Drive into the central Appalachian coalfields and you’ll see dozens of vehicles with stickers such as “Friends of Coal,” “Coal Mining our Future,” “Friends in Low Places” etc. I am not entirely sure when the change came, but sometime in the last fifteen to twenty years the ultimate goal of coal miners has gone from working to give future generations a better life outside of coal mining, to ensuring they have no alternative but coal mining.

This is the most disturbing part of Appalachia’s decline to me. Our forefather’s pride and heritage, their struggles through decades of abuse from the coal industry, has all been forgotten. Their lessons, such as putting needs before wants and finding happiness in simplicity, has been replaced with unbelievable shortsightedness. The once modest home of the young Appalachian coal miner has become anything but. The basic beat around, ride to work truck has become a tricked out diesel with rims complete with a “Friends of Coal” license plate and a vinyl sticker in the back glass with the mantra “Friends in Low Places.”

Of the many things lost in the past two generations of Appalachian coal miners, humility, compassion, and a willingness to listen and think critically has been among them. For this, I place a great deal of blame on their parents for withholding some of the most important lessons that were taught to them as children: their history, the importance of living simply, and the difference between want and need.

Today, coal miners have a long list of justifications for what they must do for a living, much of which revolving  around what money has to tell them. Sadly, the voices of our past has been diminished beneath the modern day “necessity” for all things big and shiny. It’s a disgrace to the coal mining families who spent decades fighting and sacrificing to give their children a better future.

The old ways of looking down the road for the next big challenge and  doing what one can to weather it, has been given up for “live for today, who knows what tomorrow will bring” attitude. For those of us who still look towards the future, we know what is coming. It is as easy as looking to the past. Boom and bust, poverty and sickness, all while coal company owners live on wherever the water is clean and their is easy access to the private jet. Their children will never have to face the challenges our children will face.

What’s worse, our children are no longer shown how to raise their own food in the family garden. Few know the enjoyment of looking forward to and finally tasting things that come into season. The wonders of watching a plant grow from a seed to provide you with free and  abundant food is being lost. Instead of a vocabulary of greasy beans, bantam, or kennebec, children instead learn wages, xbox, ATV, mortgage, and war on coal.

How long has it been since a coal miner built a can house?

Forgetting our history, supporting the coal companies, destroying our mountains, polluting our water—now that is what I call dishonoring our mountain heritage.



  1. They piss down our back and tell us its raining. The sad part is these hillbillys believe their propaganda or just care for themselves!


  2. Coal miners have always been the most important resource, and the most exploited resource. Now our children's future is being exploited as coal companies are looking for a generational workforce. Many of today's coal miners are so caught up in making high wages they don't care about it and aren't doing a damn thing to make sure our children have a better future than coal mining. I only respect coal miners who work to give their children a chance a better future, but those who are just doing it for the high wages, to brag about a pride and heritage of coal mining, and be a part of the “coal club,” well I have no respect for them, just like I have no respect for scabs who would work for the company while hundreds of other miners were fighting for the community.


  3. Hi. I'm a journalist working on a story about why some miners are anti-MTR and others support it. I was struck by something you said at the start of this post: “…sometime in the last fifteen to twenty years the ultimate goal of coal miners has gone from working to give future generations a better life outside of coal mining, to ensuring they have no alternative but coal mining.” I spent some time in southern WVA last year and I saw a lot of those “Friends of Coal” stickers but I also met local people who were proud of their family's mining history but oppose MTR and coal companies. Both groups seem to feel nostalgia for the “good old days” though in different ways. It's complicated. Can anyone help me understand this? Much appreciated if you can. You can reach me at


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