The deaths of those miners in Virginia got me thinking about the precarious nature of industrial work. It is not a subject those of who make a living the old fashioned way like to think about. Those miners' slow deaths mean a lot more to me than the end of the line for a politician, an actor or a rock 'n' roll star. And the comparison is apt because I know no one who mines underground and very few who make their living entertaining us with politics, movies or songs.
It is worth noting that the coal those poor fuckers were mining may have been what kept you from freezing this winter. That same coal may be what is powering the computer you are lazing in front of right now while the digging, digging, digging goes on unnoticed below you. Their dangerous, dirty and dull occupation is vital to us all.
I have been fortunate to not see anyone killed yet in a workplace. But I have seen my share of close calls. I saw a guy fall about 40 feet who used to work near the river when I did so. The first redneck motherfucker to get to him after he landed lifted him immediately to his feet. Don't do that. He had two broken femurs. After several months he returned to the job but he was fucked for life after one false step on a ladder.
Across the river from that same booming grounds I saw a pleasure craft explode like the shit you see go boom in Bruce Willis movies. The workers making a repair to the boat had just got off it before the propane on board exploded.
I got hit in the head with a 24 foot log when I was working on the river. Did not hurt a bit. Us beer 'n' hockey types have got skulls harder than the sticks our opponents swing at us.
At another mill I saw a millwright's helper head for the hospital after his arm became tangled in a conveyor belt. He joined the fucked for life crowd.
Someone I know was lucky not to be burned to death or fucked for life on the job. He sure had some stories to tell when he was home from his stay in the burn ward. They are not the sort of stories you want to tell around a camp fire.
In my corner of our warming planet we lost nearly four dozen men in forest industry related incidents last year alone. My union is suggesting we begin to take a minute off the job every time a brother dies to try and get a message through to our bosses that the deaths have to stop. I think I have a better idea: Maybe we should demand we be given a day off with pay every time a fellow worker hits the forest floor or a mill floor and does not get up.
In our cellphone phony economy we forget about the people who do the real work that is left out there. Next time you are making a deal on your phone spare a thought for the man making his last deal with a coal face or below a tree as tall or taller than the building you sit in.