For many years, the coalminers of Logan County have worked themselves into oblivion. They have toiled through the horrific darkness of the mines to provide for their families and labored under the moaning and groaning of the settling mountains just to satisfy the consumer demands for heat and electricity. To sum it up, they use the very best of their physical health to work themselves to death.
For many miners, retirement comes with the discovery of pneumoconiosis or black lung as it is best known. It is also common for the miner to come face to face with dereliction from the coal producers that employed him. And it is painful to think that all of the men and women who died of a terminal illness or injury that was related to their employment in the mines, take their departure and are soon forgotten.
Therefore, to the memory of all those men and women who have worked through the dust and dismay that the mining industry has to offer, I am introducing to everyone a former miner and my uncle, Laymond Ballard.
Laymond Ballard was born on November 13, 1938 at Hunt, West Virginia. As a child he was grandma's baby boy. He was very obedient and considerate to the necessities of the family with all of the wood-chopping that had to be done at that time. I have often heard my mother and aunt's jokingly talk about Grandma referring to him as her "little waterdog" because of his ardent desire to go swimming at the sandbar in the Guyandotte River with his 3 sisters; Opel, Hazel and my mother Jean. As a brother, Uncle Laymond was very protective of his sisters despite the childish pranks that I have often heard they repeatedly done to him. Furthermore, he was a brother who never held grudges against others.
He became a coal miner in the late 60's for various mines on Buffalo Creek and began working for Dehue Coal Mines in 1970 where he was employed until 1985 as an electrician. He left the mines shortly after the necessary removal of one of his lungs. But prior to his lung problems no one that I have spoken to in the family can recall him missing a single day of work. Like many miners before him, he had to face court room litigations and legal battles in order to get the benefits that he had worked for during his tenure at Dehue Mines. Moreover, like many other miners, the union blackballed him. Nevertheless, he had his family and friends there with him through it all.
As a father, Uncle Laymond was honest, firm and disciplined. He was very unyielding and determined in his ways, yet, he was a paragon that other children could only wish to have as a father. To his 6 children and 13 grandchildren; he was loving, affectionate and he always seemed to have time to listen.
As a husband, he was devoted to my Aunt Liz. And in the light of the personality that I knew, it could only take death to separate them. However, by faith in Jesus Christ, that will only be for a short while.
As an uncle, I will never recall him as a boring person to be around. He was real fun to be with and he always enjoyed telling a good joke. Whether a person was 5 years old or 105 years old; Uncle Laymond had a special joke for every moment and situation. And his eventful stories were a grand display of all he could do to catch a rabbit that always caught my attention as a child. Furthermore, I will not forget the way he emphasized honesty and it's importance in the lives of everyone.
It was several months before his passing that I got to speak to him over the telephone. It was our first man-to-man conversation about attending church and daily prayer. I could hear the readiness in his voice as he told me how he talked daily with God. I could hear the longing in his heart to find comfort not just for himself but for his family as well.
Forgetting myself in that conversation, I made a remark about retirement from the mines. Uncle Laymond giggled a little and told me, "Bobby this isn't retirement I am still waiting for Jesus to grant that to me. That is the unsaid prayer of every miner like me." Uncle Laymond always had a way of saying words that stuck with you for the longest period of time.
The Lord finally took him home on October 22, 2002. He was only one of the many miners who had to leave this world the way that he did. However, his life is a story and a witness of the man I may never ascertain. His family loved him, the community held him in high regard and his personality and attitude are sought-after attributes everywhere you go. His legacy as a paradigm among West Virginian's is still respected. And if he had one more sentence that he could tell everyone, I think he would say, "Trust in the Lord."