Like many fathers living in central Appalachia, my dad didn’t have a lot of choices after he graduated high school. He couldn’t bare the thought of leaving his mountain home and all the family and places he’d always known. So he did what he could, going to work in the mines—risking his life and sacrificing his health to provide for his family.
There were times he loved his job, especially when he was working with a good crew in one of the safer union mines. But when the companies shut down all their union operations, he sacrificed more than he ever should have had to. After the South Mountain disaster that happened just down the road from where he was working, there were many nights I’d lay awake, waiting to hear his truck come up the driveway, worried he’d not come home again.
Today, I’d give anything for him to have his health back. I’d give anything for him to be able to take his grand-kids on long hikes in the woods, to take them squirrel hunting, or across the ridge to find morels in the spring.
The people who made their money off the coal our dad’s mined, didn’t deserve to take the best part of their lives and health.
Here’s to all the coal mining fathers out there, to your strength and kindness, to your love and sacrifices. I hope that one day no father will have to give up so much just to earn a decent living for their families.