How’d the dust blight come upon me?
Then I’ll tell you if I must,
bout the blight of the Shadow Miner,
Who walks the midnight dust.
T’was the year ‘76, and the middle of March,
At the end of the number one line,
When the Shadow brought fire, and smoke and death
To the boys in the Oven Fork Mine.
The smoke was so thick, you could cut it.
The heat more than any could bear.
And the sound of top falling on the roadway
To the portal for which we must steer.
It was silent on number three section.
The Shadow had plotted the mood.
There was no sound of life or motion
To break the solitude,
Except the wailing of the gob rats
That squealed in fearful disgust,
And the flapping of the brattice cloth curtain,
Making way for the smoke and the dust.
I said to myself, “ I must keep my nerve.”
Through far the portal be,
Yet my heart would be much lighter,
If I only had company.
And so I sang and shouted,
Keeping rhythm, as I sped.
To the screech from the soles of my work shoes,
As they sprang beneath my tread.
Not far into the air course,
Had I stumbled on my way,
When I saw a dusty figure,
In a capuchin of gray. And bending upon my shoe toes,
With a long and limber stride,
I caught the dusty stranger,
And we traveled side by side.
But no token of communion,
Gave he by word or nod,
And a fear chill fell upon me,
At the crossing of the gob.
For I saw by my dim lit mine light,
As I followed, lungs a bust,
That the walking of the stranger,
left no footprints in the dust.
Then the fear chill gathered o’er me
Like a shroud around me cast,
As I sank upon the gob pile,
Where the Shadow Miner passed.
And the other miners found me
Just before the break of day,
With my fair skin burned and blackened,
As the dust in which I lay.
But they spoke not, as they raised me,
For they knew that in the night,
I had seen the Shadow Miner,
And had withered in his blight.
In memory of the men who lost their lives in the Scotia Mine accident
in 1976, in Letcher County, KY
© E.B. Reb Allen
All Rights Reserved