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Erin Ann Thomas

Coal in Our Veins

A Coal Miner’s Daughter

Margaret, who was only ten when her father died, worked as a nanny for the wealthy households of Merthyr to help support her family. She learned to read and write while tending the children of a superintendent from one of the local mines. “Let me help you with your schoolwork,” Margaret said when the children came home from school. Understanding her meaning, the children taught her to read from their schoolbooks. During this time, Margaret was baptized into the Church …

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Ghost Towns

The Weekly Snippet: Selection from Coal in Our Veins I arrived in Scofield on a fall afternoon when the hills were sprinkled with rows of gold-leafed quaking aspens, set off by the green-black of pines. I got out of my vehicle and shivered. The air had a cold, moist edge. I hesitantly jiggled the door of the saloon, unsure about entering if it yielded. I pressed my face up against the window to peer inside. Above the bar a sign …

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Emylyn’s Memories

The Weekly Snippet: Selection from Coal in Our Veins At this cue from his wife, Emylyn opened his pale, dry lips and began to spin a monologue: “My father worked a seam of twenty-four inches that ran for miles.” In a calm, even cadence and a clear Welsh accent, Emylyn told me about the mines—stories his father must have recited to him that had now been tailored by his own telling. He was a good and steady raconteur, having obviously …

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Sam Quigley: A Miner’s Miner

The Weekly Snippet: Selection from Coal in Our Veins There are better and worse ways to run a coal mine. Several months after the Crandall Canyon accident, I traveled to central Utah to meet with the former Vice President of Operations at Andalex. Sam Quigley had quit when Robert Murray signed the deal to take over the company. The contract went through at eleven o’clock in the morning, and Sam’s office was cleaned out by noon. He was familiar with …

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The New River

The Weekly Snippet: Selection from Coal in Our Veins The New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world and one of the few, other than the Nile, that moves from south to north on the globe. It curves through mountains covered with thick greenery that slants up on either side, and in the spring and summer months professional river guides steer groups of four to twelve tourists straddling bright colored inner tubes through the rapids. After I …

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Interview on Utah Public Radio

Follow the link to hear me discuss Coal in Our Veins: A Personal Journey with radio host, Tom Williams: http://upr.org/post/coal-our-veins-understanding-and-sharing-story-mining-access-utah-tuesday

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Remembering Crandall Canyon Mine Collapse: August 6, 2007

The Weekly Snippet: Selection from Coal in Our Veins Since the Sago disaster, a coal mining accident occurred within twenty miles of Skyline. On August 6, 2007, the roof collapsed on six miners retreat mining in Crandall Canyon, trapping them 1,500 feet underground. The mining company Andalex had just been bought by Robert Murray, of Murray Energy, a company out of Cleveland, Ohio, with such a bad reputation in the East that nobody would give him a mining permit in …

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Wind Power

The Weekly Snippet: Selection from Coal in Our Veins Early in April, when the trees were just beginning to sprout leaves, I traveled to Pennsylvania to inspect the current most feasible alternative to coal. Garrett and Meyersdale are former coal mining communities nestled in hills. The topography did not rise sufficiently to meet my classification of mountain country, but the land rippled into a contour that made me feel at home. As in Appalachia, turning off a major highway plunged …

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A Visit to Big Pit Mining Museum; South Wales

 The Weekly Snippet: Selection from Coal in Our Veins Once my eyes adjusted, I sensed a cave-like coolness. I could hear water dripping, and the light from our lamps reflected against slick walls. I felt what the miners meant by the bowels of the earth. In a sense walking in a coal mine was like being swallowed. The stone seeped, suggesting the digestive juices of a black stomach. I understood why on every descent miners considered the possibility of never …

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Mountain Top Removal: The Beginning

The Weekly Snippet: Selection from Coal in Our Veins As the twentieth century progressed, the idea of the interconnectedness of man and nature gained ground, pricking the nation’s environmental conscience. A poem printed in the United Mine Workers’ Journal in 1950 demonstrates that the union was beginning to anticipate the effect that this would have on the industry: “We should practice conservation / We know we should not waste / the national resources of the nation / yet the greatest …

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