They’re all still here. Dog, Booger, Repo and McGoo. Their discolored, mangled name tags hang on nails tacked to a wooden plank as they work deep in the earth with only a headlamp to illuminate their paths. They spend eight or ten hours a day underground, working hard to support their lifestyle. Despite the exchange of mules for gas, ghosts of the past still rein strong. You can see the rough black faces of disheveled men shoving wads of chew under their lower lip. They’ll crack punchlines and make jokes. But before continuing down the shaft into the deep black, they’re sure to tell each other to be safe. The price of coal is high. Consumption fuels the toll on the environment and the constant risk on the workers’ lives. And as dependence on coal falls, eastern Kentucky will struggle to keep up, leaving this slice of rural America life lost in the dark.
I was able to go down into a small independent mine the last day of shooting. I only got about an hour down there, but it was a great experience. I just wish I could go spend a couple weeks with these guys...hopefully I can go back sometime and do that.