Grandpa was tough and proud.
He fought to survive
From the age of five
When his father died.

He started working at seven
Carrying water in to the mines.
Then greasing the rollers
For fifty cents day.

By twelve he was shoveling coal.
At fourteen he set himself apart
As a powder monkey he loaded
The charges that blasted the seam.

At sixteen he was caught in the mine wars.
He never knew if he killed anybody but
Was sure he had hit at least a couple of thugs.
Grandpa didn't like to talk about it.

He was black-listed and
Never worked in the mines again.
But they were never far from him.
In 1974 he died from black lung.

I only know him from pictures
But over the years I've heard
Bits and pieces of his story.
He's like a legend in my mind.

Grandpa is a piece of history.
Not just to our family
Or to Appalachia.
He is part of that era
He is a symbol of a sadly forgotten time.

                 --Aimee Nance

All text and images copyright ©2004-2007, Aimee Nance. All rights reserved.