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‘Fire in the Hole’ documents the life and times of coal miners

By Staff | Jul 30, 2014

In Europe a poster outside a coal mine office read:

Wanted – Coal Miners for American mines:

Providing ocean steam passage, keep en-route, and railroad transportation.

Destination is Weir City, Kansas – where there is freedom, and

Plenty of wide open spaces and free homestead land, and

Where the buffalo still roam.

Regular departure dates from the Antwerp Port.

On that New Year’s Day two Austrian miners responded and embarked on a great adventure to America, that great land of opportunity for the huddled masses, where they found jobs, wives, and happiness despite all the dangers, narrow escapes, and disappointments.

In the late 1880’s these two Austrian coal miner brothers were among the thousands of Europeans that were immigrating to America. Going to work as ‘scab’ replacements for the striking miners at one of the many mines of the booming Southeast Kansas coal fields; they were looking for a better life. Instead they found the same dangerous and unhealthy working conditions plus some new adversities – foreign prejudices, squalid coal camp conditions, austere mining company practices, and increasing labor disturbances.

This generation of hardy individuals persevered, however, with the help of their close-knit families, steadfast friends, their moonshine whiskey sedative, and their romantic encounters.

The pages of “Fire in the Hole” provide real insight into the drudgeries of coal mining and the lives of the coal mining families while the vibrant characters also enjoy their Saturday night adventures and holiday celebrations – experiencing everything from dreary coal camp life to fancy mine convention ballrooms, from such activities as box socials, family gatherings, and quilting bees to saloon brawls, waylayings, and murders, and from pastoral picnics and hunting trips to a flight to elude a pursuing posse, and riding with the Bald Knobbers. The families were saddened by the worsening of their family member’s chronic ‘black lung’ condition and dreaded the day they might feel the rumbling earth after an explosion and the continuous wail of the steam whistle signaling trouble at the mine in the middle of the afternoon.

“Fire in the Hole” is the work of John Kekac, an avid reader and writer, especially of historic fiction, and a longtime member of his regional writer’s societies, which are affiliated with the Missouri Writer’s Guild. His complete writing profile can be viewed on the Missouri Author’s Directory. Although having lived in the lead mining districts of Missouri for many years, he was born and raised in the coal fields of southeast Kansas, and is a second and third generation descendant of several of the deep shaft coal mining families of that era. John is a retired Mineral Area College instructor with considerable graduate work past his master’s degree from Kansas State College of Pittsburg and the Universities of Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, and Arizona.

– Visit johnkekac.wordpress.com