The Bluegrass Special: Coal River Journal

By Jen Osha

When I first came to the Coal River Valley of West Virginia, I was wearing my uncle’s favorite boots. Rugged, yet well cared for, they served me well stomping about on the rocky moonscape of the strip mines.  He was always a practical man.

He also sent me to West Virginia with his blessing.  My uncle Tim was a retired mechanic from the surface coal mines in southern Indiana, and a union organizer during the strike against Peabody coal.  Proud of his community and his work, he took me on a tour to show off the reclamation areas where my cousins could swim and play beneath healthy hardwood trees.  He explained to me about how the topsoil had been hauled back into mounds, to be returned to its place once the coal was extracted and the land was reclaimed.

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Grayson Samples and Jen osha perform Shumate Dam