Can you hear the whistle blowing……….

Sixteen tons and what do you get, Another day older and deeper in debt.  Saint Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go I owe my soul to the company store.  ~Tennessee Ernie Ford

 I painted white paint for six hours today in a room, mostly by myself.    The room is finished and since it was so hot up there, I had the windows open.  Lesson learned: wind causes paint to blow off the brush leaving the person who is attempting to paint looking like a Jackson Pollack painting.

The boys are starting to warm to us and I hope to start getting some of their stories tomorrow.  They picked us up a little early from work so that we could go to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.  I went into the shaft with some of our volunteers and learned about coal mining from our guide, Sonny. 


Sonny was our guide today.  He was a miner for 38 years.  So far, they tell him, he doesn’t have black lung.  Sonny took us 700 feet into the mountain where the temperature dropped from the warm 76 degrees outside to a chilly 56 degrees.  There were actually 5 levels of shafts below us that they used when it was an active mine.  They had raised the clearance and added lighting but you still got the general feel for their dark and damp atmosphere.   Sonny was very animated and talkative and seemed to love educating all of us.

Our guide Sonny

Sonny showed us how they used to the drill to drill holes in the side of the shaft, put the black powder (or later dynamite) in and then to tamp it closed.  The final step, yell, “Fire in the hole.”  I don’t know where I thought this saying came from, or perhaps I never gave it any thought, but now I know.  To end my day, here are some pictures of the shaft.  I will be up and back on the job site again tomorrow.

Miners preparing to blast to hopefully get more nuggets and less dust

(image source) 

Rock Duster
This is 2 tons - it would earn the worker about 25 cents for his labor