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The Appalachia Issue

Ten Years' Bad Luck

I lived in Columbus most of my life, though I was born down here in Kentucky. I moved back up here four years ago to help my dad. He lives next door. He's getting a little older-you know how that gets.

Photo by Jerry Hsu

I finally got me a trailer. It burnt down on me last year and I lost everything. A bad heater started the fire. I had me a big old porch there and everything. It burnt completely to the ground. I was away at work. I came back home about 10 o’clock and it was all in flames. It was on the worst day. There was ice so the fire trucks couldn’t even get in. These trailers go up real quick. They’re made of thin, thin wood—it’s two-by-twos instead of two-by-fours—and no drywall. That porch out back there, I’d worked on it for three years. I was proud of that. It was big—a monster! It had seats built in and everything. But I lost it all.

So I went back to Columbus again, and I suffered. I didn’t have no home or nothing. There wasn’t hardly no work either. I was staying with my mom or my kids there. We ran across this trailer here for $1,500. We all got together and the family helped us with the money. We got back down here and there was nothing here. The floors were falling in and all. But I knew I could try to get it good. Photo by Patrick O’Dell I can’t hardly work no more. All my life I hung drywall. All my life, that’s all I did. You carry the drywall on your head and it smashes your neck down. I don’t get benefits, but I’m working on it. I got to go see a bone specialist or something. It’s a long process, but I got a paper saying it’s a disease and my neck’s deteriorating and all that. We get our electricity from next door. We run a power cord over from my dad’s trailer. We just need to go easy on it. We use a couple lights and the TV. We just got our water working now, but for a long time we had to run a hose from the yard up through the kitchen window. For four years, I never had a stove. Just now, we got our new stove. Before that we were using electric skillets. Now I got my first stove and my first propane tank in my life. It’s our first heat ever in this house! Everything’s coming together. The last ten years of my life were the worst, but the last year of my life has been the best. I’m coming back from what I lost. This is a small community here, but there’s not enough work for everybody. The coal industry is a big job, and one of the major jobs out here is being a coal driver. But it’s hard. It’s a poverty community. But you know, it’s beautiful out here. Peace, quiet, the mountains… I been fighting for years just to stay here. I got things to work on, but overall I’m a super-good person. I don’t steal, I don’t cuss, I don’t lie. I try to help other people. I mow my dad’s grass even though it hurts my neck. ROGER MAYNARD