Dear Mr. Coal Miner,

I am writing to say thank you.

I know you don’t know me, but I have been a Coal Miner’s Daughter for 47 years.

I learned alot about my Daddy’s living through second hand information.

Loretta Lynn always made me proud to be a coal miner’s daughter. Jimmy Dean made all of us kids respect and sing “Big Bad John”.

And every now and then, Daddy would call and say, “Sister, turn it on Channel such and such, Harlan County, USA is on. Watch it. That is what we went through.”

Sometimes he would tell me to keep a certain United Mine Workers Journal magazine that told the history of their struggles.

Talk of times past and safety and strikes were normal language when I was young.

And there was always a nagging worry if you heard about news of an accident.

Your mind can worry terribly in those moments of not knowing.

It was your worst fear.

But, Daddy always told me that when the day came that I would be without him that you would take care of him.

I just didn’t realize that you would also be taking care of me too.

I found out personally how special it is to be a part of this family. I feel like I have become a daughter of many of you.

Daddy was proudly named after the United Mine Workers of America President John L. Lewis.

John Lewis Acker or John L. Acker was given his coal miner nickname of Luke.

Growing up, he would come home with those dark lines under his eyes. A teenage friend told me once that she thought it was so cool that my Dad wore eyeliner.

I thought that was hilarious.

I was used to seeing coal dust on his work clothes. His sweet hands. And under the rims of his blue eyes.

That was my normal.

What I could not see was in his lungs and in his mind. The consequences from earning a living down in the dark depths of a mine shaft.

What I do know though is the brotherhood that develops in those situations. You don’t work together in that environment without becoming close.

After his service in the U.S. Navy, he served 30 years with his United Mine Worker Brothers.

Jim Walter Resources Mine #7, Brookwood, Alabama, to be exact.

Uncle Terry gave me a phone number and I called them to find out what I needed to do after he passed away. I expected to be speaking to just someone in an office.

When the voice on the other end of the line questioned me in a surprised voice, “Did John pass away?” I then realized I was talking to someone that knew him.

He kindly said, “You don’t have to do anything, we’ll take care of it.”

And you did.

Some of you showed up to his funeral.

But ALL of you paid for it.

Almost 500 men gave $25 to take care of Brother John L. Acker.

I don’t know who you are.

But I wish I could send each and every one of you a thank you card.

In a world that seems cold and distant at times, it is incredibly beautiful to see rough and tough souls join together to take care of their own.

My Daddy was always so proud to be a part of all of you. Now I understand why.

I regret not asking him more or trying to understand what he was doing all those years that he paid his part of this fund.

I am so very thankful and proud to be a Coal Miner’s Daughter-Forever.

May God Bless Each and Everyone of You. May God keep you safe and may all of you know how much my family says-Thank you.

Cheryl Acker Dodson

2 thoughts on “Dear Mr. Coal Miner,

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