While driving through Carthage I noted a sign for the 66 Drive-In Theater and wondered whether it was still open for business.
As a result of my late start it was nearly 5 p.m. as I approached Claremore, Oklahoma, home of the Will Rogers Museum. I’m going to try to visit it on my way back home.
While I had hoped to make it to Oklahoma City for the night, it was getting dark by the time I reached Tulsa, and so I have stopped here for tonight. I will need to get an early start tomorrow if I am to make it to Amarillo, Texas.
--Larry Spears [Monday, Jan. 11, 2010]
Seeing the Mother Jones Monument reminded me of my Grandfather Lucian C. Spears (1898-1978). For most of his life, Grandpa lived and worked in Southwestern Virginia (Scott and Lee Counties). From the 1920’s until the mid-1950’s he spent his day’s underground, doing the dangerous and back-breaking work as a coal miner. In 1954 he was caught in a mine cave-in and literally had his back broken. Eventually, he was healed and was able to walk again, but he never went back into the coal mines. In his later years he suffered from Black Lung disease as a result of his many years of breathing coal dust.
I was lucky to have grown up living near my Grandpa and Grandma Spears, both of whom I dearly loved. Lucian C. Spears was a tall, strong, quiet man who would do whatever he could for anyone. Years before I had ever heard the term “servant-leader,” I was blessed to grow up with such a splendid example. And while I don’t recall him ever speaking about Mother Jones, I do recall him speaking fondly of John L. Lewis, the noted head of the United Mine Workers of America who helped to secure collective bargaining rights and health and retirement benefits for coal miners and others. Grandpa was not the kind of person to talk about how difficult life had been working in the mines all those years, but it was impossible not to sense it.
In 2007, I travelled back to Southwestern Virginia for some genealogical research. I drove up into the mountain to Bonny Blue, Virginia, one of the coal mines where my Grandpa had once worked. It had been closed for many years after the seams were worked out, but new coal mining extraction techniques had recently prompted it to re-open. I drove up to the gate and managed to get the guard to let me in (after signing a paper stating that I understood I was entering a dangerous work area at my own risk!). Danger