Friday, October 22, 2010


Gleaning is the traditional Biblical practice of gathering crops that would otherwise be left in the fields to rot or be plowed under after harvest for the benefit of the poor. Also some growers would allow gleaners to pick what was left after harvest to donate to those who are needy. When I was growing up, gleaning was practiced by most of the people who lived in the village. Coal was stripped mined by large power shovels and when the coal was loaded into the trucks that took the coal to the processing plant, some of it spilled over the side. We kids and parents gathered the lumps of coal and moved them to a pile that we kept until it was enough to fill a wagon, or wheelbarrow. The same method was used at the slag dump, where slag from the plant was taken to the slag dump in side dumping cars. After the cars were unloaded, we searched through the slag and gathered any lumps of coal that were left in the slag and moved it to a safe area for taking home. Generally the company did not object to the practice except when in an attempt to be the first ones, we ran in when the truck was not completely full and there was a danger that we could get hurt from falling coal. We used the coal for home heating and cooking, the kitchen stove was a coal fired stove and burned all year, even during the hot summer months. Often when the small railroad that as used to carry the coal cars from the deep mines to the processing plant slowed at the slight grade behind our house, we pulled lumps of coal from the cars as they went by. The engineers chased us away, but they almost never put the coal back on the cars. When I was in high school several friends and I opened a small mine in an area that had been strip mined. The vein of coal was nice and we spent the summer mining and selling it to a local breaker (a small processing plant). We got Dynamite from the store in town purchased by the miners who were mining near by. Coal mining was hard work, but I even made enough to buy some clothes. When the summer was nearing an end and school about to start, we made plans to skip school on Friday and work in the mine Friday and Saturday to earn some spending money. However the local coal and mining company who owned the land had other plans. When they found out about us they sent some miners and dynamited the mine shut. Perhaps we stretched the definition of gleaning somewhat. But the coal was never mined by the large company that owned the land. The coal that was left behind, pillars to hold up the roof while taking equipment out was not economical to mine. Perhaps it was terminated because the managers were fearful of our lives. Mining coal in veins that were mined years earlier had frequent cave-ins since the pillars were weakened by time. That summer I learned that sometimes even the best plans fail and gleaning was not always a profitable venture.

No comments:

Post a Comment