Friday, December 6, 2013

My Miners

Never has a book resonated so fully and pulled at my heartstrings as My Loving Vigil Keeping by Carla Kelly. I had the privilege to listen to Carla this last fall speak about the research that went into writing this novel. Her story is fiction, but follows a true event in our history. She spent thousands of hours, days, months and possibly years to gather enough information on the people and lifestyle of those who lived in Scofield during 1899 and 1900.
I wept when Carla Kelly spoke about the men who lived and worked in those coal mines up Scofield canyon. At the time I couldn't say why I felt so drawn to her story, but it stayed with me for days. When I returned home I told my husband of what I'd learned, then I joined my parents and grandma for dinner. I relayed the story Kelly had spoke of and was stunned when my grandma perked up and said that my great great grandpa Walton and his brothers were there at the time of that horrific day on May 1st 1900.
My Loving Vigil Keeping follows a woman who sets out to begin life anew. She takes a job as a teacher in Scofield mining settlement. The detail that Carla Kelly added to her story brings the everyday to life. I felt as though I lived and breathed family life in that settlement. Reading about the blast that killed more than 200 men caused a ache in my heart.
My great great grandpa was there.
His mother, Harriot Walton, ran a boarding house and raised her children in that settlement. She had three boys that worked in those mines.
Charles Walton (my great great Grandpa) was scheduled to work that day in number four (the tunnels are numbered). He must have woke and prepared to head into work, but by some miracle his cow got out and he went to retrieve it, which delayed him. Before he could join his brothers, Andrew and William, back at the mine, a blast shook the earth. Smoke billowed from the mine entrance. The smell of burning flesh filled the canyon.
I cried, wondering what it was like for him and thousands of others to witness such devastation and helplessness.
I shook my head several times and thought, my grandpa was there.
He and his brothers were teenagers at the time, none married. Andrew had been near enough to the blast to become deafened, never to hear again. By the grace of our Father in Heaven Charles and both of his brothers lived. They all lived long lives, marrying and raising children.
I don't know the history of Charles' brothers, but I do know Charles moved from Scofield not long after. He married Ida Ann Paxman and had a few children, one of which is my great grandma Iona Mendenhall. Ida died young and Charles married again, had a few more children, then buried his second wife. He married once more before growing old with her.
It's difficult to describe how I feel. I grew up knowing my grandpa on my mother's side was a coal miner. To me in meant a hard life and I knew he was tough. But beyond that, I hadn't thought much on the subject. But after learning what mining life was really like and how they put their lives on the line everyday to put food on the table for their family, I have grown to respect them and love them even more for it.
So, now I can say, with head held high, that I am a coal miners granddaughter from both my parents side. I even have uncles who once mined.
My Grandpa Willardson. I love you grandpa ;)

Pin It

No comments:

Pin It button on image hover