that black lung that i aint got
“…. is killing me.”
Driving the road was like driving through a mine field. Mining was destroying the land. Leveling and laying bare the worldâ€™s oldest havens. Ancient rivers. Glaciated mountains. Time had softened their edges. Eroded their heights. Coal companies set out to destroy the rest.
Surface Mining. Mountain top removal. It had many names. Give a dozen families a job and wash away ten dozen more. A tree in a valley where a mountain use to stand â€“ government handouts. Without nature to protect them â€“ without the trees, the rocks, the dirt that hid the treasure – cities and towns were destroyed. The rains and floods washed away homes and lives.
Politicians and their spin. Big operators and their greed. The green earth. Meant to last forever. To receive us home. In the end. As it begot us in the beginning. In the beginning it was. How much longer before it was not? Before we had to find somewhere else to lay our dead.
Would the mountain last?
But families need to eat. And who can blame a father for crawling on his belly twelve hours a day, through mud and water and emptiness, to shovel at a hole three feet from Hell?
Who can blame a man for sucking down poison and dirt. For choking on the rock that feeds his children. Breathing it. Deep. Deep. Into his petrified chest. Because a man needs to breathe. Just like his children need to eat.
The suits would squeeze it from his lungs if they could. Every last ounce. Shovel it onto the back of coal trucks and railroad cars and ship it somewhere to turn into dollars. If they could. But they cannot. So they deny: â€˜The good fresh mountain air did it boys! It turns organs to stone and smothers you in your sleep.â€™
â€œThat black lung that I ain’t got is killing me.â€ Pa jokes and chokes.
Lungs continue to blacken. Operators send out new men who have new families. To fill up their chest with black and grit. To suffocate and pay while they wash away their homes. Their land. And move on. On.
But families need to eatâ€¦