Monthly Archives: July 2014

Storytime – The Missing Miners

coalmine1The newspaper article was buried on page seven, just beyond the obituaries. It could hardly have drawn much attention, and it was only a fluke that I saw it. The newspaper had come apart on the subway, and that torn page happened to be at my feet. I picked it up, just something to kill the time while I traveled mile after mile under the city. The first thing on the page that pulled me in was the big ad for winter coats, and boy did I need one of those. After I read the fine print on the ad, I moved on to other things, and it was then that I saw the headline, “Miner Disappears in Infamous Coal Mine”. Well, you never know, I say, so I started reading the account of the disappearance.
Apparently this particular coal mine had achieved a certain level of notoriety after it was revealed that a number of miners had disappeared there over the years, and this latest one brought the total to eight. Now, this was becoming interesting. If the headline had said something like, “Miner Falls to Death in Coal Mine”, or maybe, “Miner Crushed When Mine Collapses”, it just couldn’t be termed ‘news’. But, a disappearance, now this had the seeds of a mystery in it. Were there hidden holes or passages in that mine? Not likely, since the place had been in operation for over seventy years – it had to be well-mapped. What could account for a disappearance? Or eight of them?
A few things about myself: I’m just an average Joe, as they say. I work in an office downtown, helping put together boring city directories. I live in the suburbs with my wife and 2.3 children – got one on the way, you know. I have the usual hobbies: fishing, camping, bare-handed wolf strangling, all that mundane stuff. But, I do have one other thing that consumes a lot of my ‘daydream time’.
I like to think about travel to other times, or perhaps to other dimensions. And, since I have never read about anyone producing an actual time machine, or a machine that allows us to travel between dimensions, I have been thinking that maybe there are ‘doorways’ to these other places, and all we had to do was locate one, and we could step into…… hmmm, I wonder where or maybe ‘when’, we might wind up, beyond the doorway.
So, as I wander through my ordinary life, I like to keep my eyes open for unusual things, unusual events, anything that might be waving a little flag my way that says, “Hey, something ODD is going on here. Maybe it’s one of those DOORWAY things!”
And, this is what the missing miner article did for me. I had a mental picture of a fellow down in the earth, swinging a pick, driving a tram, doing any of the various things that miners do, and all at once he stumbles at the right point or leans on the wall at the right place, and BINGO, he’s ‘elsewhere’. It could happen, as they say. Maybe there is a ‘time nexus’ or a ‘dimensional nexus’ down there. Maybe I could find it. Maybe.
Of course, now we have to wonder, “How can Joe Average go exploring in a coal mine?” I decided to check it out, see what the possibilities might be. The mine location wasn’t terribly far away, just a three hour drive from home. I’d concoct a story for the wife, something about needing to go to check out one of our company printing locations, and I’d be gone for a few days. I think she’d buy it, I mean wives aren’t suspicious, right?
A few days later, I was in Coaldale, Pennsylvania, and I started hanging out in a few of the blue-collar bars, checking out the miners who frequented the places. I started engaging some of them in conversation, telling them I was writing a story for my local newspaper, and trying to find out exactly where the disappearances were taking place, as near as they could tell. It wasn’t long before I found an agreeable foreman who had knowledge of the location, and who could get me a visitor’s pass. All I had to do was show up at the mine entrance with that pass, and he’d meet me there tomorrow morning. This was going great!
Next day, there I was, hundreds of feet underground, feeling very claustrophobic and very dirty. I already had coal dust smeared on me, I mean the stuff was just naturally everywhere, and I could even taste it. I wondered if you could get black lung disease after only one day of inhaling the stuff.
The foreman, Ed Turley, explained that he’d have to leave me there alone for awhile because he had things he had to do, and he’d be back for me in a few hours. Sounded good to me! I was near the tunnel that was gobbling up miners, so maybe I’d hit my own kind of paydirt.
I was somewhat unsure how I might pursue this, but as he left I steeled myself and started walking slowly down the tunnel, following the small illuminated patch ahead of me that was created by my helmet lamp. How do you recognize a nexus, anyway?
After walking for maybe one hundred fifty yards, or possibly eighteen miles, hard to tell in the dark, I noticed a shimmering patch on the tunnel wall ahead, maybe five feet off the floor, on my right side. I slowly approached, testing my footing every bit of the way and shining my flashlight at every bit of the tunnel wall as I got closer.
