When visitors drive along the scenic Silver Thread byway, they pass through the town of Creede, Colorado and in front of a peculiar small store with a false wooden facade, typical of the Old West. The front yard is strewn with rusty mine carts, sand buckets, rocks, crystals, an old Coca Cola mini fridge, antiqued snowshoes, and a wooden tram tower. “Mines & Memories” is the name of the store, but it’s also symbolic of the enduring role that mining plays in the heart of Creede’s economy, whether for tourists or for residents.

The pictures hanging around Ken Wyley’s store show the annual Fourth of July competition that takes place over two days in Creede. Contestants among the town’s 300-400 residents shovel broken rock into a bucket and drill holes into a large rock using a handheld percussive tool powered by compressed air, called a jackleg drill.

“The mining competition, it's something that gets in the blood of the damned miners,” Wyley said. “They’re like rodeos to a cowboy.”