Coal Country

Betty & I are spending some time with my family today & Monday; we plan to be back sometime on Tuesday. We’re going to coal country, where my mother’s peeps are from, as it’s my grandaunt’s 85th birthday – yes, she’s my grandaunt Helen, there really is only one page in the Polish baby names book – while my parents are up north for a visit, too. We’ll go revisit some of the places they brought me as a kid, but with my sister’s kids, who’ve grown up going to that region on their summer holidays and tromping around what they call “the bush” (otherwise known as the woods) the same as I did.

It’ll be four generations in two cars, which to me is always a lovely, if complicated, experience.

Since I’ll be in coal country, I’ll be thinking about those trapped Utah miners & their families, of course. This bullshit cowboy mining should be illegal, by the way. I’m sure John L. Lewis is turning in his grave now that they’re even stripping the pillars. Greedy bastards. Please keep in mind, folks, that while trapped miners are always a good “human interest” though tragic news story, we don’t often hear about the accidents that just kill miners outright – not here, or in China, or in India.

Helen Boyd

is the author of My Husband Betty and She's Not the Man I Married.


  1. Sometimes I feel so ignorant hanging around this board. Helen: What is “cowboy mining”, and what is stripping the pillars?


  2. Christine

    Sorry about that. Most people don’t know anything about coal mining, so don’t feel bad. I’m a descendant of miners, so it’s always been an interest of mine.

    “Cowboy mining” and “stripping the pillars” mean the same thing: in anthracite (hard) coal mining, the miners go underground & blast the coal out, move the chunks into bins & move it out to sell it. They leave natural pillars made out of the coal itself to, erm, HOLD THE CEILING UP, or rather, to keep the mile or so of mountain from collapsing on top of them. When they “cowboy mine” they stand near the exit of the “room” they’ve just mined, & they go back & remove those pillars.

    So you can see why it might be a dangerous practice, no? It’s like taking all the supporting beams out of your house while standing at the front door & wondering why you didn’t manage to get out of the way of the roof as it came crashing down.

  3. Looks like the US is “racing to the bottom” in coal mining, as it is in almost everything else in the labor/social justice/civil liberties/human rights areas. As a nation, we’ve forgotten where we came from, and how we got where we are.

    Murray, the mine owner, was on TV denying that the miners were doing “retreat mining,” He even said the phrase “retreat mining” was made up by the UMW!

    It is as true as ever.”….HEED NO OPERATORS TALE!”

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