My bedroom door creaked and woke me up. Mother tiptoed into the room and whispered, "Little Ned, the miners are coming."
I threw off my blanket and ran to the window. I pushed the curtains aside and raised the sash. Like they did every morning, the miners marched down the road one behind the other. They wore clean overalls and tin helmets with flashlights on top and carried their lunch buckets under their arms. They looked like one-hundred Seven Dwarfs, only they didn't sing and Snow White was nowhere in sight. Oh, how I wanted to be a coal miner.
"Mother," I asked. "Can I go up Coal Mountain with the miners someday."
"No-oo. I told you before, coal mining is dangerous work. The most dangerous work there is in the whole State of West Virginia. But If it weren't for those lumps of coal those brave miners drag up from the belly of that there mountain, we'd be mighty cold in the wintertime."
"Can I sit by the road when they come home tonight."
"Lordy me, child, if you don't take the buttercake. You went yesterday, the day before that, every day for-"
"Oh, okay, but get on home as soon as they've passed you by."
In the evening-my most favorite time of the day-I took my spot beside the Coal Mountain road and clapped my hands, hoping the miners would hurry up on down the road. Soon, the miners would appear, walking crookety, jabbering away, swinging their lunch buckets back and forth, their helmet lights twinkling in the evening dusk. Soon I'd see their coal-dirty overalls, smudgy hands and faces, looking like circus clowns dusted in charcoal. Oh, what fun it must be to be a miner-to spend the day swinging the axe, knocking coal lumps off the cave walls deep beneath the ground, getting dirty, and no mothers around to tell you to get cleaned up.
Most evenings, when the miners passed me by, they'd say, "Hello, Little Ned, when you coming up to the mine" and "Hey, coal boy, we sure could use your help." Sometimes, one of them would open up his lunch bucket and throw me an apple or a piece of candy. I liked Joe the best. He'd stop and show me his yellow canary bird he had trained to sing when there was trouble at the mine.