Sunday, August 25, 2013

Good Morning Jack...

Letter to my Son
Sunday, 25 August

Blue Coal's Huber Breaker

Good Morning Jack…

Looking at the topside remnants of the coal mine at Ashley Borough in Pennsylvania I wonder of the life it brought the people working there.  It appears large enough and old enough to have employed an entire community for generations.  It served a necessary purpose for a growing industrialized nation.  Coal provided the energy needed to smelt steel, fuel heaters and burn lights.  It enabled ships to do away with sails and to be build larger and heavier than anything that ever before existed.  There was, and still remains, an abundance of coal and, despite the inconvenience of having to chip it out deep beneath the ground, it continues to be inexpensive.

The facility at Ashley Borough is Blue Coal’s Huber Breaker.  It’s towering above ground structure was finally closed in the 1970’s and served to break down the extracted coal into various uniform sizes.  It had to have been a loud, dust-filled environment.  Working its machinery was probably safer than drilling crawl spaces deep in the earth, so you might sacrifice something on your paycheck.  Maybe not.  Maybe being a miner required only muscle and nerve.  People responsible for keeping all those machines running had a skill that could have sweetened their payday.  They worked a safe distance from potential mass disaster and still they pulled in enough coin to be the first on their block to own a color TV… or whatever consumer device was most sought after during the time.

You’re growing up.  The Breaker looms.  Its lights pierce the early morning grey.  The air is constantly filled with the sound of its digestion.  Just assume you are part of its future.  You are born in this place at this time to be a proud Breaker man.  Do it right and you will own a car.  After work you drop in the Nothing Special and have a couple of PBRs with the guys.   You find a girl.  You hit it off and things seem pretty good.  Dad still shows steady for work but he’s slowing down.  Sooner or later age breaks the toughest of us.  He’s no exception.  Mom holds up, though.  She’ll be around forever.  Count on it. 

I ain’t going nowhere.  There’s dues to pay no matter where I am.  You think you’ve got it better than me?  You’re just eating a different flavor.  You take in a show.  I watch TV.  We both get a laugh.  We both eat steak.  You get lemon pepper with linen.  I choose A1 and linoleum does fine, thanks.  You don’t grade sex and love by price.  American Express won’t help you here.  Sure, you can purchase a reasonable facsimile of a woman’s love but you’ll never know what it is you really have.  With enough money you can hire people to cry at your funeral.  I’ll happily do it for twenty.

What is a road?  Was it ever just the means of going from one place to the next?  I don’t think so.  It’s an opened book and the miles roamed are its pages.  It’s chapters and verse about everything truly felt.  If you don’t see it that way then maybe you weren’t paying attention.  That’s OK.  We’re all different to one degree or another.  You read your book and I will read your face.  I may not read you right but I will come up with a story of you worthy of my amusement, anyway.  You will fascinate me with or without your blessing.  Our more interesting traits are those counter to our most ambitious intents.  Our social skills are mere preferences in fashion.  No matter how carefully we choose our look our naked head always pops up above the color.  Hello.  Pretend not to notice the curious eyes peering from behind the window.  How does one beyond redemption dress as a saint?  Why ask you?  How would you know?  Why would I ask?

Huber Breaker began as someone’s dream.  It seemed a marvelous creation and it was painstakingly diagramed, labeled and, eventually, enacted.  It brought employment for many and its prosperity was the means for raising many families.  It was also a monolithic vision of sin.  You pick the reasons why this is so.  Every well-intentioned act of the human species has in it an unavoidable element of callous and prideful harm.  Go ahead.  Try and tell me it ain’t so.


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