MINER'S LIFEGUARD (AKA "A MINER'S LIFE") (trad.) (c. 1900-1910)



Child labor in the coal mines (Lewis W. Hine, early 1900s)

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Like "The Weaver's Song" sung to the tune of the 19th century sacred song "Life's Railway to Heaven" (credited to M. E. ABBEY & CHARLIE D. TILLMAN), possibly based on a Welsh hymn, "Calon Lan."

Lyrics as collected and recorded by George Korson from Mrs. Luigi Gugliotta, Mt. Hope, WV, Mar 27, 1940,
and reprinted in George Korson, Coal Dust on the Fiddle, Hatboro, PA, 1965, pp. 413-415
Verses 1, 2, 4 & 5 and the chorus (with "scale" as opposed to "scales" in Korson's version) also appear in Edith Fowke & Joe Glazer (eds.), Songs of Work and Protest, New York, NY, 1973, pp. 65-67.

Miner's life is like a sailor's
'Board a ship to cross the wave;
Every day his life's in danger,
Still he ventures being brave.
Watch the rocks, they're falling daily,
Careless miners always fail;
Keep your hands upon the dollar
And your eyes upon the scale(s).1

CHORUS:
Union miners, stand together,
Heed no operator's tale;
Keep your hands upon the dollar
And your eyes upon the scale(s).

Soon this trouble will be ended,
Union men will have their rights,
After many years of bondage,
Digging days and digging nights.
Then by honest weight we labor,
Union miners never fail;
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eyes upon the scale(s).

Let no union men be weakened
By newspapers' false reports;
Be like sailors on the ocean,
Trusting in their safe lifeboats.
Let your lifeboat be Jehovah
Those who trust Him never fail.
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eyes upon the scale(s).

You've been docked and docked, my boys,
You've been loading two for one;
What have you to show for working
Since this mining has begun?
Overalls, and cans for rockers,
In your shanties sleep on rails.
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eyes upon the scale(s).

In conclusion, bear in memory,
Keep the password in your mind.;
God provides for every nation,
When in union they combine.
Stand like men and linked together,
Victory for you will prevail,
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eyes upon the scale(s).

NOTES:
1The oft-repeated warning in the chorus to "keep your eye[s] upon the scale[s]" refers to the coal owners' practice of underweighing the miners' coal cars before the unions succeeded in appointing a union checkweighman.

Edith Fowke & Joe Glazer (eds.), Songs of Work and Protest, New York, NY, 1973, p. 67

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