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Lead Miner Reflects

Dennis Schumacher began working as a miner for Homestake Mine the day after he graduated from Lead High School. The son of a miner and a grandson of a miner, Schumacher didn’t spend much time thinking about doing anything else.

Today at 67 Dennis Schumacher is the Building Inspector of the City of Lead. In this Take A Moment segment, he reflects on his first career, working 28 years as a miner for Homestake Mine until the mine closed in 2002.

I didn’t really want to go to work for Homestake because my dad worked at for Homestake, I had my grandpas and grandmas and uncles and everybody working there so I thought, “maybe something different.” But there was nothing. In the 70s you struggled to find work.

Without a college education, you needed to do something. So, I went and applied at Homestake, I applied in the morning and that night I was working. That’s how bad they needed people.

So, I started at Homestake and six months later I was a miner at the 8,000-foot level starting out. It was 140-degrees rock temperature. It was brutal, but I was making better money than most people ever thought about for a kid right out of high school.

I mean my very first contract check, I will never forget. Me and my wife were living in a little tiny house and I got my very first contract check, thought, “this is cool.” It was like a thousand bucks, so I raced down to the Pamida down here and I bought me a big stereo – speakers this big. I thought I was in heaven.

Long story short, my mom and her mom were really good friends and they set us up. It worked out really well. Her dad worked at the mine and my dad worked at the mine, all of our families worked at the mine. My family has over 360 years’ worth of time in that mine.

Ah, amazing! There were a lot of really good miners. I stood in a 10-by-10 drift with my dad every day. He was very picky how we did it and he was very good at it. And he taught me very well how to do it.

We knew our jobs and he taught me well. And every day we would drill a round and every day we would blast a round and we very rarely ever missed a round.

My last day was on Christmas Eve. I walked out of there on Christmas Eve wondering what you are going to do, because that was all I ever knew.

We just decided to stay, so I got a job with the county for five years, as an appraiser and then this opened up.

I guess the long story short, this is where I wanted to be. This is where I was born, where I graduated from high school. This is where I worked. This is where I made my life.

Schumacher is one of many Lead residents to be featured in the upcoming DakotaLife episode, premiering Thursday, May 4 at 8 p.m. (7MT) on SDPB TV-1, Facebook, and YouTube.

Lura Roti grew up on a ranch in western South Dakota but today she calls Sioux Falls home. She has worked as a freelance journalist for more than two decades. Lura loves working with the SDPB team to share the stories of South Dakota’s citizens and communities. And she loves sharing her knowledge with the next generation. Lura teaches a writing course for the University of Sioux Falls.