Where land and sky meet By Jaye...

MY BEST SHOT

September 17, 2000

MY BEST SHOT

Where land and sky meet

By Jaye Dansicker, Sparks

During a year of study, a friend and I were exploring Land's End, the southwestern tip of England, where the earth abruptly ends over white cliffs that dive hundreds of feet straight down to the English Channel. While we were there, a torrential rain came out of nowhere. To our amazement and delight, this spectacular double rainbow developed only yards away.

A MEMORABLE PLACE

Workers below the earth

By Lynn Pakulla

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

My husband and I took a much-needed getaway from work and spent a week in my hometown of Scranton, Pa., where my parents still live.

One afternoon, we took a trip to McDade Park. There are swimming and picnic facilities there as well as the Anthracite Museum and the Lackawanna Coal Mine.

On a tour of the mine, a coal car operated by a pulley took us 300 feet below the ground. It was interesting to see how dark, damp and claustrophobic it felt to descend so deep into the earth. Below, you can see how the mine was laid out like an underground city with a main road, side roads and narrow tunnels. I thought about the miners who worked there in the late 1800s, spending 12-hour days in deplorable conditions.

The miners descended each morning before dawn into the mines. At the bottom, darkness surrounded the workers except for the lamps on their helmets. The temperature remained at a constant 47 degrees year-round. There was always the threat of dangerous gases, cave-ins, runaway coal cars, flooding from underground rivers and large pieces of rock crashing down on them.

The amazing thing to me was how many children also worked there.

Boys as young as 7 years old worked at the top of the mine, operating machines that broke large chunks of coal. Other boys called "nippers," usually 11 to 13 years old, had the job of sitting behind heavy wooden doors all day to open and close them as the coal cars came through.

If they fell asleep and missed opening the door in time, they could be crushed to death by the heavy cars.

During the mining era, it has been estimated that at least one anthracite worker was killed daily in Pennsylvania coal country.

There were no labor unions or child labor laws at that time. The miners tried to organize and strike for better working conditions, but it was difficult organizing people who spoke so many different languages. Many of the mine workers were immigrants new to the country.

The nearby Anthracite Museum has many photographs, displays, written records and details of this bygone era.

We have many, many blessings today. May we always remember the hardships of those who came before us and forever be thankful.

I found out from my father that the mine I toured was the Dunmore vein. It happened to be the same place my grandfather worked for many years, saving up enough money to bring his family to this country in 1927.

Lynn Pakulla lives in Ellicott City

READERS RESPOND: WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO GO BICYCLING?

The Everglades Fla.

Betty and John Horsham, Reisterstown

"After taking a tram tour through the Everglades National Park, we vowed to return and bike it. What an exhilarating experience. Part of me was very apprehensive, because this is not your normal biking trail. You are pedaling along and suddenly you spot an alligator!"

Peloponnesus, Greece

Erik Andersen, Downers Grove, Ill.

"After visiting the Adventure Travel Exhibit in Chicago, we decided to take a two-week bike tour through the Peloponnesian peninsula in Greece. Each day we biked a full route to the next hotel and town. We mixed some intense exercise with cultural exposure to the birth of civilization."

Kent County, Md.

Connie Ambrose, Chestertown

"My favorite place to go bicycling is Kent County. All I have to do is step out of my house and I'm there. I can ride for miles without seeing another vehicle, and much of the life I see is on four legs or flies. Hope to soon be waving to you on your ride through our beautiful county."

Our Next Question: Where is the best place to hold a family reunion and why?

Please answer in 50 words or less. Send via fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Photos are welcome.

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