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What Would Dad Say?


J.D. Pendry


The origin of my Hollar Folk philosophy is my Dad.  Itís a simple philosophy.  To use the vernacular of the day, let me share it with you in a few bullet comments Ė love of God, love of family, hard work, love of a beautiful countryside, loyalty to country, friends and family and the routine application of common sense.  In 1995, we lost Dad to a better place.  During his 77 years, he brought a family of five brothers and two sisters through the great depression as the oldest male, he served in a World War, worked 30 years as an underground coal miner and another 20 at other jobs.  He managed to support and raise, along with my mother, his own five children.


Dad became a coal miner when he was 15 years old following the mining death of his father.  I doubt many of you are familiar with underground coal mining as it was when my father started doing it in the 1930ís.  Let me attempt a picture for you.  Imagine traveling several miles inside of a mountain.  Your source of light is a carbide lantern affixed to your minerís hat.  Your food is in a bucket that holds your dinner on top and maybe a quart of water under the food tray.  That has to hold you for the time youíll spend inside.  Youíll spend the next 10-12 hours working from your knees or lying down, because thereís no space big enough for you to stand.  You work a section of a coal seam that may be 3 feet high.  Lying on your stomach or side, you undercut the coal seam with a pick.  You undercut it as far as you can reach.  After that, you bore a hole in the top of the seam with an auger bit that you press against the seam with your chest.  When the hole is bored deep enough, you place a powder charge in the hole and blow out the section youíve undercut.  Then you load the loose coal into a small railcar that transports it out of the mine.  Youíre paid by the ton and thereís a minimum you have to load to keep your job.  These are good paying jobs, possibly the only jobs around, and others stand in line to take your place.  In those days, a job with a mining company usually meant that you lived in a Coal Camp house.  Thatís what they were called.  The company owned the house you lived in and made it compulsory for you to shop at the companyís store where they deducted purchases from your wages.  Companies were known to undersell their coal to take business from their competitors then recoup the losses by raising prices in the companyís store where the miners had to shop.  It was tough for miners in those days.  Itís easier for them now thanks to machinery, technology and labor laws, but itís still tough, dangerous work.


I loaded sixteen tons and what do I get
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don't call me cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store. Ė
From the Song Sixteen Tons


Thereís much more I could tell you about Coal Camp life, but thatís not the purpose.  I wanted you to meet my Dad on Fatherís Day.  Thanks to what him and his generation conquered, I enjoy a comparatively easy life in this country.


Dad was a man of few words.  He was direct.  In case you didnít notice it, I did not inherit the few words part.  When I try to weigh whatís happening in our world, however, I try to imagine what Dad would have said about it.


Sometimes he would say plenty without saying anything.  Dad, what do you think about two men getting married?  Heíd lean forward, put his elbows on his knees, work his chew a couple of times, grin a little bit and just shake his head from side to side.


What do you think about these terrorists Dad?  They ainít men.  I also wouldnít insult an animal by calling them animals.  The President needs to give out a death warrant.  He needs to announce it to the world.  If you claim to be a terrorist, weíre coming where you are and weíre going to kill you.  No trial, no jail just dead.  We wonít quit until all of you are dead.  Theyíre the worst kind of murderers because they believe theyíre doing Godís will.  They wonít change.  They wonít stop.  We have to kill them.


Who do you like for President Dad?  You know Iím a Democrat, but I never voted for a man just because he was a Democrat.  Weíre in a war and changing leaders in the middle of itís dangerous.  Besides that, Iíll vote for the man I believe has the strongest character and believes what I do.


What do you believe Dad?  Everyman has to earn his own way, care for his family, protect the innocent, help those he can, be humble before God and fight for his country.


What do you think about those, like the ACLU, who are trying to remove public references to God?  Everyone believes in something.  Everyone worships something, themselves maybe or their ideology, but something.  Iím concerned about their purpose.  What will they have accomplished if there is no public recognition of God?  Do you know how communism managed to survive?  First, they outlawed God.


Dad, should we be fighting in Iraq?  We went after the Japanese and the Germans when they wanted to take over the world.  We put the Soviets out of business when they wanted to dominate the world with communism.  I know some donít believe that the Iraq war has anything to do with terrorism.  I believe theyíre wrong.  By going there, we are forcing the terrorists to fight us there.  No one who doesnít see that, ever will.  They argue that we should not try to impose our will on others.  Japan and Europe are peaceful and prosperous because we imposed our will.  Our will is to see peaceful democratic countries that do not breed fanatics that want to kill us.  We must impose our will; the alternative is not acceptable.  We must go where the terrorists are and destroy them there.  We cannot sit here and hope we stop the next attack on our country.  We canít build a giant wall around America.


I think about my Dad often.  I donít visualize the frail old man dying from coal minerís black lung disease.  I see a strong young man with calloused hands, a World War II sailor and the grinning Dad that rebuilt an old sled for me when he couldnít buy me a new one.  It was the fastest sled in the hollar.


All of you fathers that are away from your children serving on this day are ensuring their future.  Theyíll never forget it nor will your country.  You are this centuryís greatest generation.  Godspeed to you.