As some of my followers may or may not know, my family came from West Virginia and that Southern lifestyle colors much of my writing. My mother got married and moved away from those West Virginia mountains, but her sister Ruth stayed behind and married a man who was a coal miner.
Growing up, we visited my aunt’s family every summer and those were the most wonderful vacations any child could wish for. We ran barefoot, drank icy cold water from the well and sat on the front porch listening to the tales of our forefathers. For me, it was an awesome vacation, but I was just a child and I remember only the best parts of that life…but the truth is that it was in many ways, a hard life. A life of long days and hard work. A life of having little but thanking The Good Lord for what you did have.
When I wrote Jubilee’s Journey, I based the character of Bartholomew in part on my Uncle Clifford. Like Bartholomew, he spent his days in a coal mine and came home with his face blackened by soot.
Today I spoke with my cousin and we retraced some of these old memories which is what has prompted me to share the start of Jubilee’s Journey with you. As you read these few paragraphs, I hope you can see that life as I did….
On an icy cold November morning in 1956, Bartholomew Jones died in the Poynter Coal Mine. His death came as no surprise to anyone. He was only one of the countless men forever lost to the mine. They were men loved and mourned by their families, but to the world they were faceless, nameless people, not worthy of mention in the Charleston Times
Morning after morning those men descended into the belly of the mountain, into a world of black dust that clung to their skin with a fierceness that no amount of scrubbing could wash away. In the winter the sky was still black when they climbed into the trolley cart that carried them into the mountain. And when they returned twelve hours later, daylight had already come and gone.
None of the men complained. They were the lucky ones, they told one another. They were the ones who slept easy. Their family had food on the table and coal for the stove when winter blasted its way across the ridge of the mountain.