This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 5 No. 1 "Good Times and Growing Pains." Find more from that issue here.

A man came today

selling aluminum siding

and storm windows

Most people around here

are buying storm windows

with their black lung money


Companies didn’t keep records

of the men who worked the mines

It’s hard to make a case in court

if you can’t prove

you worked for the company

And you have to go to court

for black lung

My grandfather was lucky

a coal car hit him

and broke his leg

He spent three weeks

in the company hospital

He might have lost the leg

but his brothers came

and made them give him up

They took him to a real doctor

in Huntington

Companies keep records

of the men who stayed

in their hospitals

It’s the law


My grandmother made the trip

to Charleston

where the sick records are kept

She waited politely

! all day in the hallway

for the paper that said

her husband had broken his leg

and stayed in the company hospital

The paper is court evidence


They were thinking of putting

a storm window in the bathroom

It gives away too much heat in the winter

It’s a big window and they asked

the salesman for an estimate

He took out his tape and measured

he figured and judged

Four hundred dollars


Get out get out of my house

(this is my grandfather)

No window costs that

How can you ask that much

Get out

And the salesman

ran out redfaced and afraid

of my seventy year old grandfather

(He’s still six feet tall)

In the front yard

my grandmother caught up with him

She said he (my grandfather)

just got worked up

and not to take it so hard

She is a patient woman