Down in the Mine

I finally had the privilege to join my husband on a tour of his workplace, an underground coal mine. I had wanted to go for a year or two but things kept coming up and just didn't push it much. With the impending election at hand I made a point to get in while I could, as with Obama leading America he is putting coal jobs in jeopardy and God forbid if something ever happened I want to know I was able to see it beforehand.
I love my husband and I've always had respect for him to a degree because I never fully understood or knew what exactly he did and the conditions he faced on a daily basis. I would have never fathomed what I got to see. Your mind conjures up a lot of things when you imagine. Like those of us who are or at some point have been avid readers...you get wrapped up in a book and you make an imaginary world filled with characters and voices. There had been many a day and night I'd ask him how work went. A lot of times he didn't want to try and explain things as he said 'you'd have to see it before you could ever understand'. He has spent time drawing out things and explaining them to me. Finally I know what he's talking about.
We went on a Sunday as his mines doesn't normally run coal on Sundays. I wasn't nervous or scared, more so excited to see the place I'd always 'imagined'. We took a two-man ride down the slope. As the light of day disappeared behind us the reality quickly set in that darkness was all he saw. In the winter months when the days are short, on dayshift he goes down while it's still a dusky dawn and by the time he returns home it's a dusky sunset. On seconds he sees day until he goes down at 3 and returns home in the midst of the night. So darkness is about all he knows.
A lot was to be expected..but most not. He toured me around and stopped and explained all he could to me. Took me to places where the roof had caved in, which was a scary thought and feeling. You could tell many places where there were rock falls and roof caves. Although I wasn't scared in the moment I was terrified for him. My imagination had become reality now. I knew what he dealt with. We finally made our way to the face where his unit was. He showed me all the equipment, explained what they did and I got to see the piece he is currently running (shuttle car). He has ran nearly all the equipment and been taught their functions.
There were barley any spots you could stand straight up. Walking was physically demanding and I saw why a lot of the workers you see on documentaries or shows walked with their hands cupped behind their back-relief of the back breaking bend. The first thought in my mind was that everything was black and dusty. It was actually all mostly white, because of the rock dust to prevent sparking and combustion/fire. It was like walking through snow. It was dark, we turned our hard hat lights out and as expected you couldn't see your hand in front of your face and since there was no power to the unit it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
Some areas we drove through was in water. It was so hard to walk on dry ground I could not IMAGINE what it would be like to wade in a sloppy mess all night. After a few hours we made our way back to the slope to exit. As we passed through the corridors as I like to say he showed me the very spot he started pinning when he started there several years ago. It's crazy the distance they've gone since then. My emotions were restless, I could only think to myself how much he physically does and sacrifices for us, his family. He was so comfortable down there it was hard to understand, because it's a scary place in all actuality. But coal has become apart of us, he is apart of a family there and I've had the pleasure to meet several of his co-workers and I'm glad he's surrounded with such devoted friends.
When we came out we hadn't even done any work and we were both pretty dirty. We cleaned up in the office bathroom and I had emerged with all new respect for him. It's hard to understand when you're not involved with this occupation on a daily basis or never had a husband or family member(s) who are in the mining industry. But I absolutely believe that he loves what he does and is proud to call himself a coal miner. I remember when he was 18 taking the class I cried and bawled and begged him not to do it. I didn't want him working in a hole in the ground because of all the dangers and risks. I lost countless hours of sleep when he started and waited for him and still do, most nights, to get home. But we've come to know and embrace the occupation and he wears it well.
I took my little Canon Powershot Point and Shoot down with us. There's no way a DSLR would survive those dusty conditions unless it had a special case. I came out with plenty of photos we will keep to show the kids when we get older...keepsakes of Coal Country. My husband collects mining memorabilia and has a curio cabinet full of stickers, rocks, handbooks and other items he's acquired through the years. There's no way I'll be able to repay him or say thank you enough for what he does. It's not enough to voice my pride in him, and that is why I've always made a point to get up with him on days and pack his bucket and bag..write him little "I Love You" bucket notes for his lunchbox and show him each and every day that we love him.
So to my sweet husband, if you ever read this, know that you have a fan club at home. We pray for your safety and return and give our utmost respect for the work you do. You have always been my other better half and a good role model for our boys. I hope you see the worth in yourself that we do. You're our hero!
I am going to overload you with photos from our trip, and I hope that if you know a coal miner or have one in your life-you always let them know that you love them.
^The belt that delivers the coal out of the mine.
^The belt a little closer
^The opening of the slope.
^My handsome, wonderful husband standing at the mouth of the slope.
^Before we went down.
^Failed to ask what this was for, but it was neat hanging there, so a picture was in order.
^Jon in his shuttle car!
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^Me sitting in Jon's shuttle car.
^The piece of equipment that mines the coal (aka the miner).
^Jon with the miner control box
^What all miners start out doing, pinning. This is a roof bolter. Used to put bolts(/pins) into the roof to stabilize it.
^Oh ya know, just opening doors, all handsome and stuff. :)
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^Standing on a pile of hillbilly gold.
^This was our ride in and out.
^This was outside (obviously)..some of the old equipment and such.
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^And finally our aftermath. Taken on separate occasions (Jon came home unshowered a few days later).

So there you have it! A day underground at Warrior Richland #9 Mines!

1 Lovely Reader(s) Said:

Discovery School at First Baptist Heath said...

WOW!!! Jon.. Thanks for what you do... and so happy you got to go see... Wonderful photographs...

and even with your pictures, my overactive imagination still makes me fearful

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