I reached the area of the shimmering patch and leaned in toward it, peering, trying to see if it was some kind of a window, as well as a doorway. There were indistinct shapes there, slowly moving around, but I couldn’t make out anything that was familiar. Slowly, I extended my hand, hoping I could touch it safely, and still withdraw without committing. My fingers made contact.
A hand came through the patch and grabbed my wrist, pulling me in with tremendous strength. It was a dirty hand, appearing to be smeared with coal dust, just as mine were. It happened in slow motion, with the hand pulling, and me pulling against it, but losing ground, sliding across the gritty floor of the tunnel, feeling myself being dragged into the shimmer. A brief moment of bright light, then….
I was face to face with the owner of the hand, and he was shouting into my face, trying to be heard over the roaring and clanging of the monster machines that towered over me. It appeared to be a long row of boilers, with countless sweating men shoveling coal into those ravenous, roaring maws.
He was shouting at me again, and this time I was able to hear him say, “Here, you lazy Irish scum, take this shovel and get back to work. I’ll not be having you sneaking off again, I guarantee you that, me bucko!”
I opened my mouth to answer him, and was immediately knocked to the floor by his massive fist. He leaned over me, glowering, and said, “There, does that answer your question? Now, get to work or you’ll be getting no water for the next three hours, by God!”
I struggled to my feet and took the scoop shovel he thrust my way. I quickly stripped off my shirt and jacket, grabbed the shovel and started moving the chunks of coal, feeding the inferno in front of me. In short order I was exhausted, with rivers of sweat coming off my body. I kept at it as long as I could, then I apparently collapsed, because everything became dim and confused and I fell to the floor.
I woke up, sitting against the hard steel wall, just back from my assigned work station, and a fellow in a grimy white jacket was pouring more water into my mouth. I gasped and choked, then sat up and shook my head, trying to understand what was going on. My angel of mercy leaned in close, then said, “You better get back at it, laddie. This ship, this ‘unsinkable Titanic’, has a mighty hunger for coal, and we need everyone to do his duty!”

How Green Was My Roadster

How Green Was My Roadster
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This is the story of a whim, which started innocently enough during our drive after church, about a week ago. I made some remark about a favorite car from years ago, and Kate was asking me specific questions about my cars of yesteryear, and what would be my dream car. I first said, “Well, I always wanted a 1956 Ford Starliner convertible.” 1956 Ford StarlinerAs I drove along, she was amusing herself by looking up things on her smartphone, and began to enter search terms into EBay, including “1956 Ford Starliner”. She reported, “Hmmm, no hits.” No problem, we’re just entertaining ourselves while driving. She said, “What other cars have you loved or wanted in the past?” I said, “I really enjoyed owning and driving that 1964 MGB roadster, and I kinda hated having to give it up, but we had to have good transportation for work. That 1964 car had LOTS of problems, so it just wasn’t reliable enough to keep.” I didn’t mention the dream about owning a Rolls-Royce 😦 Rolls-Royce-Phantom-I-Jonckheere-Coupe_3
Nothing much was said as we drove along, with me listening to the radio and Kate fiddling with her smartphone. After a bit, she reported, “Well, there are several MGB’s on EBay – how much would you consider spending on this dream? I think you should pursue it, it’s something you really like and it’s something we could both enjoy.” I thought for a bit, and then came up with a figure, then said, “We could take the money from the IRA account. That amount won’t put us in the poorhouse, and it’d be fun, like you said.” So, Kate was back on the smartphone, looking at MGB ad postings. “Here’s one that has a lot of bids, and they are closing the bids soon. Wanna try it? I thought for a bit, then said, “Sure, why not?” mg links She entered a bid, while reporting to me that the “reserve” had not yet been met, meaning that the seller really wanted somewhat more that the bids were showing, but we’d try it, anyway. The bids were due to close in about 3 hours, so we waited out the afternoon for results. As it happened, ours was the high bid, but the seller elected not to release it at that price. Oh, well.
Later that day, Kate found another car listing in Overland Park, Kansas, so we tossed out a bid on that one. The photos showed a beautiful 1980 MGB, with a shiny green finish (British racing green), really looked nice. And, when the bidding closed, guess what? WE GOT THE CAR! WHOOPEE! 🙂
I knew it was going to be a “project car”, and would require a lot of fiddling and repairs to keep it running, but this time it was to be just a fun car, without the pressure of keeping it running for commuting purposes. Just a little trivia – “MG” stood for “Morris Garages”, the early name of the company which was to manufacture the cars.KC
We made a down payment on the car to seal the deal, using Pay Pal, then waited for Monday morning to get the funds transferred into our checking account to finalize everything. We phoned the sellers, Larry and Patty Zerrer in Overland Park, and told them to expect us Wednesday evening.
