Friday, September 30, 2011

SPOKEN: I never will forget one time when I was on a little visit down home in Ebenezer, Kentucky. I was a-talkin’ to an old man that had known me ever since the day I was born, and an old friend of the family. He says, “Son, you don’t know how lucky you are to have a nice job like you’ve got and don’t have to dig out a livin’ from under these old hills and hollers like me and your pappy used to.” When I asked him why he never had left and tried some other kind of work, he says, “Nawsir, you just won’t do that. If ever you get this old coal dust in your blood, you’re just gonna be a plain old coal miner as long as you live.” He went on to say, “It’s a habit [CHUCKLE] sorta like chewin’ tobaccer.”
Come and listen you fellows, so young and so fine,
And seek not your fortune in the dark, dreary mines.
It will form as a habit and seep in your soul,
ill the stream of your blood is as black as the coal.

It’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew,
The danger is double and pleasures are few,
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines
It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mine.
It’s a-many a man I have seen in my day,
Who lived just to labor his whole life away.
Like a fiend with his dope and a drunkard his wine,
A man will have lust for the lure of the mines.

I hope when I’m gone and the ages shall roll,
My body will blacken and turn into coal.
Then I’ll look from the door of my heavenly home,
And pity the miner a-diggin’ my bones.

The midnight, the morning, or the middle of day,
Is the same to the miner who labors away.
There the demons of death often come by surprise,
The fall of the slate and you’re buried alive.

It’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew,
The danger is double and pleasures are few,
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines
It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mine.

By Merle Travis: singer, songwriter and fellow Kentuckian.

Coal. It’s what runs the economy for a large portion of eastern Kentucky. It’s what has shaped the personality of the people there. The men who take it from the earth are a special breed, and women now, work right along side them.

Coal mining and miners are a part of my heritege. I remember growing up listening to the tales of the bawdy coal camps that lined the valleys of eastern Kentucky. Tales of the great accidents, fist fights, gun fights, dog fights, gambling, whiskey and whores. I heard tales that would make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck or make your ribs hurt laughing. No better example of a people rising above adversity exists in humanity. These gentle people, primarily of Scotch-Irish descent, have risen to the occasion over and over again.

A close knit community that shuns outsiders to a large degree, but then look what the outsiders have done to them over and over again; taking advantage of their trusting nature. Big city lawyers and business men have come to the mountains, swindled the coal and timber rights from the hands of the people there, destroyed their homes with their rape of the land and made virtual slaves of the inhabitants. There is not much choice but to work in coal or timber or leave the mountains to find work.

I never could understand the desire to lay flat of your back in a coal boring machine and look down between your feet as the the huge augers twisted the coal from its place in the earth. Some mines are five miles or more back under the mountain before you get to the place the coal is being dug now. If something happens down there, you are just kinda on your own, ya know? Poison gases, floods or a cave in. One minute you’re here, the next they may not even be able to get to your body. And don’t forget the Black Lung…every miner that stays down there will eventually get it from the coal dust.

I don’t think a lot of people realize how much coal plays a part in their lives. Coal is what is producing the electricity that is running your computer as you read this. Or its importance in the manufacture of steel and other such commodities. Gotta have it.

So, here’s to all the miners and their families, that most special breed of people. America depends on you and we appreciate your efforts.

Copyright © 2007 Mike Lawson

Monday, January 24, 2011

I guess

I guess my buddy Mike thought I wasn't here no more...but I am. I adapt, improvise and overcome. But sometimes it takes some sorting out, ya know, I know. Hope you read my last post man, it's some of my best work I think...don't even rhyme. lmao

A Fire in Autumn

As breath turned to steam in early morning air
Leaves began to dress in shades of yellow, red and orange
Fog rose from the warm earth round distant purple hills
And squirrels practiced acrobatics from oak and hickory

The child’s mind was full of wonder and the romance of beauty
He counted the zigzag stairs in the writing spider’s lair
He marveled at the graceful form of its delicate occupant
Such fine long legs extended from a yellow and black tuxedo

The old man had come to cut wood and he built a small fire
He sat near it now sharpening his instruments; the axe and the saw
His only remarks to the boy were on the swift change in climate
“It’ll be getting colder soon; another month or two, there’ll be snow”

The boy imagined soft powdery flakes drifting big as pennies
He thought of the cardinal perched among the crush of velvet white
Like a splotch of blood on the breast of a spotless dove; he saw it clear
The old man passed the child a sharpened hatchet to trim the limbs

