Wednesday, January 04, 2006

And We Mourn

Only one man of the thirteen miners survived. Being the daughter of a coal miner, I paid very close attention to this story. Back in Leslie County mining is one of the main sources of income still, and each time I hear of a mine accident I pay close attention.

I remember instances when you would hear of cave ins and other wives of miners would end up calling my Mom to make sure Dad was safe, or as safe as she knew he was. There was a time when I was very small a lot of people came to the house to wait. The men laughed and spoke quietly in the yard and the women gathered with my Mom. Was Dad trapped? I don't know. But I knew it had something to do with the mines and I knew my Dad worked in the mines, and I was quiet. Being a child meant you kept quiet and listened and played with your toys even if you really weren't playing with them because that's what the grown-ups needed to see. Being older I know now that it was also a way of protecting us, of keeping us out-of-the-know, but we figured it out. We always did.

And then there was the horrible accident where an entire mine blew and caved and a huge number of men died. My Dad knew a lot of them. He went to keep tabs on what was happening and if he and his men could help dig them out. Everything came to a slow grind. We knew, I knew, Daddy was safe, but that didn't make me wonder if it would happen to him one day.

It seems from as far back as I can remember the coal mining business was important to my family, to my little corner of the mountains, and on around to many other corners I didn't know about. I knew my Daddy worked under ground and I asked him once if his mine shaft reached our house. "No, buddy, it don't. I hope it never does."

"Why Daddy?"

"Because that would mean the hills are gone. The trees are gone. No birds sing and the creek is dry." I thought about this very hard. That is when I think I actually started caring about the land, the ground, the air, the trees, the animals. Everything mattered. Everything was linked because of the ground.

Daddy is gone now, but I can't help but wonder if maybe some of those older miners, the ones who made it out day after day and raised families might be looking over this new set who have it just as hard as they did. Does a miner come for a miner in the absolute dark of the mine when they die? Part of me would like to think so.

No comments: