A Coal Miner’s Therapist
A lone scrawny man sits unaccompanied on an overturned wooden box. Dirty, worn clothes, ash covered skin, and untied boots that have seen better days rest under a path of mud and gravel. A gentle rainy mist is provided by the dull gray clouds that peak over the tops of mountains. The man sits, thinking, looking into the sky, and puffing his pipe, the voice inside his head the only friend around, “Is this the purpose of life?” [Puff, Puff, Puff] “The dredge and sledge, the darkness, the pain, the worry.” [Puff] “Money is tight. Bills are due. Work is sparse and options are few.” [Puff, Puff, Puff]. A slight pause in his cadence allows for his thoughts to wisp away like a prayer request forwarded into the eternal heavens. He slowly continues his smoking rhythm as his ponderance resumes. “I suppose things could be worse.” [Puff] “After all, I’m still alive.” [Puff, Puff, Puff] “God has granted me more time.” [Puff] “But for what?” [Puff, Puff, Puff]. “Is my purpose in life to work this eternal hell hole until there is no more black gold to be harvested?” [Puff] “Surely, not. There has to be more.” [Puff, Puff, Puff]
The man pauses to tamp the tobacco. Using a blackened stained index finger, he gently pushes the charred leaf down into the well-loved cob. Then, pulling a book of matches from his tattered shirt pocket, lights a matchstick, and applies it to the now perfectly prepped tobacco. He thinks on, “Pa did this for 50 years. And his Pa before him for 60.” [Puff, Puff, Puff] “They were good men who raised good families.” [Puff]. “But why me?” [Puff, Puff, Puff] “Why were my cards dealt to reflect this hand?” [Puff] “This life?” [Puff, Puff, Puff]
He pauses to listen as distant thunder gives the warning of an incoming storm. The mist, now evolved into a small but steady rain, does not distract the man from his thoughts. Nothing he can’t or hasn’t dealt with before. He puffs on, un-phased. His pipe not acting as a companion but rather his therapist. Absorbing his inner most concerns, his worries, his fears. “I want more for my own son.” [Puff, Puff, Puff] “How do I show him there is more outside this Kentucky holler?” [Puff] “An entire world waiting for him. Full of opportunity and chance. Full of hope and happiness.” [Puff, Puff, Puff] “Not this depressing, dead end, coal mining career. If you can even call it that anymore.” [Puff] “Good Lord if you are listening. Let my boy be removed from this purgatory.”[Puff, Puff, Puff] “Forgive him for the sins these people and myself have committed.” [Puff] “And lead him to a life of joy and purpose.” [Puff, Puff, Puff]. The man sits, his mind moving as quick as the low-lying clouds passing across the mountain tops, smothering what leaves remain among the fall stricken trees. His pipe the only comfort in the world. The only stability he can guarantee. After all, it’s cheaper than seeing a therapist, and smells nice. The man puffs on before being interrupted.
“Hey Jimmy.” Another fella’s voice crawls from an opening door behind the box where the pipe smoker resides. Out walks a large gentleman in overhauls, hat propped back on his head, half chewed stick of dried beef hanging from his jaws. “Whatcha thinking about?”
The pipe smoker (aka Jimmy) adjusts his posture. With his mind so focused on these larger issues he had yielded to remain sharp about holding an acceptable form. Looking back to address the questions presented by the larger, husky, yet just as dirty overhauled fella, the pipe smoker looks up and replies, “Nothing.” [Puff]