Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Ol’ Cwydie Ain’t Workin’ In No Coal Mine

by The Windjammer

There was a family in the little village where we lived in which there were three fully adult sons. I never heard of any of them actually doing any muscle building exercises more strenuous than lifting a fork full of food or raising a brown bottle, and those activities rarely put their hands above their heads. They all received monthly checks which burned their pockets until they could get to their favorite store. The three of them kept after a neighbor to ‘get them a job.’

Har heard that the B&O was looking for day laborers to do track work, so he loaded the three in the back of his home made truck and headed for 12th Street where the work was in progress. That was back in WW II when all the regular workers were busy somewhere else. They were hired on the spot to shovel ballast. The foreman told them to ‘grab one of those shovels and get up there in the car and start throwing gravel on the track bed.’ The oldest one replied, "To H--- with that! That sounds like work. The Old Man started that years ago and never did get over it." The three took off running across the railroad bridge and raced up the hill toward home. Har had to drive back alone and when he pulled into his parking spot the three were already sitting on their front porch watching him park.

A friend who was, before he retired, an official in one or more of our coal companies which operated locally told me that another coal company had four mines ready to open but could not do so. It wasn’t the environmentalists throwing road blocks this time. They couldn’t get workers, even when the rookies could get $17 to $18 dollars an hour and experienced technicians were being paid far more--and that was without assessments for union dues.

That reminded me of another character whose given name was Clyde, but Clyde couldn’t talk plain. When he talked of himself, he used the third person and referred to himself as Ol’ Cwyde or, more frequently, as Ol’ Cwydie.. The circumstances were a bit different, but with a little journalistic freedom, the story can be applied to the mining problem.

Clyde was one of those unfortunate individuals who had at least five problems, each compounded by the others. One of those problems was not the fact that he was as healthy as a bull and almost twice as strong. Clyde’s problems were that he warn’t too well-versed in book larnin’; cigarettes; whiskey (and an occasional beer); wild, wild women; and, last but certainly not least, a welfare check that just wasn’t big enough to support all his other vices at the same time. Clyde’s time, too, was back during that same slight period of manpower shortage.

As he told it, "Ol’ Cwydie went over to the Unemployment Office and they tol’ me I had to git a job. I ast them what they had for me to do an’ they tol’ me they had a job up at Katherine #3 for a trackman. They tol’ me it was workin’ underground an’ I tol’ them, ‘Ol’ Cwydie ain’t workin’ in no damned coal mine’."

I’m not sure that I blame Ol’ Clyde.

Katherine #3 was where I worked before I went to the Navy.

When I came back, I didn’t go back. I went to work where I could make some gravy money--in a grocery store.

The rest is history.

But one of the reasons for Clyde and the three brothers refusing to work may be a part of the reason for the dilemma of our mines and factories today.

1 comment:

Buffalo said...

Excellent read. Enjoyed it.