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GUEST,Rev Lyr Req: Sago Mine Disaster (14) Lyr Add: SAGO MINE DISASTER; PITCH BLACK BY...etc 28 Sep 06

I was able to collect a few songs about the Sago disaster, mostly from online sources. Interestingly, they are very similar to many of the mine disaster songs collected by Archie Green. One significant difference seems to be, however, that while many of the older mining songs express anger or blame at the mine owners, there is nothing like that in most of the Sago songs. They are more concerned with comforting the families who were so traumatized. Some of you will remember that the families were initially told that everyone had survived, only to be told a few hours later that everyone had died. A lot of the songs focus on the miners' last moments, expressing that the miners' last thoughts were of their loved ones and God.

Here are a few of the best that I collected.

By Robert Lee Fairchild Jr. c2006

VERSE 1 (D, G, D, A7, D, G, D, A7, D)
I keep a piece of paper in my miner's coat pocket,
Just in case something bad goes down,
And I'm writing these words to the ones I love
To let you know my time has come.
There was a spark in the dark and Terry Helms went down fast.
No warning just a terrible blast.
The phone lines are dead. The tracks are blocked ahead.
Our fate is in God's hands.
So we gathered together and moved to the rear,
Sharing air and feeling no fear.
We Tallsmansville miners are waiting it out,
Protected by a thin veil of hope.

CHORUS (G, DA7, D7, G, D, A, G, D,)
So bye-bye, son and my little Bo Peeps.
I pray the Lord your souls He'll keep.
There is no pain in the way we die.
We lay down to sleep on the floor of Sago Mine.

2. It's a dark damp place where Daddy spends his time,
With dirt in his blood from old Sago Mine.
And I gave your Momma a heart on a golden chain,
So we'd never be apart when I was away.
And if we could leave now, we'd go fishing with y'all
Under a West Virginia sky so blue,
But the air's getting thin and our breath going short.
The tanks are getting low.
Now we'll pass it down from the old to the young,
So someone might come home.
These footsteps in the dust at the bottom of Sago Mine
Are the final steps of my brothers in time.

3. I know I swore to you I'd never be late,
But tonight I won't be at the gate.
No knock on the door like the times before
When I was running a little late.
Tell your Momma I love her and never forget
The good times we all shared.
Now is the time for sleep in old Sago Mine.
Our names are being called one by one.
So hold the candles high in the night
And toast our place of sleep.
There is no fear down under here
At the bottom of Sago Mine.

Written by Joe Ross. Copyright 2006. Hop High Music, BMI
Lyrics are published with the permission of the songwriter

My dad told me to have courage;
Anything could happen in the mines.
What moves men to dig day after day
Two miles below the sunshine?
It's a tough and dirty, hard way of life.
I was so proud the day I was hired.
Time goes by faster down there.
Don't complain or you might get fired.
Look for me under yonder hillside.

CHORUS: It's what I do, what I've always done,
To support my wife and kids.
Living in darkness, who needs the sun?
It's pitch black by the ton.

Another new year had come
When a blast shook Tallmansville--
Methane, coal dust, a cave-in--
One man was instantly killed.
I went down further with my brothers,
Can't remember how far and how deep.
I prayed to again see daddy's little girl.
The hours went by, and I weeped.
It wasn't bad; I just went to sleep.

Above there was a vigil.
The enemy was time from the start.
Rescue guys weren't afraid of the devil.
My wife sobbed and tried to have heart.
Our families prayed for a miracle
And then dozed off in their pews.
Just shy of midnight, the church bells rang
As good word came from the crews.
"They're all alive" was thought to be true.

The jubilation was short-lived.
The company brought terrible news.
The twelve of us had perished.
Hopes and joy above turned to blues.
McCloy was the only survivor.
The rest of us died with our pride.
Why did they do this to our loved ones?
The last words I wrote as I died:
"I'll just see you on the other side."

And here's one of the few ballads on this disaster that does call for accountability on the part of the mine owners. It's by Bill Kostelec and his group The Blue Ribbon Tea Company, from Spokane, WA.


Just another group of families sitting on a hill,
Like so many times before, red-eyed hope and stubborn will.
Outside the Sago Baptist Church with nothing to be heard,
The press boys from the city, just waiting on the word,
Just waiting on the word.

There's coffee in a thermos and there's more inside the church
Where the aluminum pot sits sputtering and the brew smells old and burnt.
The sky is gray and faceless and it rains from time to time,
Adding to the numbing misery of waiting for word up from the mine,
Of word up from the mine.

It doesn't happen all that often. It don't happen every day;
But every time it happens, it's the miners have to pay,
The miners and their families, those that get left behind.
It's the Appalachian nightmare of the men lost in the mine,
Men lost in the mine.

Inside that cold cavernous darkness, alone without a prayer,
After coal-dust fire and methane blasts leave chaos and despair;
And the mind of a man grows more confused with each breath of poisoned air,
And a weakening voice cries out again, "Where, O God, oh where?
Where, O God, oh where?"

The mine owners get citations, and they have to pay the fines,
The "unwarrantable failure orders" for ignoring dangers in the mine,
But accountants see a small price paid for the profits that are made.
Profits turn the miner's living into the gravediggers' trade,
The gravediggers, trade.

They say that government enforcement has fallen off of late.
Foxes run the henhouse and they've opened up the gate.
Too much regulation makes it hard to post your gains,
And it's the miners and their families that always feel the pain,
That always feel the pain.

It doesn't happen all that often. It don't happen every day;
But every time it happens, it's the miners have to pay,
The miners and their families, those that get left behind.
It's the Appalachian nightmare of their men lost in the mine,
Men lost in the mine.

A crackly voice in the headphones sends up at first good news,
And the word spreads like a cooling breeze to the families in the pews,
Tears of joy and hugging brides. It must be God's blessed will.
"I nearly lost my faith," one cries. "Now there's twelve men walking off that hill,
Twelve men walking off that hill."

There's singing in the Baptist Church and good news races across the wire.
TV cameras focus on the talking heads while families spirits' raise like fire;
And then a grim-faced company man steps up to the microphone.
"Somebody somehow got the message wrong. Only one man's coming home.
Only one man's coming home."

It's just the same old story, like so many times before.
The hopeless are dispersing and the church locks its wooden doors.
The press trucks leave beneath the gray sky down the muddy rutted road.
The miners' families behind the curtains are left there to bear the load,
Left there to bear the load.

It doesn't happen all that often. It don't happen every day;
But every time it happens, it's the miners have to pay,
The miners and their families, those that get left behind.
It's the Appalachian nightmare of their men lost in the mine.

January 4, 2006

Copyright 2006, W. A. Kostelec

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