Wednesday, November 24, 2010
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Letter to the Editor - To Keep the Lights On

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY - Most of us view our day to day as ordinary. We wake up, prepare for the day, and make our way to the various institutions of work or education. We either embrace it, or endure it as best we can. Irregardless of this, it is the same thing that we did yesterday, and will surely be the same thing we will do tomorrow.

Nothing new, nothing out of place, and yet we forget all that takes place in order for us to fulfill our daily obligations. You have nothing less than heroes, toiling for your benefit on a daily basis. You might not know them, so you may not recognize them. You cannot see or hear their works, so they are sometimes forgotten.

In a world gone mad with putting the beautiful and glamorous high upon the pedestal just so we can dissect them under the microscope, we sometimes fail to acknowledge those who truly do the things that simply have to be done. We all play a part in this life, so don’t think that I am downplaying your chosen profession when I write that we can’t all balance the books, and sell insurance. Somebody has to go about the business of keeping the infrastructure going. I submit to you the Kentucky coal miner, the man keeping the lights on. You may not know it, but it is these very heroes who not only keep your day going smooth, but just happen to be the very cement that holds your community and this commonwealth together.

In case you have never met a miner, let me help you out. He is not always the easiest on the eyes, but that doesn’t matter, because he’s always somewhere between six hundred, to twelve hundred feet below your own feet. He might not always say the right thing, but again, this doesn’t matter because you can never hear him over the sound of equipment in operation anyway. The miner isn’t afraid of his own sweat; in fact, he is quit familiar with it.  This man is capable of performing real labor in the very worst of working conditions, and he most certainly isn’t afraid of the dark! He is just a guy trying to make a comfortable wage for his family, which he couldn’t find anywhere else in this area.

The Kentucky coal miner is responsible for far more than keeping our cell phones charged. Every business in our area depends on the coal industry, either directly or indirectly. From the saw mills, to the concrete company, from the mine suppliers, to the mine contractor, a vast multitude of jobs rely solely on the industry. Not to mention every retailer, restaurant, and gas station depends on the individual miner to spend their hard earned dollars in this area. An untold amount of mining dollars has gone to the general fund in order to pay for a large portion of the civil services and projects that we have in Kentucky. If you wonder what our town would be like without the miners financial contributions, picture a lot of vacant houses. Picture driving down town only to see that the majority of our businesses are no longer there. The Social Security building would have to have a south side location to add to the one on the north. The jail would have to extend past that pond that sits next to it, and the Employment office would have to annex the old Browning building across the street.  

If your scribe is being totally honest, we here in the commonwealth only do a few things, but we do them well. We offer up the best horses, the best tobacco, often great collegiate basketball, and the very best bourbon found anywhere. We also offer, not only to the nation, but the world, some of the very best coal found anywhere. This is probably the single most important export we as a state have to offer. The problem with great things is that they often require great sacrifices. These sacrifices often come at too great a cost.

As we mourn the passing of our fellows who labored under the pick and shovel, we find ourselves owing  a debt, one similar to the one we owe a fallen serviceman in that we can never fully repay what we owe. However, we can honor their sacrifice by never taking for granted all they have given us. Because of these and others like them, we don’t have to read by candlelight, because one kilowatt hour of energy costs about the same as a used car. We can look the rest of the country straight in the eye because we are holding up our end of the nation’s weight, and we can sleep well tonight knowing that in spite of this tragedy,  our heroes will compose themselves and “hook up” again tomorrow. This is the reality of keeping your lights on.

Josh Ashby  


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