Tuesday, January 03, 2006

To complain there was no need, she'd smile in Mama's understanding way

We are very concerned with the fate of the 13 coal miners in Sago, West Virginia. The prognosis for their recovery from the bowels of the earth does not look good.

There is plenty of family history with us and coal-mining. Many of our friends' daddies growing up hauled in the mines, or hauled it across the country in trucks or loaded it into barges on the Missisippi or Ohio, or worked on the railroads, all to light the fires of the world. Southern Illinois is prime coal country. We grew up in the shadow of the huge metal monsters that would tear at the ground ceaselessly, night after day, with wheels as tall as buildings, turning the miles and miles of fields behind our Aunt Grace's house into gravel strewn wastelands, scars hundreds of feet deep into the ground for decades. There are dozens of man-made lakes across Southern Illinois, several that we've swimmed in even, that serve as reminders of who really owns the land down there. Big coal.

People would have their land bought out from under them, literally. In Saline County, where we grew up, lots of politicians made it very stinky rich. Meanwhile, what do you think happened to the misplaced? You got it. Right into the arms of Big Coal. Insane work. No one you know has ever worked harder, or in worse conditions, than miners. They were among the first groups of working Americans to successfully unionize, just for that reason.

Tonight when you go to bed, think about the men in that hole and their families. They need it.

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