John Lochbaum, Dragline Operator, M & S Mine, Bienfait

Bienfait is bigger now than it ever was. There used to be only three or four stores here, but they're not even rough anymore. Years ago when there were 400 single men here, it was rough and there was lots of gambling.

I was born in Russia in 1918. I've been hanging around the coal mines since I was a young boy - 16 years old. Oh, I'll tell you, I started in the Shand Mine in the fall of '34. I was only 16 years old but I worked on top. In 1939, I got into the M&S Mine as a driver and a timberman. Then I went into the army until 1945.

When I came back, I worked until the underground closed. As a matter of fact, I'm an old dragline man now. I've run dragline for 33 years since the M&S Mine started stripping. I am still there and I've got only one more year before I retire. I've seen enough of the mines but I don't know what I'm going to do when I retire.

As far as the old dragline goes, I guess I'm the only cowboy left. The rest of the operators are all younger now. I broke in a lot of men - oh gosh, I don't know how many. You get used to it, just like driving a car. Some pick it up quicker than others and some don't give a hoot, if you know what I mean.

I've pretty well worked steady because I'm on the dragline, but there were slack periods in the summer months. I wouldn't say operating a dragline is hard work. If your eyes don't see it, your ears pick it up. I think it's just my line of work. Sometimes it can get a little monotonous, especially during the midnight shift.

We always had a garden. You had to when you had five children.