“Ruby, don’t take your love to town”. She knew the whole song by heart and was a die hard fan of Kenny Rogers. Country music wasn’t her favorite but singing along with her mom on road trips, Kenny’s hits were always in the mix. Some of the country hits, especially, hit home with her mother, but they sang them loud and strong in spite of it. Suzy’s mother had somewhat adapted to the loss of her husband, and these road trips were a form of therapy to get away from the house full of memories.
Suzy remembered it well, although she was only ten years old. Her father was a coal miner. There was a long conveyor belt onto which the coal was placed. The belt carried the ore out and up into a tall hopper where the coal is held, then dropped into an open freight train car. There were 100 train cars lined up, each to receive 100 tons of coal from the hopper.
Shoveling the coal onto the conveyor belt that moved along about 600 feet per minute was an ordinary part of his job, even though thinking of it gave Suzy the chills. She didn’t have her father’s sense and the idea of being underground every day made her claustrophobic. It was dangerous, but the mine workers accepted danger as part of their vocation. They were paid well and most had no other local choice for employment.
Suzy’s father was killed when he was caught in the roller of the conveyor belt. There were no witnesses and no help was called till they noticed he was missing. This tragic accident is not uncommon in stories of the mining industry. Suzy and her mother helped each other cope with his loss. The mining community gathered around them, comforting as best they could, some having had similar experiences.
This new road trip was necessary to help forget the anniversary of her father’s death. They were on their way to California. So many activities there would keep their minds distracted for a while. Suzy couldn’t help but let a tear escape as the memory flooded back. She heard thunder outside and rolled up the window of the car as it started to rain.