Days Gone By - stories from the past

Joe’s tall tale – the writer wondered if it was really true. . .

JOE’S TALL STORY

WRITTEN

BY

WOODROW HAND1

WPA WORKER

12/21/1938

Maybe I would have disputed Joe Lowery when he told me how he got out of a coal mine explosion, but I didn’t know enough about it to argue. Anyway, he forestalled any idea I might have had by saying:


“Funny things happen in a coal mine. Lotta’ times you get killed when you watch your step;  and a lotta’ times you don’t get killed when you oughta’.”

Red Ash mine exploded

“Now, I wus supposed to get killed when Red Ash1 mine exploded. I had a chance to get burned out, smoked out, or drowned out; but I got by it all I coulda’ even been starved out.

1Wadsworth Red Ash Coal Company was located in Shelby County, Two wealthy New Orleans cotton brokers, J. W. Jay and Leon Gilbert, purchased 1500 acres of land and planned to spend a million dollars improving their mines at Falliston. The first mine went into operation in 1911.

“Here’s how it wus:”

“When I heard the explosion, I run outta’ the room where I wus workin’ and found the slope fulla’ fire. Burnin’ gas makes a hot fire.

“Well, I got good and wet and run through the fire, but when I got outta’ that, the smoke commenced to choke me.

“So I put my nose to the ground like a dog and smelled my way up the slope toward the surface. I helped myself up by pullin’ along the pipe line from the pump at the bottom of the mine. It wus about a eight inch pipe.

“I wus makin’ it fine ’till I heard the roof of the slope cave in up above me and felt the pipe shake in my hand. I kept pullin’ up to where I heard the fall, and when I got there, I found the slope blocked up tight. I couldn’t find no way to get through or over it, so I jest had to set there.

“Nobody could get through from the other side to clean out the fall, I figgered, on account of the smoke and fumes from the explosion, so I set there for what seemed like a month and I still couldn’t see no way to get out. I commenced to get hungry and then after awhile I got weak. I couldn’t hardly hold to the pipe and when I’d try to keep my nose to the little trickle of water that seeped through the dirt and rock, I’d fall flat on my face.

“I was beginnin’ to get sleepy every once in awhile, but I’d drop off. If I’d ever gone to sleep, I’d have not waked up.

“I musta’ been dozin’ when I heard the dirt and stuff move a little, but I didn’t really get awake ’till I felt water runnin’ all over me and getting’ stronger all the time. I had to grab a tight hold on the pipe, but the water kept comin’ so fast, I wus nearabout washed down the slope. It tugged at me like a team of horses and finally covered me over. If it hadn’t stopped in fifteen or twenty minutes I’d have drowned, but when it did stop, there was a nice big home for me to go through and a clear path to the surface, but I couldn’t leave the slope ’till night.

“The fall had busted the water pipe and dammed up the water. It jest kept fillin’ up ’till it got to the top of the slope and was runnin’ out over the grass. Then the water finally seeped through the fall ’till it opened up a hole. Then all that water run back down into the mine, nearly drownin’ me on the way. If I hadn’t kept a tight hold on the pipe, I would have been washed clear to the bottom.

“As I said, I couldn’t leave the slope ’till it get dark. That water rushed over me so fast and strong it tore off all my clothes and left me naked as a fresh telephone pole.”

So, as I don’t know anything about mining, maybe Joe was telling the truth.

1During the 1930s, Great Depression era, many writers were employed to interview people and write stories about life in the United States. The program was named the U.S. Work Projects Administration, Federal Writers’ Project and it gave employment to historians, teachers, writers, librarians, and other white-collar workers. The story above is a transcribed, unedited story from a WPA writer Woodrow Hand, Alabama.

1Wadsworth Red Ash Coal Company was located in Shelby County, Two wealthy New Orleans cotton brokers, J. W. Jay and Leon Gilbert, purchased 1500 acres of land and planned to spend a million dollars improving their mines at Falliston. The first mine went into operation in 1911.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Confrontation:: Lost & Forgotten Stories

Prior to statehood, Alabama was a vast wilderness with a large Native American population. It is only natural that when new immigrants from other states arrived, conflicts over the land would arise. Soon, these small conflicts exploded into war.

Alabama Footprints Confrontation is a collection of lost and forgotten stories that reveals why and how the confrontation between the Native American population and settlers developed into the Creek-Indian War as well as stories of the bravery and heroism of participants from both sides.
Some stores include:

  • Tecumseh Causes Earthquake
  • Terrified Settlers Abandon Farms
  • Survivor Stories From Fort Mims Massacre
  • Hillabee Massacre
  • Threat of Starvation Men Turn To Mutiny
  • Red Eagle After The War

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ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Confrontation:: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 4)


By (author): Donna R Causey
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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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