William Hines, who until three months ago worked at the Osage No. 3 mine in the coal-rich Scott's Run hollow here, hasn't overwhelmed with good luck since the United Mine Workers' strike began in December.
The week after he walked off the job, a truck tire he was inflating blew up, severing a tendon in his knee and fracturing in arm.
Hines' trailer started taking water from a burst pipe, a pending divorce brought lawyers' bill of about $600 and his mortgage payments of $270 started piling up.
Last week the Pleasant Vathe Pleasant Valley Water Co. notified him that unless it got $136.87, it would cut off his water, which Hines sardonically allowed would at least stop the leak in his trailer. And now the government wants to end $174 monthly food-stamp allotment. But Hines, like other striking coal miners, is hardly the silent suffering type.
Smiling, he says. "It ain't the deer season now, but if they cut of those food stamps it's gonna be."
It has been three months since Hines and the rest of the UMW membership have had a paycheck. Yet there is less deprivation in these coal-dependent parts of the country than outsiders might expect.
Creditors have been lenient; food stamps have been available. Families saw the long strike coming and stock-piled food and money.
And most important, the miners here say; for those in unusual trouble - like Bill Hines - there has been help from other miners.
A man's life often depends on the other men digging in the same section, they say, and that sense of interdependence is not left 400 feet below ground when the workers leave the portal at shift's end.
It is carried to the Scott's Run settlement house here, where an ad hoc relief committee of rank-and-file union members has been assisting the most hard-pressed.
When th committee, one of several in the coal fields around here, was established, UMW district officials shield away from giving it direct financial help.
District 31 President Burdette Crowe said union lawyers advised that such assistance might be constructed as preferential. "We've got 12,000 miners, and if we give one $5, we have to give each and every one $5," he said.
However, the informal relief committee is in full swing and has raised $5,000 from other unions, according to the chairman, Fred Kelly, a striking miner.
"Even if we give just $20 toward a utility bill, it can save someone from having his electicity cut off. We're helping our brothers, which is what miners do," said Kelly.
Miners also look ahead, if the strikers interviewed here are any indication Anticipating a long strike, many said they paid their house mortgages as much as six months ahead to avoid foreclosure.
Others, sensing a long layoff, had their spouses can huge stockpiles of garden produce or overstock their pantries with purchased provisions.
Most banks have winked at mortgage schedules, or at least settled for partial payment. Utilities have done the same, and many groceries have extended credit beyond the normal bounds.
"The bank really surprise me. I owe the First National money, and they never even sent me at late notice. They've treated me real good," said miner Marvin Penant. He said a finance company holding his house mortgage "told me to pay whatever interest I could, and if I can't, then pay later."
Some of the miners said they have received large loans during the strike, backed with a promise to turn over their income tax refunds.
But they also said the strike is beginning to wear on their families, particularly the children.
"It's hard on the kids. Anytime you want to go someplace you have to think of the gas in the car. When the kids say 'I want a cookie,' you've got to be ready to tell them you don't have any," said Hines, a 27-year-old veteran with two small children.
Compunding these deprivations may be the loss of food stamps beginning next month.
Joseph Shepherd, deputy director of the federal food stamp program, said if the courts issue a Taft-Hartley injunction and the strikers still refuse to work, their strike becomes an illegal one and they will lose their food stamps.
According to U.S. officials, 258,289 people received food stamps in West Virginia before the strike, at a cost of $6.1 million. Last month the figures were 350,000 and $9.8 million.
The strikers are not eligible for state unemployment compensation, although, depending on their circumstances, some are eligible for welfare.
However, according to union officials, only a relatively small number here have applied for welfare.
"I've seen too many proud miners who would never go on welfare.They've find another way," one official said.
The miners received a lift yesterday when they got word at District 31 headquarters in Fairmont that the United Auto Workers had donated $2 million to the UMW for relief for striking members nationwide.
Later, Louis Loretta, an Osage miner, walked into the settlement house with a check for $781 that he had received from a nephew in Detroit who is a UAW member.
"Myself and a few others stood in front of the plant and collected this," the nephew wrote. Kelly read the letter and said. "As long as there are people like that around, the miners aren't going to suffer too bad."