A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Daily Yonder: A handshake and one week’s pay; layoff affects more than just out of work miner

By Gary Bentley Special to KyForward When the corporate bosses show up in the changing room with a handful of envelopes, the news probably isn’t going to be good. The regional manager, mine manager, and human resources manager walked into the room while we removed our mining belts, hard hats, and boots. They began to hand out severance packages and WARN (Ed. note — Worker Adjustment and Retraining...

Daily Yonder: Stories about what it takes to work underground moving from column form to new book

By Gary Bentley Special to KyForward Gary Bentley’s first column in the Daily Yonder was also the first time his writing appeared in public. After 60 weeks of funny, profane, and heartbreaking stories about working underground, Gary is taking a break to work on a book. (Also, see this Q&A interview with Gary about his experience writing the column.) I write this letter to you, the reader, with...

Daily Yonder: Crude initiation rituals all part of the job when you’re working in the mines

By Gary Bentley Special to KyForward The whole point of high-visibility paint is that it makes things easier to see. Especially when it’s sprayed on something that’s already hard to miss, like a naked man. This installment of “In the Black” originally ran on May 30, 2016. “It’s your last day on our crew. You better be ready ’cause we’re going to cut your pants off, paint your d-ck pink,...

Daily Yonder: New miners get on-the-job training from the best sources of learning — fear and pain

By Gary Bentley Special to KyForward When giving new miners on-the-job-training, an instructor’s job is to stay out of the way and let the head teachers — fear and pain — run the class. I climbed onto the small, two-person electric cart that we used to travel through the out-by areas of the mine and to perform my daily inspections. I motioned for Lonnie Jr. and Kenny to climb aboard....

Daily Yonder: He survived a notorious mining disaster and lived long enough to change his ways

By Gary Bentley Special to KyForward Arvil had hair like Elvis, gave unsolicited advice to the corporate bosses, never cheated on his wife (exactly), and lived through one of the most notorious mining disasters in modern U.S. history. One of the older miners, Greg, was telling me about Arvil, the shift foreman at #9. “Now that dumb sumbitch was a mine manager in the late 80’s. It was one of the...

Daily Yonder: Underground, there are no easy solutions — it all comes down finally to survival

By Gary Bentley Special to KyForward A quick and easy solution for moving the belt line deeper into the mine proves to be anything but. After informing the mine manager of my interest in becoming a certified mine foreman, I was quickly transferred back to the #8 Enterprise Mine to be a roof bolter on day shift so I could acquire my electrical certification card and study for my mine foreman exam. My...

Daily Yonder: When a mountain decides it wants to come down, no roof bolt strong enough to prevent it

By Gary Bentley Special to KyForward Gary tries his best to ignore his dad’s decision to leave the family behind. But the arrival of Jack, a flesh-and-blood reminder of his dad’s complicated home life, makes that impossible. It’s so upsetting, Gary can’t even take pleasure in plotting how to get even with the section boss. To the coal company, miners are expendable. During a coal boom, the...

Daily Yonder: ‘Working the face’ like organized chaos, not to mention hazardous to your health

By Gary Bentley Special to KyForward In a last effort to wring coal from underground, miners cut away the pillars that keep the roof from collapsing. As the miners retreat, the mountain does the rest. “Mornin’. You’re going to go up to the face today.” This was very exciting news for me. The working face is where the action is. It’s also where all of the high paying jobs are. Everyone...