The following are fictional descriptions of photos taken in West Virginia. They do not reflect the views or opinions of any organization.
He drove up to park his truck in the lot, to eat the egg salad his girlfriend had made him the night before. He could back his flatbed into any spot so fast you’d think he was driving the car of his dreams, a ‘99 chrysler crossfire he spotted parked right next to the Arby’s on route 10. Taking solace in the shade, he rolled his window down while fiddling with the saran wrap on his sandwich with his other hand, once opened he cracked the RC Cola still cold from the icepack in his cooler, and let his head thump against the worn headrest. After practically drinking the egg salad sandwich, he looked at the mattress lying lonely behind the seats through his rear view mirror. Tempted for a second to give in to his goddamn right to an afternoon nap, he looked back at the analog clock and muttered a few cuss words that a co-pilot wouldn’t have even been able to hear, had there been one. As the key clicked into the ignition and the engine roared awake, he glanced over to the stack of mammoth tires lying next to the truck. All he could think of when he drove away, whistling to the radio, was how glad he was not to be pushing around coal, sitting low in the earth in a strip mine in a cab atop a couple of those tires. Not that he didn’t respect any man that did, and not that he wouldn’t do it to support his girlfriend or the family he knew he’d support one day. And while he’d never say a peep about it out loud, he knew that coal was going to wreck West Virginia faster than anyone would ever admit.
Gary came home every night at 7:25 on the nose. His ford focus would tumble into the holler, the wheels bumping familiarly on the ruts that never seemed to go anywhere. He always wondered why the other boys in the lot and him didn’t do some sort of carpooling, but he just didn’t want to be the one to mention it. It was certain that they all roared up to the feet of Patriot Coal’s operation around the same time in the morning; Billy with coffee in his hand, Mikey with a cigarette between his lips, Jimmy with the remainder of some kind a egg sandwich in one of his hands. Gary liked all the guys just fine. He just always dropped into that down to business mode when he was at work. He put the blinders on. He spent some days so silent and tireless, the boys thought he was some sort of mutant, and Gary suspected so. He just couldn’t lose this job. Could not, could Not lose this job. For the sake of his Mother still mourning from the passing of Gary Sr., now living under his roof, this job deserved the blinders. On a warm Tuesday night, after Gary showered the day’s worth of coal dust off his body, his Mother told him she needed the car tomorrow, and couldn’t he just get a ride with one of the other boys in the holler? That next morning, after two cups of coffee and a few hours spent with her needlepoint, Bethany launched herself into the ford focus, pushed up the seat so her foot could touch the peddle, and drove out of the holler and onto the route. She was going to meet this band of kids waving their signs and singing their protest songs and let them all know she was a friend of coal. It was for Gary’s sake, really.
When the group of roughly 250 people began marching early Monday morning out of Marmet, WV, it was a culminating moment of months of work from different organizations, people and states. After marching the first ten miles, the march body got their first taste of the power the coal companies’ possess over all matters in the region. After the marchers unpacked and were resting their feet and enjoying the approaching night, the County Commisioner revoked the loose standing agreement that had been in place and told organizers that all members of the march must be off the property by 10 pm or arrests would be in order. It was the first of three camp grounds the march body was suddenly ‘uninvited to’, and the friction only seemed to strengthen the will of the march.
"I’m here because very few people of the union are left. Most of the old timers are dead and gone, and these young guys need to learn. This shirt says it all; if we don’t unite and bring all the unions together, the AFL-CIO, steel workers, hospital workers, everybody, we don’t have a chance. Once the government controls your income, they control you and they know that," said Charlie, a retired UMWA miner from Mingo County, on joining the march on Tuesday.