RANGER AGAINST WAR: My Father's Face <

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Father's Face

Son of a woman
And a man who lived in strife.

He was tired of being poor

But he wasn't into selling door to door

--4+20
, CSNY

--You heard what the Father said.

There's no future for what you joined except hell.

--Well I'm a miner now.

I'll be traveling in that direction anyway, just out of habit

--
Molly Malguires (1970)

Then there was the whole concept of coal mining,
which is a culture unto itself,
the most dangerous occupation in the world,
and which draws and develops a certain kind of man
--Martin C. Smith


If capitalism is fair then unionism must be.

If men have a right to capitalize their ideas
and the resources of their country,

then that implies the right of men to capitalize their labor

--Frank Lloyd Wright


It is one of the characteristics of a free and democratic nation

that is have free and independent labor unions

--Franklin D. Roosevelt:

________________

The recent deaths of 29 coal miners in the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia and at least at least 35 the same week in China's Shanxi province brought thoughts of my father to mind.

The NYT reported, "The mine owner’s dismal safety record, along with several recent evacuations of the mine, left federal officials and miners suggesting that Monday’s explosion might have been preventable," and Technology Review states, "existing technology could make
coal mining significantly safer--if only it was used" (Tools Exist for Safer Coal Mines.) It seems coal miners have always been low man on the totem pole.

There was no United Mine Workers union for these dead men, a tragedy in itself.

My father was a coal miner from 1940-56, with a short interlude when he went to war (during which time he earned two Presidential Unit Citations and a retroactive Navy Combat Action ribbon.)
His years in the mines left him no awards, and left him scarred lungs.

Although his entry physical into the WW II Navy clearly indicated lung scarring, he was still inducted and just as strangely, as an old man, the government has disallowed his claim for Black Lung compensation. But that is not this story, though it is a story. The story is his life.


He was the son of immigrant stock, his education limited and work opportunities restricted, so he did as his father before him and entered the mines of western Pennsylvania. His father died young, necessitating an early entry into the realities of survival. All four of the brothers entered the mines, but my father also got a respite when he worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps Camps (CCC) in Virginia working on the Blue Ridge Parkway.


Little is really known by me about my father. He has always been an unknown and mostly distant, generally silent part of my life. But it is impossible not to think about his reality. He faced enemy submarines in the Atlantic and his ship [DE 149] saw intense close combat with German U boats. However, he has never set foot in a Department of Veterans Affairs facility in his life.


For Ranger, it has been difficult to understand his long-term employment as a coal miner, a job where safety and wages were both shaky propositions. Being a miner was as dangerous but much dirtier than being a sailor. When sailors die it is over in minutes, but for miners it is a long, drawn-out, terror-filled event.


Ranger now understands the distance and silence of his father. These things are evident when looking into a mirror, one of the many things a Ranger can do with a mirror -- a place where many images converge over space and time and become something that sometimes comes to the surface without any thought.


Ranger cannot say that he understands his father, but he appreciates the forces that influenced his life and times.

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4 Comments:

Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

the engine room of an old destroyer escort is one of the filthiest places on earth, other than a river patrol boat.

they didn't call the snipes down there "the black gang" because of race...

our parents were some born again hard cases jim. my da joined the irish volunteers of the RAF when he was 17 (probably though he was like 16 1/2 and they let him fudge). his first job after training was on the burma hump. he was a "cargo kicker." his job was to stand by the load and if the pilot started looking at the crest of the next mountain and screaming he was supposed to start kicking shit outta the plane until the pilot relaxed.

those guys flying supplies into china over the himalayas had a horrible attrition rate. in a bit over two years my father went from cargo kicker to co-pilot/navigator.

when the war ended he was 25 and a flight lieutenant. as he said "not bad at all for a killgallin guttersnipe."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 8:26:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every time Rush Limbaugh III opens his mouth you could fertilize the north 40.

http://thinkprogress.org/2010/04/13/limbaugh-coal-mine/

Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 6:32:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uncle,

Your post about mining was very timely. Just a few days ago, there was a band playing at the home where Grandpa is rehabbing. A lady stopped by and asked if he wanted to go. He declined. Mike was visiting and wondered why, so he asked him if his "dancing days were over." Grandpa replied. "S**t. I never had dancing days. I had a shovel."

Chris (Ranger's nephew)

Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 9:39:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Chris,
Thanks for sharing.
jim

Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 9:41:00 AM GMT-5  

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