My daddy was a Kentucky coal miner for most of my childhood. He was little more than a child himself when he stood over the sifters high above the temple, where pieces of coal tumbled down a long chute into one gondola after another. He was small and lithe and perfect for the job. He said he felt like a dancing monkey up there, but at least he could catch a glimpse of clouds moving across the sky.
As he grew into a teenager he learned how to weld a two-headed pick deep inside the earth. He told me of setting a big rock on top of his lunch bucket to keep the rats out. He faced other dangers as well: methane gas, rotten timbers, rock slides, and dust-filled air. I never knew him to complain of his working conditions. He was a coal miner until he was thirty-nine years old. In 1958 many coal mines were shutting down and we moved to Frankfort where he joined a brother-in-law in the dry cleaning business. Before long Daddy and Mother bought a cleaners of their own, where they worked for nearly thirty years.
My daddy came from a family of coal miners. Many of my husband's relatives were farmers.
What did your dad, or mom, do to provide for your family?