here’s something you probably wouldn’t guess … among all that equipment were tons and tons of hay and grain, which was brought down to feed the mules that carried most everything else. By the early 1900s, there were about 1000 mules working under the city of Butte at any given time.

Getting these animals into the mine was a project. They were essentially wrapped up in specially made canvas tarps that kept them still while they were lowered by cable for a few hundred or a few thousand feet. Once they went down into mines, they stayed there for most of their lives. Plodding along in little or no light, carrying heavy loads, hot, dusty. Some pretty miserable working conditions.

Perhaps that is why the miners made sure that when the mules were put out to pasture, it was a really nice pasture. All the grass they could eat, shade during the heat of the day, nice scenery. And they carried nothing.

This is their pasture. If you find it, you will probably agree that it’s a really nice retirement home for a miner’s mule.


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


Retirement pasture


This is where mules from Butte's underground mines were 'put out to pasture.'

Why It's Interesting

It never occurred to me that miners would grow so attached to their mules that they'd find such a nice place for them to retire.

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