I’m a lifelong resident of Wyoming County, but I’ve never been inside a coal mine. I want to though. I hope to get to take a tour of one someday. My twin brother has been a coal miner for 33 years. My son and both my son-in-laws are coal miners. So when we have family gatherings, I’m sort of the odd man out.
Coal miners are unique people. Police officers have a fraternal organization, teachers have federations, and many occupations have associations. But coal miners, they have a nation….. the coal mining nation. They have their own language. With scoops, buggies, shuttle cars, tipples and cribs, they speak a language that only another coal miner can understand. They are curtain hangers, rock dusters, roof bolters and fire bosses. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or what season of the year, the scenery is still the same for them.
Coal miners mine coal…… all the time. They mine coal at the restaurant, they mine coal at the ball game, they mine coal before church, and after church. Can I get an ” amen” from the wives and children? The retired coal miner can mine coal with the red hat, the surface miner can mine coal with the underground miner. I’m telling you, it’s a nation all it’s own. Only a coal miner can buy a $50,000 truck and before he gets it home have it detailed with a silhouette of a miner and write “I Dig Coal” on it. Why? Because he’s a patriot of the coal mining nation. He loves his nation and is proud to proclaim it. There are many good occupations within our area, but I’ll have to admit I’ve never seen a natural gas worker’s personal vehicle have a sign on it that says “I supply gas”. Or a lawyer’s car say “I litigate”.
Coal miners are outstanding citizens. They’re volunteer firemen, little league coaches, deacons and sometimes even pastors of churches. They’re on the city council, members of the National Guard and supporters of many community functions. Coal miners are hunters, fishermen, ATV riders and boaters on the lake. They’re golfers, softball players, gardeners, voters and much, much more. They’re good neighbors. Sadly, everybody knows who the drug dealer is in their community, but everybody knows who the coal miner is too. They are the one who will help you get that new refrigerator through the door, or come pick you up when your car breaks down and even try to help you fix it. But when it comes to their national business, if your not one of them, your a foreigner.
Coal miners run their nation quite efficiently. So I was wondering, how would they do running ours? If you put a republican and democrat official in a room together within 5 minutes they would come out and for 3 weeks tell you how it is impossible for them to work together. If you put a union and non-union coal miner on a section together, before the shift was over they would find a way to mine tons of coal. Our national officials compete to see who can make the other look like the bad guy in a stalled system. Coal miners compete from shift to shift to see who can produce the most coal and who has the least down time. Our leaders will hold summits to see how they can outwit the other side and push their agenda. Coal miners have safety meetings before each shift so they can make sure everyone is on the same page and the workforce works safely and efficiently. When there are obstacles, politicians place blame, coal miners push through them or blast them out of their way. While the national officials hold their extravagant expensive luncheons, the coal miner packs his lunch in a bucket and eats it right in the middle of the mine.
Gone are the days of the stereotype of the old dumb coal miner. With new technology and regulations, you have to be intelligent to be a coal miner. You could take the brightest rocket scientist and the smartest brain surgeon and put them in a coal mine today and they would be lost. It’s not a matter of a pick and shovel and watch out for a rock to fall. Today’s coal miner must pay attention to detail. They deal with computerized and high voltage equipment. They have to understand ventilation and air flow. They have to be aware of gas readings and oxygen levels. They must be educated on the signs of danger and how to protect themselves from it. They have detailed plans for everything and they’re responsible to know them.
No need to tell readers of this article how important coal mining is to southern West Virginia. And if you’ll notice, many other areas of the nation are struggling economically because of job loss. But our coal miners are keeping the lights on here. They’re a big reason why our convenience stores, our restaurants, our furniture and hardware stores and our car dealerships keep going. There are government officials and agencies who are determined to put an end to coal mining. But the coal miner will not be deterred. The coal mining nation will continue to enter that shaft and bring power to our nation.
So what if the coal miners ran the country? They’re great citizens so why couldn’t they be great leaders? They pay attention to detail and formulate plans, so maybe they could formulate a great strategy for us. I say give them a chance. But my guess is they’ll decline, they have their own nation to run.