The year is 1920. I am thirteen years old. I live in Mystic Iowa, a coal mining community. I have just started work in the coalmines with my father to held support mom, dad and my eight brothers and sisters. Life is tough but we are all happy. I have a responsibility as the oldest boy and that is to help out with money. (Barb)
Work in the mines is not steady. They shut down in April and they start back up in August, since there is no demand for coal in the summer. (Stromquist, 34) So I had to quit school and help out. This allows us enough money to get bye. My father told me it was my responsibility to help out, since I was the oldest. I don t mined. I like the work and feel good about helping.
The other boys my age are still in school. I see them everyday on my way to the mine but I don t get to talk to them because I can t be late to work. Peter is the only friend my age that works in the mine. Peters father died last year and he has a responsibility to support his mother and two sisters. (Barb) Peter and I get along well because we are the same age and work together. My other friends want me to play when I get home from work but most of the time I am too tired. It is hard for them to understand why. I guess someday they will figure it out.
My job in the mine is to pick. I hold a steel pole with a pointed end for picking and a flat end for hammering. (Striecher) I have a partner, Pat. His job is to hit the flat part of the rod with a sledgehammer and I hold it. I watch for the coal. When I see coal, I put my thumb over the end of the pole so pat knows when to stop hitting it. I can t yell because he won t hear me with all the noise of other workers hammering. Sometimes my thumb gets hit. At first it hurt but now I don t feel it. Pat doesn t mean to hit me its just part of the job.
Mother bakes bread six days a week. The only day she doesn t bake bread is Sunday. Gods day. (Billie) My dad would buy twenty sacs of flower in April, when we had pretty good paychecks. We had strawberries in the summer and sold a few for money but mostly gave them away. The first turkey that I ever had, a neighbor woman won at a Halloween dance, she cooked it and brought half of it over for my family. (Billie) My father gave them six or eight boxes of strawberries in trade. We were neighbors and we helped one another.
I admire my father for his hard work. Someday I hope to be like him. If people only understood the sacrifices he has made for my family. Dad has taught me what it takes to be a man. He says being a man is simple it takes hard work a determination. I know I work hard but I haven t figured out what he means by determination. He says that will come with time.
The mines are supposed to be empty in a few years. (Striecher) I have to find some different work then. I want to build houses. If I do that I could build one for mom and dad. They need a bigger one. I owe to them for all the things they have done for me anyways. If mom and dad only understood how thankful I am for what I have, and how I admire what they have done for the family.