Under Ground – Part 6

Under Ground

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Good news that he’d been granted an interview, came to Carl after several months of his having to seek out less than ideal jobs to support his family. Finally, things could get back to normal at home, and they’d have their hospitalization benefit back.

Unlike the mine in which he’d been working, this mine was very big. Some said its underground footprint was the size of Manhattan. It had more than one portal where miners would enter, and miners descended into the mine in elevators, rather than walking down stairs. It had far more sections being worked as well.

Carl had learned enough about mining as a utility worker, which would do as far as his qualifications for the interview were concerned, and since his Uncle Clark was a miner operator there, he’d have a good chance of getting the job. And he did.

It represented a return to real security for his family, as this job meant he’d have steady work for decades to come.

It wasn’t like he wanted to look at a future that would include decades of working in a mine. In this regard, Carl felt he was now trapped, at least for the foreseeable future, in this kind of work. Acknowledging this truth from his current position, he wanted to land a mining job that paid top rate.

He was aware that as little as five years of working in a coal mine could end with a diagnosis of black lung disease, and going over five years would pretty much guarantee it. This concerned him quite a bit, as his father had already been diagnosed with it.

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Miner operators got paid top rate, but it was difficult to become one, both because it paid top rate, and because so many others had set that position as their goal as well.

He might get a chance at it, as on his first day he was assigned to work with a crew, due to his experience of working with a crew at the other mine, so that was one obstacle out of the way from day one.

The boss of the crew, John Cooper, seemed to Carl to be a timid man. He certainly was not the kind of boss that does everything he can to make his underlings fear his wrath. No, he wanted to be friends, it seemed. Carl was okay with that, but was somewhat suspicious that it might just be an act.

One thing about John Cooper that Carl didn’t like, was his garlic breath. He seemed to have it every day, and the way the air circulates in a mine, it made having a conversation with him torturous if Carl was downwind of him during the conversation.

His nice, timid demeanor made it difficult to not like John, but liking a company man, and a boss at that, was a no no. John Cooper may have been timid and friendly, or it may have been an act.

One thing was for sure however, and that was the fact that he wanted to be the boss that loaded the most coal; just like all of the bosses did. He just had a stranger way of going about it.

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The miner operator on John’s crew was a younger guy, but older than Carl. His name was Pat Molson, and he happened to be a son of “Pappy,” the old guy who worked the car at the other mine that transported the miners out of the mine at the end of the shift.

Carl had started telling Pat about Pappy to see if they were related, but as soon as he mentioned the car and “a really old guy,” Pat interrupted and said, “That’s my dad.”

He seemed to like the fact that Carl was speaking nicely about his father, but Pappy really was a nice old guy who was still enjoying working for a living. Carl honestly enjoyed listening to the old man’s stories as they waited to be taken out.

Pat seemed like a nice guy. He ate with the crew in the dinner-hole, and conversed and joked around like everyone else did. He was a hundred and eighty degrees from Roy, the miner operator at the other mine. Unfortunately however, he already had a miner’s helper; a guy named Chuck

Carl found it easy to make friends with his new crew, and on his first day with them, he discovered the father of another kid he’d played high-school football with was on the crew and he lived near Carl. They decided to car pool, as the mine was a fair distance from home.




He was a black man and his name was Curtis. Curtis was actually Carl’s work partner, as they shared all the utility work for the crew, and they became good friends. After adding work time to the time carpooling, they’d be spending more time together than they spent with their families.

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For the crews mining coal in this mine, each had two shuttle cars running, instead of just one like they’d had at the mine where Carl had worked before being laid-off. The two shuttle car operators were Roland Gutkowski and Don Vidali. Roland was in his fifties and a real clown. He was always doing something to get a laugh.

Don Vidali was in his mid forties and a pretty intelligent and witty guy. Carl and Don became friends quickly due to their military experiences and discussions of similar situations each had faced and places they’d been.

Chuck Foster, the miner helper, was a tall, redheaded guy with a sunny disposition, and he was liked by everyone on the crew it seemed. For some unexplained reason, Chuck didn’t seem to get as dirty as everyone else, which was strange since he was at the face the entire shift, where the dust was heavy in the air.

The roof bolter, Gregg Cardillo, was the same age as Carl; twenty three years old. He seemed like a sensible guy, kind of quiet, and speaking a lot just to be heard, wasn’t his thing. If he had something to say, he’d say it.




There was also a mechanic on this crew, by the name of Art Crankshaw. He was about the same age as Don, and by coincidence, he had a similar personality; easy-going and good at slipping in an epic comeback at times.

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Carl found it easy to blend in with these guys and to feel he was part of the crew right off. It was such a difference from his experience at the other mine, where it had seemed that hardly no one over forty-five didn’t hate him and every other young person in the world.

Under Ground © free-reign 2020

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Part – 1 Part – 2 Part – 3 Part - 4 Part - 5

Thanks for reading!

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Sources for images used in this post:

Public Domain photos are from Wikimedia Commons:

Miners At Work: Image by Tshekiso Tebalo from Pixabay
Lung X-ray: Image by Leroy Woodson / Public domain
Pool It Sign: Image by The U.S. National Archives / No restrictions
Mine Mechanic: Image by National Archives at College Park / Public domain


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