By Miles Patrick Yohnke
Copyright © 2016 - All Rights Reserved.
Released June 29, 2016
Francis Lewis Yohnke, Toronto, circa 1949.
Sweet Lord, the only supervisor, what have you watched us mine thus far?
Miners are typically stereotyped as workers carrying shovels. I suppose that is because we see them as people who dig. We as the human race can learn a lot from miners and their work ethic, conviction, and how they dig to extract the best from the depths. We too can extract the best from our depths.
My father, Francis Lewis Yohnke, who was born colour blind, worked in the mines. Colour blind not only in vision, but also in how he saw his fellow man, and the insignificance of the colour of their skin or origin; he held no prejudice in any way.
It was an evening in 1968, and our prairie summer sun had just set. There was a knock on our front door and a neighbour who lived up the street from us was calling on my Father.
He had just been released from jail and had previously worked an office job at the Allan potash mine (a mine that my father had helped build some years earlier) after it was completed. He had been caught taking money from the company and had just finished serving time for fraud.
Now out of jail and having a hard time finding steady work (he had his house, family and kids to support), he was short on funds.
After discussing his situation with my Father outside on our home's front steps, Dad came in and asked Mom (she took care of the family finances) to write a $100 cheque out to him.
This was a lot of money back then. Dad knew that the money wouldn't be returned. He knew our own family would have to make adjustments with our own spending over the coming months to compensate for the lost income. That was Dad. Always mining to help another. Digging into how he could improve or protect others and their lives and loved ones.
Dad came from very humble beginnings, with only a grade 8 education. He left school at the age of 14 to help support his mother and father, working in coal mines across Canada (pretty much anywhere he could find work).
In the 1950's, with the potash industry evergrowing in the province of Saskatchewan, he found himself at the forefront for the construction of the new potash plants that were sprouting up everywhere in our province.
Though my father I'm told, never saw himself as a supervisor, but merely someone doing a job like everyone else. He worried about his workers safety, and took the job of protecting them very seriously.
These many projects robbed him of his health, and he had major ulcer surgery in February of 1966, two months before his 37th birthday. The weight of finding work in his youth, and providing for his growing family (which now included three young boys) took a toll.
Before every shift my father feared for his and his fellow employees' lives, knowing there was a chance he or one of them might not return. He worried about his extended family, his brothers of all origin, being underground, and their safety.
He was the supervisor for the construction of the tunnels for the Gardiner Dam.
His role helping build the tunnels lasted almost four years (a few years before I was born and another year after). The Gardiner Dam on the South Saskatchewan River, in Saskatchewan, is the third largest embankment dam in Canada, and one of the largest embankment dams in the world. You can learn more and see the tunnels here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gardiner_Dam
From there he went on to be the supervisor for the construction of the tunnels for the Allan and Duval (now Cory) potash mines.
They started sinking the shaft of the Duval mine on my third birthday, in 1966. Sadly, he never saw the completion of that project, dying just months after giving that neighbor that $100 dollars.
During the last decade of his life he was a supervisor, an overseer of tunnel digging. But what he was always mining for was the spirit of man.
He didn't reach all of them but he sure tried and kept digging deeper.
Mine to mine. Dust to dust. Heart to heart. To the depths of our souls, one soul can reach. Our human race's collective needs can be extracted.
Through soul exploration we can overcome and become whole again, as we were intended to be. To unbind our blind mistakes. To deposit love. To deposit hope. To attain a deeper purpose. A love for all. To see each person as new and help them mine for themselves.
My father was not just a miner, but rather a soul miner; he was always soul mining and building tunnels of love, compassion, and understanding, for all humankind.
For my father: Francis Lewis Yohnke (April 12th, 1929 - October 17th, 1968)Copyright © 2016 Miles Patrick Yohnke - All Rights Reserved.
A digital art painting of Miles Patrick Yohnke
by Nikolitsa Boutieros 2016
If you are looking at developing your career, Yohnke offers consulting in person, by phone or via email. For more info, please contact Miles directly at: 306.227.6379
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