George Dorton was succinct. "The peanut farmer can take his injuction and - ."
Dorton and 15 other striking United Mine Workers stomped around in the mud by a makeshift lean-to, listening to President Carter's news conference on a Jeep radio. Six cars full of state police troopers were lined up just across the collection of muddy ruts and potholes called Guest River Road. The police were also listening, while loaded coal trucks rumbled down the hill from a nearby strip mine.
"He says the law must be enforced," said Dorton. "What about this road here, and those trucks with no license plates and overweight and coal falling off everywhere and the drivers with no chaufferr's license. Why aren't those laws being enforced?"
Banner Jones, 68, who retired seven years ago from the Old Ben Mine with black lung disease, vowed to picket today in defiance of the Taft-Hartley injunction. Jones is one of Virginia's 4,000 retired miners who are part of the reason 48 of the state's 59 United Mineworker locals rejected last week's proposed settlement. His pension was cut when the strike began Dec. 6, "and they told us it will be 'til May before we get another check, and maybe not then."
"All we hear about on TV is money. Hell, it ain't the money, it ain't. It's the benefits," said another miner, Herman Mullins. "These old guys got to get their pensions."
The pension issue has united the striking workers who are preparing for meetings the next few days at which union leaders will explain the meaning of the injunction.
The three-month coal strike has pitted friend, miner against miner and split families along every potholed, muddied road and hidden hollow in the blackened coal country of Southwest Virginia.
In a general store on a foggy road north of here, the proprietor of the establishment eyed her semi-drunk husband as she sat by the cash register near the pool table. "That's his reality," she said, smiling. She's sighed. "I have a son driving a scab truck and my brother-in-law died of a heart attack in a union hall last week. I was selling on credit but I just can't anymore. I got family and friends on both sides of this strike and it's just driving me crazy."
The 18,000 srtiking miners of District 28 describe themselves as among the nation's most determined to stay out no matter what President Carter orders. And the nounion workers and drivers here seem to be among the most determined to keep coal moving. They are young, even when they look old.
Darrell Grigsby, 20, held up a mean-looking "jack rock," one of the two six-inch sharpened nails welded together crosswise and bent just so. No matter how you throw it, a two-inch spike sticks up, big enough to blow out even the mudcaked monster tires on the trucks that are bringing nounion coal out of the mines.
Jack rocks dot the road and fill the potholes periodically outside the Cumberland Collieries "tipple," the loading area where trucks tip their 25-ton loads of stripmined coal railroad cars.
Grigbsy who has worked six months weighing the trucks, said "People come by and toss 'em out of the cars. I've got a collection. Trucks come in here with five or six flats at a time."
"I ain't scared," said driver Benny Kilgore, 25, as he pulled onto the scales. He pointed to the gaping hole in top of his windshield. "This is a pretty good job really, and I've been trying to get (hired) on."
Jack rocks aren't the only way to get a flat tire in Norton.
"The boy who rides down (into the mines) with me everyday, we knew he was gonna vote against us last week" on the contract, recalled miner William Orender, 40, as he and other striking workers stood in the chilly fog near a makeshift shelter.
"When he came out of the meeting he had three flats. Funniest thing. Some of these kids, they'd work even if it was $20 less a week than the old contract." He spat a brown stream of tobacco juice toward the Virginia state troopers sitting silently in a car nearby.
All the cars around Norton are brown with mud from the door handle down, and the people are brown up to the knees. The roads wind through gorges where layers of rock twist up toward gray wood shacks that stare vacantly out over the road. The ground looks as though the top-soil were burned off.
There are white clapboard split levels, though, and fine brick houses with carports.
Near the mines, off Guest River Road where much of the trouble has been, the pickets assembled a good distance from several of the mines after pickups and yelled catcalls at the drivers of the trucks.
Names of the huge 10-wheel vehicles are visible through the mud: "Suds," "Jack Rabbit," "A Good Woman's Love." The drivers exchange obscene gestures with their former friends.
Again yesterday the pickets walked in a line down two area roads so as to block trucks carrying nonunion coal and a staredown with state police ended only with a sudden rainstorm.
One miner, Harold Bateman of Norton, president of union Local 8017, was disorderly conduct after he clashed with two Richmond television station employes. Bateman, who was released on $100 bond, said the reporters from WWBT had put a spiked rubber strip on the ground and were "staging it to make it look like we (the miners) put it there."
Station news manager Ron Miller said the two, reporter Mike Devlin and photographer Norma Blalock had been planning to use the spiked belt as "a visual demonstration to hold it up on camera and attribute it to a nonunion driver," who had said such things were causing flat tires in the area.
"The miners misinterpreted it. It's all a misunderstanding," Miller said.
Doug Arrington, UMW, Secretary-treasurer of District 28, said the miners around here are "in a holding pattern" and not about to return to work without guaranteed health benefits and an improved pension plan, especially not for UMW President Arnold Miller's sake.
The local's strike relief committee wired Miller Tuesday to demand its share of the $2 million gift the UMW received that day from the United Auto Workers.
"We get no response from them 'We'll come in with the men and clean that building out up there in Washington, if we have to, if we get no action by Monday," said committee treasurer Jesse T. Gibson. "We're in real bad financial shape down here."