"Breath of Life"
Author: Roger D. Evans
30 Years of Underground Coal Mining
A story of working 30 years underground by a retired coal miner.
I ran across one of my ole mining buddies today that I had known and worked with for about 25 years or so. It is the most amazing thing as to see one of your co-workers and remember the array of things that cross one's mind as with the many aspects of this blog entry......"The Bowels Of The Earth"....."Thus I Try To Write as to inform".....In my own words.
I can cover many facets of the mining industry and could be very graphic in the details there-of as to portray just how this career holds the backdrop of a deep history of the working mining world that consist for many who choose to work underground....."I made that choice some 30 years ago, one that was "very bitter-sweet", such so that words can't really describe either, "the bitter" or "the sweet", as to proclaim success in understanding the words here that might be attempted to give "real insight" to this "dark world" of the mining industry......As graphic as I could be, that would "shed little light" upon what is contained within the epic of a world of work underground. As a young man of 20 in the year of 1974, it was my purpose to provide for the family I had brought into this world and to proceed to make a career somewhere within the realm of success.....As with many, the beckoning call of the "down under" came so swiftly to a "strong vibriant" eager youthful man, one who "feared little" and was ready to defy all courses of failure and danger that would befall one who would "do what it took" to "give all" for this young family......Oh, how the "blind would lead the blind" into the clutches of a work world so new to me/us but so "old" to the call of the industrial work world. The community, the state and the nation having such a dependency upon coal gave way to the nature of what a man could do to make a living and not have to leave his hometown. Such a draw to one's sense's to be able to make a good wage and enjoy the fruits of one's "dangerous labor" and be close at hand with all that he had grew up with in his young teen-age and young adult years. I was "so glad" to be able to do that, not knowing that the darkness that lerked within the dark hole was to be forever a place of employ, that of which I would "love to hate", and "hate to love" as a wage earner to arrange the path for the family man......At that time of the "early years", just a simple phone call was all it took for a "good young man" who was respected within and without, for me to get a job helping to mine this valuable resource. "Go to the local hardware store", my uncle said, "and get you a hard hat, a pair of cover-alls, a pair of boots, and a mining belt". "That is all you need"...."Show up at "Peter Cave Coal Company", (in Martin County Ky.) @ 6:00 a.m., Monday morning and be ready to "go to work"........"Thus it began"...... As I stood at the very opening of the little coal mining complex peering down the long black slope, one of the older miner's stepped over and spoke to me....(I can remember it just as if it was yesterday)...."Ole Man Luther Booth said," "There is a choice to be made here and now young man, one that I remember having to make in the very place that you stand this morning, a choice that has ruled my work future for many years." "I can only say that the choice you make will certainly "rule you" as it has many others who have peered into the darkness that your eyes are trying so hard to penetrate"......Ole Man Luther continued saying, "I as an "ole miner", would wish you would walk down off this hill this very moment and pursue something else, not that you "won't make it" but that the aspects of ever "turning away ever again" will be one that will not be so easy to find as is the chance you have "right now at this very moment"....."I can't say that this is a "bad choice" as far as with working for a provision, but it sure is an occupation that will haunt you as long as you are here fending yourself from the outside world of "fresh air", "sunshine", and the "very God given elements" that we so take for granted"......"Make your choice wisely, son, "Ole Man Luther" said, and if it be that you are willing to decide to take that "first step" into the "Bowels Of The Earth", "I'll take that first step right beside you, and then you'll "be on your own", as there are "no decisions" made for turning back as you will find my words are true when your inner self "gleams" with the prosperity that the mines brings thru the "dust, dampness, dark, dangers of the "deep dungeon down under"......I took that first step with reservation and for sure, "Ole Man Luther" took that very step with me as he had promised, and smiled and said, "let's go "Lil' Buddy", and that is what we did that first day As I arched my back with bending over into a "coal miner stance", we were engulfed by a blackness that could only be pierced by the very head lamps that was attached to the very hard hat that I had purchased just a day ago......(I still have the first hat that I wore that day).....About 50 of us proceeded together into a sea of black that I can't find words to describe even today. Some say the "darkest of dark"..."the blackest of black", as to depict how it really is therein. Let me say here, if you would "close yours eyes", "have all lights turned off", "have a blind fold over your closed eyes", the simple description would be some what clear in your mind as you read this, that if you would put your hand within "one inch" of your face/eyes, you couldn't see the hand"
....That is the "darkest of dark"..."the blackest of black"....contained within the "pitch atmosphere" that only "light can penetrate"......."Such an "undescribable" first viewing that I saw from a "young first miner's glance"......Darkness, dampness, timbers, water, coolness, dust, machinery, noise, rocks, electric power, motors, rock-dust, commotion, locomotion, belt-lines, rail's tracks, trolley wire, rail equipment, men, lights, movement, working, blasting, turn's, crosscuts, sections, rock falls, cribs, rats, garbage, intersections, maps, mine curtains, blocks, air-ways, fans, hammers, nails, shovels, boss''s, workers, equipment operators, pin-men, buggy men, loader men, miner men, scoop men, belt men, dynamite caps, dynamite, shot firers, blasting, methane, smoke, lunch time, talking, planning, chaos, concentrated efforts, team effort, loading coal, hauling coal, dumping coal, shooting coal, grinding, cutting coal, scooping rock/coal, ......."such an endless array of mining consorts"......to many more to mention......."a vast visible list, still etched in memory".. Day after day....Night after night.....the process of mining continued and still continues relentlessly thru-out our nation and world........"Black faced for 30 years", "I with many dug out the very "soul and backbone" of the "power and energy that gives the nation and world" light for the home, power for the plants, and resourse for the economy of our families free reign of prosperity and bliss.........These days are behind me now, and I am "so thankful" that God watched over me with my health, welfare, and injury free status is next to none because of "Him"...
