A Coal Miner's Granddaughter Reflects
SCOTT SIMON, Host:
Last week, NPR's Brenda Wilson traveled to southern West Virginia for a story that looked at how conditions in the coal mines affect the health of mine workers. The story brought back memories for Brenda, a coal miner's granddaughter.
BRENDA WILSON: Long before I was born, my grandfather had to leave the mines because it affected his lungs. He moved his family to a small town over the mountains in Virginia, where I was born and grew up. But the rest of his family stayed behind in and around the coal fields of Logan County. I was interviewing someone this week and discovered that he knew them all.
ROBERT SCHULTZ: My name's Robert Schultz. Everyone calls me Bob. I live at Sharples.
WILSON: One time, Lon was about to set off a blast and the inspector told him he should shout: fire in the hole - three times.
SCHULTZ: So Lon goes and wires the place (unintelligible) brings the cord out (unintelligible) fire in the hole three times, good buddy, and shot it off.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SCHULTZ: He's a good man. He was.
WILSON: That's what he said about my Uncle Frank too. Uncle Frank died in his 70s, not too long after retiring from the mines. He was a frail figure of a man then, but he'd been really muscled when he was younger. Towards the end he never seemed to get enough oxygen. And as I listened to Bob, I could hear him struggling for breath as well.
SCHULTZ: I had to quit in April of '07. I can't breathe.
WILSON: Because he smoked, the company won't accept his diagnosis of black lung and pay him disability.
SCHULTZ: Honey, in this state nothing's work-related. If you get a rock on top of your head, it fell off an airplane. (Unintelligible) job.
WILSON: I'm Brenda Wilson, NPR News.
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