The smaller twigs and branches went into the fire
The boy felt the grand weight of this tool of destruction
He was every pioneer and savage Indian; Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone
He had read about them in books; the old man only read his Bible

It was the same morning for these two; it was toil and adventure
It was the excitement of being trusted with something new
It was the burden of labor that had grown old and mundane with time
It was the warmth and beauty of nature and it was the coming cold

The boy pondered on the meanings of work and play
He had seen athletes exert tremendous energy in sport for enjoyment
He had seen broken men peel blisters from calloused hands
The latter seemed prisoners of circumstance forced of need

But if it were not mere exertion which determined the essence of an act
Then it must be that the meaning had value in itself separate from the labor
His young mind struggled to understand and comprehend the difference
Sport, he determined, served no purpose other than enjoyment

So why did men dread their labor so; which produced an evident benefit?
Why did they not whoop and holler their enjoyment in expectation?
He glanced through the shifting kaleidoscope of colors as he hacked
He gathered the smaller branches into sheaves and tossed them on the fire

Pretty Little Gal

Pretty Little Gal

Friday, January 7, 2011

Just a little something for the season...

Blue Cold

Blue cold.
It owns everything it touches.
The strongest tree, the weakest man,
Shivers in its clutches.
The icy breath of frozen winds,
Turn your head around.
Frozen fingers grip your soul,
That screams without a sound.

Blue cold.
Rushing rivers wide and deep,
Lay silent and still,
In frozen sleep.
Hidden currents slowly creep,
With secret dreams,
That they must keep.

Blue cold.
Oh, how my fractured spirit aches,
For peaceful sleep,
For numbness sake.
But sleep right now is death for certain.
Best stay awake,
And feel the hurtin’.

Blue cold.
The things that most make you feel your life,
Are the ones that can take it from you.

* * * * *

The temperature finally got down into the single digits here last night, I guess winter has arrived at last. To bolster my spirits and make things seem not so bad, I thought back to a time that I was the coldest that I have ever been in my life.

Early January 1990 found me in the Republic of Korea on a field training exercise. We stayed in the field for approximately 45 days. The average daytime temperature was around 10F and at night it got cold. Don’t forget the wind that was our constant companion. All and all, with the wind chill factored in, it stayed well below zero for almost the whole period. I started shivering about 2 hours out the first day and never stopped until after we had been back in garrison for a day or two. Recalling that experience prompted the poem above.

Sitting in this warm house, wearing warm clothes and eating hot chow makes this little cold snap now seem bearable in light of some of the places I have been cold before. As I reflect back on the trials I have faced, I think of the ones our troops in the field are facing at this very moment. I wish them my heartfelt best and a speedy, safe trip home.

Copyright © 2006 WML. All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 31, 2010

Catching Wood Bees

by Raymond Neely

One wood bee,
two wood bees,
around the porch bulb on the mountain shack,
Mountain Charlie's fingers are black with work.
Wood bees are yellow hornets berserk.
One finger to the bulb,
a hairy face and eyes to the light,
but from Mountain Charlie wood bees don't flight.
One wood bee,
two wood bees,
Mountain Charlie's fingers is the wood bee tree.

Friday, October 8, 2010

What Makes It Taste Better

For Consideration: What Makes It Taste Better, by David Wayne Hampton (Maul & Froe Press 2010)

Hello, folks! I know it has been a while since I posted anything. I hope you will permit me to share with you this announcement of my first collection of poetry, entitled What Makes It Taste Better. This has been a labor of love, to be sure. It has been with great pleasure over the years to post my poetry on this blog, and if you liked what you read I hope you would take the opportunity, or take a chance, at picking yourself up a copy. But as LeVar Burton said on the PBS show Reading Rainbow, "you don't have to take my word for it." Here's a few reviews:

"Clever parodying, curious and playful lines make What Makes It Taste Better verge on the educational and insightful, yet with humor, not pedanticism. Here I found out that the mullet haircut is also called the 'Carolina Waterfall' and that blackbirds and boogers have more than a little in common. The poems’ humor saves them, in that tongue-in cheek way that disarms any resistance to their charms. David Hampton’s clever word-play with classical and modern themes reminds me of the work of the legendary Louise McNeill. This book made me laugh and cringe, sometimes in the same instant."------ Ron Houchin, author of Museum Crows

"In this wryly observant first collection, David Hampton gives us an insider's view of life in these post-millennium Appalachians. What makes it taste better? Humor which manages to be all at once ironic and compassionate. A sense of history, and of one's own place in it. Precision of language and the joy of its tang on your tongue." -------- Pauletta Hansel, author of Divining and First Person

Thank you for your support!

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