......"Stepping from "Light Into Dark"....."Emerging From Dark Into Light", every day for the past 30 years to say the least was "very hard" for all of us who chose a mining career........"My hat goes off to those who continue to serve our country with their efforts to mine this valuable resource called "Coal"....... One of my friends once was asked as he retired from the underground mining industry, "What are you going to do or where are you going to go as you are now retired"??? "Well, my co-worker replied, "You see this lump of coal I have here with me"??? "I'm gonna take this lump of coal and place it up under my arm, and start out traveling." "As I travel from town to town across this nation", he said, "the first town/city I come to that one of it's residence ask's me", "Dear Sir", "what is that you have up under your arm"??? "That is where I'm going and that is where I will stay." "In short, the very place that "no-one" "knows anything or even recognizes"......"A Lump Of Coal", that emerged from.........."The Bowels Of The Earth"............"God Watch Over Our Working Coal Miners"......"Take Care Of Us Who Are Retired From Within The Industry"......."And Bless Us All With Knowledge To Better Understand The Way The Miner's And What They/We Have Gone Thru In The Course Of Our Profession".........After a permanent shutdown of the mining facility that I last worked at in Mingo County, I was so blessed to be able to retire from the coal mining arena after 30 long hard years. There was to be a new era borne for me as I took steps to “re-educate, re-train, and reform my person of intellect”, from “Coal Miner” to “Pharmacy Technician”….Such a drastic “about face” in careers so much so that it would seem somewhat impossible to achieve. “But I Did It”….”And it is do’able for anyone who has a desire to do so”…..Being out of school for so long was something to overcome. To overcome was to have a “good attitude” and “be willing to have a complete change come into ones life”….”Challenging??? “yes”…..”not impossible”, as I am living proof that a career change is not far fetched at all….”I am now a Nationally Certified Pharmacy Technician, (CPhT.), recognized by the “Pharmacy Technician Certification Board”, (PTCB) that of which makes it possible for me to work in any Pharmacy, (retail, hospital, long term care, pharmaceutical supply/sales, i.e.), anywhere in the U.S.A. That is good to know and is a great asset to have with achieving a career in the Pharmacy field….I as a CPhT. am now representative of the “Tri-State Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences” located in Huntington, Wva. @ 1057 6th Avenue. Where I sit on the Board of Directors of the school that now offers a wonderful “Pharmacy Technician” program. A program like one of which I became a Pharmacy Technician. As you see the possibilities are somewhat endless in the Pharmacy field. I choose to be a Pharmacy Technician because of that fact. There are many avenues of opportunity with being a Phar. Tech. Let there be no mistake about it, “TIPS”, (Tri-State Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences), is a place where a career change can be made a reality in just a few short months/2 semesters to be exact. I often wondered if I would be successful with my pursuit of becoming a Phar. Tech., but I don’t have to wonder anymore as my wondering ceased about 4 years ago as I have now been a Phar. Tech. for that span of time that of which makes my journey from “Coal Miner” to “Pharmacy Technician”…..”A Triumphant Reality”“Retired”???…..”yes”…..”Mining Career Ended”???...”yes”…..“Ready To Quit”???.....”no”….”Can No Longer Contribute”??? “no”…Let me now emphasis and challenge everyone facing similar or maybe the same circumstances that I onced faced…..”Take iniative to pursue and open a “new chapter” in your life with going back to school with the possibility of structuring a “new beginning” toward a new career. “Don’t take the path that has once been traveled and is marked with limited success”……”Take a path of your own and “leave tracks” so that others may well be able to follow”…….“Follow the tracks that are leading to a new career as a “Pharmacy Technician”, (CPhT) as I have……..”Take the “new path” that leads to the “Tri-State Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences”…..A destination that will welcome the “recent graduate”, “the middle aged in crisis looking for a change”, “the layed off worker who can be re-trained”, notwithstanding all others who are looking for “job security and excellent income opportunities”……. "Thanks for stopping by and reading just a "very brief" description of a lifelong epic of my life as an "underground coalminer"/Nationally certified Pharmacy Technician, “CPhT”…..
Roger D. Evans Lavalette, Wva. Retired - UMWA Local #93