Uploaded on Oct 2, 2011
This song is a tribute to Charles Scott Howard, from Southeastern Kentucky, a tireless fighter for miners' rights, especially with regard to safety, and to his lawyer, Tony Oppegard, who sent me this newspaper article on which I based the song: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09...
The melody is partly based on a tune used by Woody Guthrie, who wrote many songs in support of working men, including miners.
My thanks to Marco Acca for his great guitar accompaniment at very short notice (less than an hour).
Lyrics (first part only):
Mr Charles Scott Howard told the MSHA
That using faulty mine seals can blow men's lives away.
When the mine seals fail to do their job, that's when miners die.
Twelve men died at the Sago Mine; ask the owners why.
At Darby Mine another five died before too long.
The reason was the seals were weak, and that's when things go wrong.
Their widows urged in Lexington, "Don't listen to Big Coal.
Strict seal regulations, that must be your goal."
Cumberland River Coal Company thought they were doing fine
Till Howard aired a video of the seals down in their mine.
"How dare this troublesome miner take films behind our backs
Of water spurting out through the broken mine seals' cracks!"
Though Howard didn't name the mine, they knew it was his own.
Turning on the audio was how they made it known.
He said, "They built those seals with the least man hours they could.
It's the cheapest way to do it, and surely that's no good."
... When it comes to miners' safety, he's always on the ball.
... Big coal don't like this man at all.
Mr Charles Scott Howard, he says what he feels.
"They shouldn't be allowed to build old, crappy seals.
It's an awful shame them fellers had to be smothered to death;
For the safety of the miners, I'll fight till my last breath."
When the officials saw that video they kicked up quite a row.
"I want somebody at that Cumberland mine right now!"
It wasn't long till Frazier heard about what had been done.
"It's that whistleblowing troublemaking Howard; he's the one!"
It's safety versus profits, Howard has no doubt,
When miners are endangered, he knows he must speak out.
They've fired him and fined him, tried to put him in his place,
But the courts just reinstate him. He always wins his case.
"When you bite the hand that feeds you, that's when the pressure mounts.
'Cause when you're underneath the ground, coal is all that counts.
I'm sorry Mr. Frazier if your hand feels my bites,
But I must uphold the safety code and fight for miners' rights."
Fighting for miners' safety causes stress and strain.
Last summer working underground, there was an injury to his brain,
He was found slumped unconscious in his mining car.
He still has no memories of that incident so far,
But something hit him in the head and damaged his hard hat.
It even broke his dentures. Some think they smell a rat.
It's an accident that so far nobody can explain,
But he's been fighting for the cause and he will fight again.
Howard soon became concerned with blocked escapeways too.
If there was an emergency nobody could get through,
Strewn with rocks as large as fridges, and water that's waist high.
Big Coal didn't seem to care if the miners live or die.
Howard called the hotline and the fed inspectors came.
He owned up to the call so no one else would get the blame.
They issued some citations that cost the company dear.
The rules are quite specific: you must keep escapeways clear.
He wasn't happy with the way the ventilation curtains hung.
Too much dust is dangerous; it brings about black lung.
They wouldn't let him see the plans so he thought it would be best
To make an official freedom of information request.
Tiny coal dust particles can enter with each breath.
You don't want to retire out just to choke to death.
His granddad suffered horribly from the black lung you should know
And Howard himself was diagnosed with it several years ago.
Pappo lived in misery, choking through the night,
But he instilled in Howard a sense of what is right.
His theory was the boss should treat an employee like a son.
If you show your appreciation then half the battle's won.
Howard drove the ram car, hauling coal to the conveyor belt
And anytime the ventilation was no good he felt,
He blocked the roadway with his car, so nothing could leave the hole.
"You give me some air", he'd say, "and I'll give you the coal."
No room to put all the lyrics here. For complete lyrics and chords please click here: http://raymondfolk.wetpaint.com/page/...
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