Photographs and Memories, part 9

Col. George K. Roberts

Department of the Army

March 27, 1919

Col. Roberts:

All is quiet at the Mountain Air mine for the present. There are the usual grumblings but no increased discussion of strikes. Per your request, I expressed interest in reading any progressive literature that might be available, but at present none seems to exist.

I agree, the news from the south of the state is troubling. I pray that we can avoid violence.

I do not want to sound presumptuous, but I believe it would be enlightening for your supervisors to tour the area. The conditions in the coal camps must be seen to be understood. It is similar to the European front – there is the constant fear of attack from the other side. The difference is that there are women and children here.


E.R. Jarrell


Privies along alley in coal company housing project. Russell Lee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, June 19

Sunday dawned hot, with the promise of thunderstorms later. Dennis and Toni went to church – a regular occurrence for them, apparently. Toni asked if any of us wanted to accompany them; we all politely declined. After the hubbub of the previous day, all the dads wished for a quiet day for Father’s Day.

Everyone was headed in the direction of the back porch when I stopped Jeff and Kevin. “I want to talk to you about Dad.”

Kevin and Jeff looked at each other. Jeff said, “Maybe we should go back to the family room.”

I led the way and sat, propping my foot on an ottoman. “I’m worried about him.”

Kevin said, “It’s always hard for him to come here. To go to the cemetery.”

Jeff sighed. “I hoped Barb would be good for him. She wasn’t.”

Kevin said, “You know – they were together for three years. I know their problems didn’t develop over night, but it still seemed like he dismissed her awfully easily.”

I said, “It’s been a tough year for him, with the Barkley family back in the forefront thanks to the inheritance, and then Belinda Marcus’s trial for killing Gavin Barkley. Mom has been on his mind a lot.”

Jeff said, “She’s been on all our minds.”

I said, “I think someone should talk to him about it.”

Kevin said, “We’re his kids. I don’t know if he’ll listen to us.”

“Maybe not.” But an idea struck me. “Maybe he’ll listen to his own dad.”


Dennis and Toni came back with fish and chips for everyone – not entirely up to British standards, but the best I’d ever had in the US. Finally the rain arrived and most of us ended up napping through the afternoon. At dinnertime Pete and Linda cleaned out the fridge and presented a wide array of leftovers.

After dinner Toni set out fixings for ice cream sundaes. I was pouring chocolate syrup over mine when the doorbell rang.

It was Tyler again, tears streaming down his face. Linda pulled him into the kitchen and hugged him while he cried. Finally he calmed down and Toni handed him a bowl of ice cream. He sagged into a seat at the table and began to eat.

Everyone else had drifted into the family room to provide some privacy, leaving Toni, Linda, Val and me in the kitchen with Tyler. I said, “What’s going on?”

He swallowed a spoonful of ice cream and shook his head disconsolately. “Blair’s relatives are the most horrible people I’ve ever met. I can’t believe I’ll be related to these cretins.”

Val said, “Just because you’re related to them doesn’t mean you have to spend time with them.”

“I’d better not have to. I never want to see any of them for as long as I live.”

I said, “Um – you’ll have to see them at least twice more.”

Linda shot me a glare that said, Not helpful. “Was Blair’s New York aunt there?”

“Yeah.” He sniffed and ate more ice cream. “She got into a vicious argument with his dad. They’re brother and sister and haven’t spoken to each other for years.”

Toni murmured, “Oh, dear.”

Val said, “What about the rest of them?”

“They’re blobs. Human blobs. Blair’s dad is an asshole, but at least he’s got a personality. His mother’s relatives all just sit there chewing. Even the ones who are younger.”

I said, “Where is Blair now?”

“At home. We had an argument. We got in the car and I said something about his family, and he said, ‘I don’t like your family any more than you like mine. I’m stuck with yours, you’re stuck with mine.’”

Val and I looked at each other in dismay. Toni was outraged. “How dare he. After everything your dad and mother have done for him. His family isn’t contributing to this rehearsal or wedding at all. They haven’t even offered. They haven’t even contacted us.”

Linda said gently, “Ty, honey, it’s not too late to back out.”

Ack. Should we be encouraging that line of thinking? I said, “Um…”

Tyler had been staring miserably at his empty bowl; now his head shot up. “It is too late. Everything’s arranged and paid for.”

Practical Val said, “That’s a sunk cost. It’s paid for whether you get married or not.”

Tyler shook his head. I said, “Ty, I think you need to talk to your mom. And you seriously need to talk to Blair.”

“I know.” Tyler wiped his eyes with a paper napkin. “I shouldn’t have told you all that. Now you’ll hate Blair.”

Linda said, “No, sweetheart, we won’t hate him. But he is not our concern. You are. We want what’s best for you, not necessarily for you and Blair together.”

Tyler nodded weakly and picked up his phone. “I’m gonna call Mom.”


Tyler left for his mother’s house not long after. Marilyn and Cliff lived in Front Royal, Virginia, a little over an hour away. Toni made him promise to call when he arrived.

Once he was out the door, Linda, Toni, Val and I joined the others in the family room. Dennis said, “What the hell was that about?”

Toni related what Tyler had said, including what Blair had said about us – which I personally would have left out. When she repeated that, there was a stunned silence.

Doug said mildly, “Well. Good to know.”

Sarge made a “pah” sound. “All the grandkids so far have ended up with keepers. Bound to get a lemon in the bunch.”

Kevin and Will, the two cousins with divorces behind them, looked at each other. Will said, “Maybe Ty will end up with a keeper too, eventually.”

I said, “He may end up with a keeper this time. Yes, Blair is weird and doesn’t fit in, but he might be right for Ty. Let’s not write him off until they’ve had a chance to talk, for God’s sake. He’s not an axe murderer, he just doesn’t like us.”

Pete added, “He may not have even meant it. Those two are so stressed out they’re barely functioning.”

Val said, “The sane gays have spoken. We shall reserve judgment.”

I threw a pillow at her while everyone else laughed.


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