Monday morning, trip to the bank, very helpful folks down at Chase Bank in Corydon. Thanks, Marti Jo Scott for all your assistance! The funds would be available on Wednesday morning, no problem. Kate had to work her night job on Tuesday, so the plan was for me to get things ready so that when she arrived home from work on Wednesday morning, we’d throw everything in the truck (so we’d have a tow vehicle) and head first to the bank to pick up the cashier’s check, then head out on our road trip to Overland Park.
And, that’s just how it worked out. The money was there, as promised, and we got the cashier’s check and headed west. The computer said it was approximately an 8-hour drive, so it wasn’t going to be terribly taxing. Since Kate was “running on no sleep”, the driving would be all up to me, so 8 hours seemed do-able for one driver.
Our drive was uneventful, and we showed up at the Zerrer house that evening, and, after introductions all round, went immediately to their garage, where our new purchase was parked. They had another MG parked alongside it, and out in the driveway was an MGB-GT that belonged to their son. Quite the MG family 🙂 Larry explained that he had big plans for the car, initially, but he had some health issues that would interfere, so they decided to sell it. I know they hated to see it go. Larry and Patty were very nice folks, and were a pleasure to visit with. So, the time came to say goodbye, and I backed the roadster out of their garage, then followed Kate over to the hotel for our one-night stay.
We had already discovered one aggravating problem with the car, and it was that the headlights were behaving strangely. Kate had told me when we arrived at the hotel that my lights were going on and off as she observed me in her mirrors, so I needed to look at that. As it turned out, the lever switch on the left side of the steering column was somewhat floppy, and if you bumped it, the headlights would come on. Also, if you closed the driver’s door too firmly, they would come on. Hmmm – I needed to address that problem so the battery wouldn’t go dead at some inopportune time.
We had some minor fears about the safety of the car, because there’s just no way you can really lock up a convertible to keep out a determined thief, but our fears were unfounded, and sure enough, it was still parked right where we left it, next morning.
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After breakfast, Kate drove the pickup and I followed along behind, as we went over to the U-Haul place to pick up the tow dolly we had reserved. We got hooked up there, no problem, then I rigged up some miniature tie-wraps to hold the balky lever switch in place. Time to hit the road! It seemed like the drive home took about 16 hours, but that’s how things go – it’s always more exciting and interesting on the way, but time dragged on the way home. I was kinda nervous about the tow dolly thing, never having done that before, but we had no problems.IMAG2763
We were heading home on July 3rd, and had an invitation to visit friends that evening to watch fireworks at their home, so we hoped we’d arrive in time to enjoy that gathering. We had something of a late start that morning, plus losing an hour by driving east, so it soon became apparent that we’d be arriving after 8PM, but figured we’d still have time to make it before the show began.
As we came into Corydon, we pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, and then disengaged the MG from the tow dolly. Kate had been chatting with a friendly truck driver who was out walking his dog and stopped by to watch the tow dolly action. He was nice enough to offer to watch our truck and tow dolly while we were gone, since he had planned to sleep there in his truck anyway, and would be nearby. Very nice fellow!
We whizzed over to our friend’s house, got there in plenty of time, and enjoyed several hours of fireworks and fellowship. Our friends were all excited to see the new addition to our family, and all approved! 🙂
After the fireworks ended, time to head for home and get some rest. We climbed into the little car, and I cranked it up. No major problems presented themselves, but the dash lights were not working, and I wasn’t sure about the tail lights. We took off for home, and then my cell phone rang – it as one of our friends, telling me that we had NO tail lights! Dang! I elected to just ‘go for it’, and we drove back to Wal-Mart without incident, left the MG there overnight, then retrieved it next morning. It’s now safely in the garage. 🙂 Kate observed that “everything went without a hitch, except for having to hitch up that tow dolly!” 🙂
That’s our saga, hope you enjoyed reading about it. By the way, Kate already has plans to enter our fun vehicle in some car shows, so, go get yourself a fun car – we’ll see you at the car shows, ok? 🙂
pssst, maybe we can call the little car “The Green Hornet”, whaddya think?
p.s. I figured out the lighting problems next day – I finally found the headlight switch, which was mounted on the side of the steering column, somewhat hidden under the steering wheel, so that’s why I didn’t see it at first. The ‘floppy’ switch has to do with “flashing the headlights” to indicate that you wish to pass. Anyway, now the headlights/taillights work fine 🙂
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