Coal Miner Wife Quotes

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Meanwhile, two miles down the mine shaft, nineteen men sat in absolute darkness trying to figure out what to do. One of the groups included a man whose arm had been pinned between two timbers, and, out of earshot, the others discussed whether to amputate it or not. The man kept begging them to, but they decided against it and he eventually died. Both groups ran out of food and water and started to drink their own urine. Some used coal dust or bark from the timbers to mask the taste. Some were so hungry that they tried to eat chunks of coal as well. There was an unspoken prohibition against crying, though some men allowed themselves to quietly break down after the lamps died, and many of them avoided thinking about their families. Mostly they just thought about neutral topics like hunting. One man obsessed over the fact that he owed $1.40 for a car part and hoped his wife would pay it after he died. Almost immediately, certain men stepped into leadership roles. While there was still lamplight, these men scouted open passageways to see if they could escape and tried to dig through rockfalls that were blocking their path. When they ran out of water, one man went in search of more and managed to find a precious gallon, which he distributed to the others. These men were also instrumental in getting their fellow survivors to start drinking their own urine or trying to eat coal. Canadian psychologists who interviewed the miners after their rescue determined that these early leaders tended to lack empathy and emotional control, that they were not concerned with the opinions of others, that they associated with only one or two other men in the group, and that their physical abilities far exceeded their verbal abilities. But all of these traits allowed them to take forceful, life-saving action where many other men might not.
Sebastian Junger (Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging)
answered, pulling on his overcoat. All the loneliness of the evening seemed to descend upon her at once then and she said with the suggestion of a whine in her voice, ‘Why don’t you take me with you some Saturday?’ ‘You?’ he said. ‘Take you? D’you think you’re fit to take anywhere? Look at yersen! An’ when I think of you as you used to be!’ She looked away. The abuse had little sting now. She could think of him too, as he used to be; but she did not do that too often now, for such memories had the power of evoking a misery which was stronger than the inertia that, over the years, had become her only defence. ‘What time will you be back?’ ‘Expect me when you see me,’ he said at the door. ‘Is’ll want a bite o’ supper, I expect.’ Expect him at whatever time his tipsy legs brought him home, she thought. If he lost he would drink to console himself. If he won he would drink to celebrate. Either way there was nothing in it for her but yet more ill temper, yet further abuse. She got up a few minutes after he had gone and went to the back door to look out. It was snowing again and the clean, gentle fall softened the stark and ugly outlines of the decaying outhouses on the patch of land behind the house and gently obliterated Scurridge’s footprints where they led away from the door, down the slope to the wood, through which ran a path to the main road, a mile distant. She shivered as the cold air touched her, and returned indoors, beginning, despite herself, to remember. Once the sheds had been sound and strong and housed poultry. The garden had flourished too, supplying them with sufficient vegetables for their own needs and some left to sell. Now it was overgrown with rampant grass and dock. And the house itself – they had bought it for a song because it was old and really too big for one woman to manage; but it too had been strong and sound and it had looked well under regular coats of paint and with the walls pointed and the windows properly hung. In the early days, seeing it all begin to slip from her grasp, she had tried to keep it going herself. But it was a thankless, hopeless struggle without support from Scurridge: a struggle which had beaten her in the end, driving her first into frustration and then finally apathy. Now everything was mouldering and dilapidated and its gradual decay was like a symbol of her own decline from the hopeful young wife and mother into the tired old woman she was now. Listlessly she washed up and put away the teapots. Then she took the coal-bucket from the hearth and went down into the dripping, dungeon-like darkness of the huge cellar. There she filled the bucket and lugged it back up the steps. Mending the fire, piling it high with the wet gleaming lumps of coal, she drew some comfort from the fact that this at least, with Scurridge’s miner’s allocation, was one thing of which they were never short. This job done, she switched on the battery-fed wireless set and stretched out her feet in their torn canvas shoes to the blaze. They were broadcasting a programme of old-time dance music: the Lancers, the Barn Dance, the Veleta. You are my honey-honey-suckle, I am the bee… Both she and
Stan Barstow (The Likes of Us: Stories of Five Decades)