The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII
Robert Gipe and Higher Ground Company 55
CHORUS A: Stink damp. CHORUS B: Black damp.
CHORUS B: Fire damp. CHORUS C: Stink damp. CHORUS D: Black damp.
MIKE: We ran for our lives. We ran. It was trapped air from an abandoned mine that was supposed to be 500 feet above us, and it pushed black damp in on us—I had cut into black damp. And I was breathing it. I run maybe 300 foot out of the section to gather the men. I’m not sure how; I got no good air. I was trying to get them together. There was terrible danger behind me and coming fast. When we got to the man trip, I knew there were two still back there. Then the boss said— BOSS: I’ve got to go back. MIKE: And I’m struggling to breathe, but I was trying my best to get him to stay in the man trip, but he wouldn’t do it— BOSS: I gotta get ‘em. I gotta. We can ride the belt out. Keep it running! Now you all! Get out! MIKE: He went back towards where we’d come from, and that was the last time we seen him. I got out; me and the repairmen had got into the black damp bad, so we had to get to the hospital. They gave us oxygen; and I didn’t know what was going on back at the mine, so I told them at the hospital I had to go back. I’m trained for rescue, I had to go back. They didn’t want to release me, but I wanted to go. And we went back into that mine with gas masks and oxygen—all three of them were dead, so we got them on the man trip and brought the bodies out.
MIKE: Just once, I wish we’d rescue somebody living instead of just recovering a body. I think that’s why I keep doing the rescue stuff. I think I got to do it until I bring somebody out alive. Song: “Wide River to Cross,” by Buddy and Julie Miller, © 2005, Bughouse, West Bay Music, Inc., Julie’s Freakin’ Out Music, 29 Cove Road Music, and Blind Driver Music. *** Scene Five: Beauty Shop Scene opens on a beauty shop full of women . JULIA and BETH are on their way in to get their hair done by LYDIA for the wedding. Their conversation begins outside the shop . GOSSIP 4: Did you hear James is gonna sell his Papaw Grover’s land? GOSSIP 1: Him barely cold in the grave. GOSSIP 2: Just so they can strip it. GOSSIP 3: His mamaw’s tore up about it. GOSSIP 4: Poor Gertie. GOSSIP 1: I heard he was gonna marry that woman from Pounding Mill. GOSSIP 2: The one that’s got seven kids. GOSSIP 3: Eight, I heard. GOSSIP 4: I heard he already bought a big black Silverado. GOSSIP 1: I heard he got one of them new Camaros. GOSSIP 2: See now, I heard he got a Tahoe. GOSSIP 3: Haul that woman’s kids in. GOSSIP 4: That’s right. GOSSIP 1: I thought James went with Beth. GOSSIP 2: Lord, no.
CHORUS A: White damp. CHORUS B: Fire damp. CHORUS C: Stink damp. CHORUS D: Black damp.
PICKLE: Nobody said nothing much. Not at first. I’d been friends with them forever. Me and Roy we went to grade school all the way through high school. Graduated high school together. All of us worked together there. Worked at other mines together. It gets to be about like you are brothers when you’re coal miners. See them more almost than you do your own family. Listen, it tore me to pieces. Three of my brothers died. Black damn damp. But I wanna say this: that boss, he was all right. He might steal your sandwich, but that was horsing around. When push came
to shove, that man stood up. CHORUS A: White damp.
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