A weekly series of short stories about my time as an underground coal miner. These stories led to the writing of my upcoming book with WVU Press.
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As your legs spin, you feel your heart beating through your chest, and you watch the sweat beads drop from your forehead to the pavement. At this moment you feel free. Your mind is clear of all thoughts, you just keep pushing.
Then as you reach the final destination of the ride, you feel a sense of accomplishment. Regardless of whether you reached your goal or simply gave it your all in effort, you pushed yourself to your limits and that is accomplishment.
For over 100 years, mining coal in Southeastern Kentucky has been the defining industry for blue-collar work. It was through hard work, bloodshed, tears and the loss of lives that the people of this region earned the right to fair wages, safe work practices and new opportunities through coal.
Now that Old King Coal is gone, residents are looking for answers. The people and the land have all paid a price for those working-class wages, while the corporations walked away with their profits, never looking back.