“I have based my life on coal, and I think that’s something this country needs. I have seen people killed, I have seen people hurt, and it touches your heart. They eventually died from it. At one time, I had a lot of people that was friends and family working, but it’s down now.”
Wayne L. Williams, Retired Coal Miner, Lashmeet, West Virginia:
“I had a pretty good childhood. I was like every other child. I liked to play, and ride bicycles. I had a couple of serious wrecks on bicycles, not watching what I was doing. [Growing up] I hunted, and I fished, and rode horses. I built cabins, and played in them, just different things.
I’ve had a lot of things happen to me as a child that I remember as good times. I had two sisters. My oldest sister, she was a tomboy, like kind of followed after me a lot. [She] Liked to go fishing, liked to do this, liked to do that. My younger sister, she was too young to do things like that, but my older sister, she was pretty close.
Both my grandmothers passed away before I was born. I had two grandfathers, one used to help build tipples back years ago. My other grandfather lived in Princeton, West Virginia, and he operated the first streetcar in Princeton. [From them] I learned just different things. My granddaddy did a lot of farming back then years ago, and he did teach me to garden, and farm, how to put hay up. Good hard work.
I graduated from Matoka High and I went there from 1st Grade to 12th Grade. That was a lot of fun. It had its ups and downs. I reckon the ups was when I was trying to learn something, and the downs was when I didn’t mind and got corrected.
I went into the Army [and] I served during Vietnam. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go [to Vietnam], but I did take the training to go. I ended up going to Germany [where] I was an 11B-20 foot soldier in Infantry. I helped protect the country, because we were stationed on the border. I ran equipment and different things [until I] got out in ’69.
After I got out of the Army, I went to the coalmines. I really enjoyed it, and I reckon it got in my blood. I stayed with it as long as I could. I was an underground miner. I ran equipment; roof bolters, scoops, unitracks, and shuttle cars, which some calls a buggy. I have been hurt a couple times. I got covered up one time back in the eighties. It’s a whole new, different world. You’re underground and it’s different heights. Some of it might be thirty inches, some of it might forty inches, and some of it might be six and seven foot tall. I worked them all, but most of them were forty inches, to four foot. You had to duck walk, duck walk is just bent over.
I enjoyed the men I worked with, and when you work underground, most of the time you get real close. [It’s] Just like a brotherhood, and some men you can’t get close to, but most the men that you work with are close. They’re closer than your brother, because you’re with them eight hours a day, ten hours a day, five and six days a week.
I usually tell the story of a funny thing I seen happen to [my friend] one night. He was an electrician [and] he was working on a feeder. He didn’t have his britches legs bloused, and a rat got up in his britches legs. He couldn’t go nowhere. All he could do was squall and holler for help. We laughed, and then we helped him.
I have based my life on coal, and I think that’s something this country needs. I have seen people killed, I have seen people hurt, and it touches your heart. They eventually died from it. At one time, I had a lot of people that was friends and family working, but it’s down now. Technology needs to get with coal, and work together and get something worked out where it can be used. That’s my, my belief. Whether or not I’m wrong I don’t know, but that’s my belief.
I’m a hillbilly and I’m proud of it. I think [outsiders] get the wrong attitude on things. One time when I was a boy, I went up north to spend some time with the people, and they embarrassed me. They come out a-looking, and they said, ‘Well, you’ve got shoes on.’ I said, ‘Yeah, we wear shoes where I’m from.’ They said, ‘Well, we’ve been taught that you all was barefooted and lived in caves. That really hurt me. We’re just like everybody else, we’re from the hills.
Well I did like to hunt, but now I don’t hunt as much as I fish. I trout fish, mostly. I first started getting into fishing when I retired here a few years back. I had got me a new set of waders, and I was doing real good. This boy had lost his lure, and he told me to get it. It was in November and when I went down, I run out of bottom, and I got soaking wet. All my friends laughed and laughed about that. We were at the hunting camp, and I had to go back to camp and change clothes. When I come back, they were [still] sitting around at the park laughing about it.
I want to be remembered as trying to live right, and do right. Even though we have our downs and our faults, remember that God loved us first, and when we do wrong, we have somewhere to go to make it right.”