A Short Excerpt from my novel “Darryl Ray”

From Chapter 19

All around I knew there were underground tunnels left by the coal mines. Nobody bothered to keep track of them so today no one knows for sure where they are until a building cracks apart when the coal mine deep underground collapses. Even the rich people in the better part of town had cracks in their brand new ritzy houses. My grandfather told me about a mule barn built underground where the packing house is now for the mules that pulled the cars full of coal to the elevator or conveyor belt or whatever they used back then. The mules were born underground and spent their whole lives there until they died and their bodies were lifted out of the mine into the daylight for the only time so they could be hauled off somewhere for disposal. It hit me that our lives were just the opposite.

We spent time above ground until we die then we get put underground. But in every other ways our lives were the same, working until we died. We could have fun, go on vacations, get drunk, watch movies but after all of that it was back to work. The mules didn’t know any better but most people didn’t know either. If that barn ever collapsed it would probably destroy the whole building on the surface. Not knowing probably makes it better.

3 thoughts on “A Short Excerpt from my novel “Darryl Ray”

  1. There are maps of all the coal mines. They show where they have mined coal. They tell which seam was mined, these seams are at different depths. Some of the mines where around 600 feet in depth, while others were couple hundred feet.
    Some of the reacent mine subsidesence is in the Galatia area in Saline County. The coal mine there uses long wall mining, were it takes a swath of coal in that vain, about 50 yards wide and goes for about two city blocks. Sometimes more. Over a period of time this will fall in, the drop will be anywhere, couple feet too the height of the cutting they took out. So this is a short story on coal mining in Southern Illinois.

    1. You are right that that is the usual practice. But some of the mines in Belleville were operated and abandoned so long ago that there was no system in place or possibly it was done off the books as often happened in the area. My father actually told me about the underground mule barn. Most recently High Mount grade school in Belleville starting splitting in two because of an unknown, very old mine. I certainly never meant to say that all coal mines are unmapped. Thank you for pointing this out. Despite what the coal industry said when it suppressed my book The Herrin Massacre I do not engage in ‘coal bashing.’

  2. The coal mines are mapped, but frequently the maps are based on the Jones’s descriptions. Sometimes the miners didn’t clearly recall exactly which direction or exactly how far they had gone, so the maps can be unreliable.

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