Mine boy tended mules underground – by Bill White (The Morning Call – June 28, 2017)


I have a great little coal mine story to share, and while I’m at it, I’ll include some of the other reminiscences and other reactions to my latest coal cracker columns. Just to review, I wrote Sunday about my tour of the No. 9 Coal Mine and Museum in Lansford and the week before about the Lehigh Anthracite surface mining operation in Tamaqua. Previous columns have featured people’s memories about life in the mines and in the coal region.

I got this first story over the phone, but I’ll repeat it more or less in the words of the caller, Robert Weed, 87, of Bethlehem, who got his only coal-mining experience in the Hudson Coal Co. mine in Peckville, Lackawanna County.

“I was 7 going on 8 years of age, and I desperately wanted a bicycle,” he said. “My father worked for the Hudson Coal Co. up in the Scranton-Wilkes Barre area, and he found me a job so I could earn money to buy a bicycle. “I went for nine months, I believe. At 5:15 in the morning, I rode the tram with the mine superintendent, I believe 180 feet underground. [The superintendent was there to walk the mine with a canary in a cage to check for methane gas.]

My job was a very simple one. There were four mine mules directly ahead of me. I walked in front of each one of them and poured out a predetermined amount of feed and walked them around and into their stall, where I dropped the cinch from above and tightened the belly band.

“A mine mule never ever had a bit in their mouth. The miners got them going and stopped and backed up by simple tail pulls. Believe me, the miners loved those mules. They were pets, they each had a name, they each had a personality.

“I’ll never forget one of them. The one named Betsy would put her hip up against me and shove me up against the wall and hold me there for what seemed like a long period of time, then release me. She got her kicks out of doing that on a daily basis.

For the rest of this article: http://www.mcall.com/opinion/white/mc-bw-mine-boy-20170628-story.html