Friday, November 19, 2010
Magpie 41 Grandpap's Pick Axe http://magpietales.blogspot.com/2010/11/mag-41.html
In a far corner of the basement, deep into what was once the coal cellar, barely visible from the dim light that reflected in through the block glass window, I found Grandpap's miner's pick axe, hobbled by spider webs, speckled with rust on the barren head and long forgotten. Behind it on the wall an old tin mirror reflected the worn handle and the somewhat splintered metal of the axe head, aong with another odd piece of iron pipe . How many whacks had this axe taken at walls freeing how many pounds or lumps of coal buried deep in the earth? How many miles had Grandpap trudged axe over his shoulder, metal lunch pail in the other hand, dirty boots laced tightly on his feet to another day down the dirt or muddy road in the mining camp from the shack that was their home, on toward the mine, the hole in the ground.
He told me tales when I was growing up about their life in the mines unless Grandma overheard and chastened him. "Pap, don't you talk about that with her!" I loved the stories, they were our secret. I remember the pride still in his face when he told me that he'd bought his own axe, purchased with scrip at the company store, the only store in the coal town; let those other miners use the poor tools the company furnished, not my Grandpap! He wanted his very own axe, a solid one, one that would do a good days work, one that he knew was safe and well cared for, not a cheap one where the head could fly off and take vengeance on the unsuspecting miner's skull. No, my Grandpap knew about tools and caring for them and valued ownership.
He'd talk of how the coal dust covered the miners so that he emerged from working, his face like a "czardnja" the Polish word for black person, black surrounding those bright blue eyes. As he got older, nary a grey or silver hair lightened his full head of coal black hair and he would laugh that the coal dust had so stayed in his blood that it darkened his blonde hair black transforming him from a blonde boy to a czardnja ( black) head. Strangely this reflects in me today as I age and my hair gets darker, stumping my hair dresser; most people get grey with age not darker. I who have never been in a mine or around coal dust wonder about genes, could the coal dust have stayed in the blood stream of descendants?
Grandpap was never one to squander or waste anything, there would always be another use for it someday so here it was. I have just the spot at home in my rose garden for this, new art decor, I'll hang a bird feeder from the splintered long handle; Grandpap's axe will see the light of day and recover from all that time spent in the dark. A tool, still useful today, that someday for something else. Grandpap would smile; he'd be proud.
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