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Coal mine

I have always been drawn to the strange and unusual, especially when it involves venturing off the highway onto back roads with the promise of an adventure.  On the way back from Youngest's college orientation, we found ourselves in Beckley, West Virginia at a McDonald's.  This was not our first choice, but sometimes you have to take what you can get.  While we were enjoying our fine dining experience, my eyes were drawn to this sign that was just visible from where we were sitting.  When we finished eating, I couldn't leave without a photo.  To my astonishment, Hubster asked if I wanted to visit the exhibit.  After I picked my jaw off the floor of the car, I responded "sure".
With no more than that arrow pointing the way, we set off into the wilds of West Virginia.  Youngest swore he heard the sound of banjos.  After several miles of twists and turns,  I was beginning to think that we had missed a sign.To my relief, a sign appeared letting us know that we had arrived at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.
Visitors enter the company store to purchase tickets for the mine tour and exhibits.  In the country store building, there is a gift shop and displays.  On the grounds surrounding the store are actual mining company buildings that were torn down and reassembled piece by piece on the museum grounds.  These buildings include the Superintendent's home, the company school, a church, a miner's shack, and a miner's family home.  Displays in each of the buildings give an intimate glimpse of life in the camp.
The highlight of the museum for me was the trip into an actual coal mine.  I can't even imagine the conditions that miners worked under, but the tour helped us understand just a bit.  A retired miner leads the tour and tells about working in the mines.  Antique and modern equipment is demonstrated along the route.  The conditions that miners work in are terrible under the best of circumstances.

During the tour, the guide pointed out what he called a kettle bottom. An example is shown below.  Kettle bottoms are fossilized trees.  When the miners have blasted out the rock below, the smooth sided "trees" would be freed and would drop on unsuspecting miners below--often killing or seriously injuring them.

All in all, it was an interesting stop and well worth the delay to our travels.  It certainly gave me more understanding of the hardships experienced by miners.  It also made me thankful for my job.

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