The Daily

Great High Mountain

“You,” Mother Jones yelled at the gallused, grizzled men. “have stood and seen yourselves robbed.” Of every ton of coal they mined, “so much was taken out, and professional murderers were hired to keep you in subjugation, and you paid for it! Damn you, you are not fit to live under the flag. You paid professional murderers with that money you were robbed of, and then you never said a word. You stood there like a lot of cowards, robbed by the mine owners. And you let them do it, and then you go about shaking your rotten head – not a thing inside. You call yourselves Americans. Let me tell you, America need not feel proud of you.

Thunder In The Mountains, Lon Savage

Around the time that Mother Jones was organizing miners, my Mom’s family was settled in Ravenswood, West Virginia, between Charleston and Parkersburg – a little ways from the coalfields down south. They proudly documented themselves (and the fact that they were here and mattered) with photographic portraits – even though that was a new and not readily available art form. They posed their babies like phantom spectres floating to heaven.

They sat still without smiling so that the primitive lens accurately captured their still set faces. Like all Wilderness Mountain settlers, they took solace and protection in the huddle of family. Family reunions were held at a local park where you still have to stand at a 45 degree angle just to stay upright. That’s not a joke.

Once I stood at the foot
Of a great high mountain
That I wanted so much to climb
and on top of this mountain was a beautiful fountain
That flowed with the waters of Life.I fell down on my knees
At the foot of this mountain
I cried, Oh Lord, what must I do
I want to climb on this mountain
I want to drink from this fountain
That’s flowing so clear to my view.
When I heard a sweet voice
From the top of this mountain
Saying, Child put your hands in mine
Start climbing slowly, watch yourself at the edges
and take one step at a time.
I started climbing upwards
Takin’ one step at a time
the higher I got the harder I climbed
I’m still climbing upwards
and my journey almost empty
I’m nearin’ the top and all can see the view
Oh, the water flows so freely
There’s enough to make you free
So friend if you’re thirsty
Climb this mountain with me
Great High Mountain, Ralph Stanley