Among his neighbors in the desert and mountain country around Grants, N.Mex. (pop. 2,281), husky, 59-year-old Paddy Martinez is conceded to be a well-rounded man. Paddy is part Navajo and part Spanish, stands 6 ft. 1 in., weighs 195, and has an outdoorsman's grizzled face. He runs a mountain sheep camp, works as a "head hunter" (labor recruiter) for carrot growers, talks Spanish, English, Navajo and the Laguna Indian language, has 14 children "and a lot of little fellows around the hogans" and is a dead shot with a rifle. He is also canny.
Last July, as he walked into a trader's store at Rattlesnake, N.Mex. to buy cigarettes, he saw two men examining a fist-sized, yellow-streaked piece of rock. He heard them say, in Spanish, that it was a sample of uranium ore, and that the Government was offering a $10,000 prize to prospectors who made a big strike. Paddy decided to try finding some and that same day, as he rode his horse homeward, he spotted an outcropping of the odd-looking rock. He broke off some. Next day he took it to Grants, gave it to the mayor and asked him to get it analyzed.
No $10,000. Sure enough, the rocks contained streaks of a low-grade uranium ore called carnotite. Paddy staked a 160-acre claim for himself, a few more for his sons, and waited for the Government to come and give him $10,000. He didn't get it; the big bonus is offered only to those who find a deposit of high-grade ore, such as pitchblende. But his discovery, made at the 7,000-foot level on a huge, reddish mesa called Haystack Mountain (only 100 miles from the Los Alamos atomic project), set off a uranium rush which took Grants the way Grant took Richmond.
Prospectors who came pouring into town discovered that the grey limestone rock in which Paddy had found the yellow streaks runs for 50 miles in a ten-mile swatch. Most of it is on land owned by the Santa Fe Railroad. Enthusiasts guessed that there might be as much as ten million tons of ore, worth from $5 to $15 a ton. Last week Grants's two long-distance lines buzzed with calls from all over the U.S. Most of its 17 bars all proudly displayed ore samples. Advertisements for mining machinery and Geiger counters poured in on Clyne A. Bailey, editor of the weekly Grants Beacon (circ. 1,000).
The Santa Fe's President Fred Gurley popped into town to see for himself, decided to spend $50,000 for exploration work. He soon had crews of geologists and laborers working in the mountains, carpenters building a headquarters and assay office 20 miles from town. It would be months before the real worth of the strike could be determined, but Grants and the Santa Fe were optimistic.
Live Along. Paddy still yearned to get rich, but meantime, harried by friends who already want to borrow money from him, he scooped up his family, padlocked his hogans, leaving only the pigs, and headed for the hills. He left behind a crudely lettered cardboard sign: "Please don't take anything out of my place and live along [leave alone] my pig . . . From Paddy Martinez."