As Chico Harlan writes today, after two decades as a coal miner in Logan County, W.Va., Michael Estep was jobless. Now he and his son are thinking of looking for mining work in Wheeling, W.Va. More than 10,000 miners have lost jobs over the past two-and-a-half years in southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky.
All photos by Katherine Frey / The Washington Post
Aug. 13, 2014: Coal miners, from left, Lucian “Luke” Lusk, Edward “G Baby” Robison and Michael Estep — together at Robison’s home in Logan County, W.V. — were laid off June 30 when the mine they worked for shut down. Lusk, 59, said he will probably retire; Robison, also 59, doesn’t know what he will do when unemployment insurance runs out. Estep, 51, is considering a move to Wheeling, W.V., to look for another coal mining job.
Edward “G Baby” Robison bids goodbye to Michael Estep at Robison’s home in Logan County, W.Va., on Aug. 13, 2014.
Coal miner Michael Estep at home in Omar, W.Va., on Aug. 14, 2014.
Michael Estep, his son, Jobe, 22, and Jobe’s live-in girlfriend, Kristen Goodman, prepare to settle in on the front porch in Omar, W.Va., on Aug. 13, 2014.
Michael Estep jokes around with his wife, Vada, son, Jobe, and Jobe’s live-in girlfriend, Kristen Goodman, on Aug. 14, 2014.
Vada and Michael Estep hold a photograph of their younger selves. They have been together for 29 years.
Michael Estep’s ponytail is saved for posterity in what he calls the family Bible — his and his wife’s wedding album.
Jobe Estep helps his father, Michael Estep, move a pool table Jobe received as a Christmas gift. Jobe sold the pool table for spending money. Michael lost his mining job and money has been tight.
Vada Estep holds Merle, the runt of the litter, who has been nursed back to life a couple of times.
Jobe Estep researches housing options in Wheeling, W.V., as his parents, Vada and Michael, relax in their living room, on Aug. 14, 2014. Jobe recently dropped out of college, where he was studying to become a nurse, because his father was laid off from his coal mining job. The two are considering a move four hours away to look for mining jobs.
Jobe Estep, 22, eats breakfast on the living room floor, on Aug. 14, 2014.
Jobe Estep shares a slice of American cheese with Beef, the family pit bull, on Aug. 14, 2014.
Jobe Estep, 22, runs to catch up to his dad and girlfriend, on Aug. 14, 2014.
Michael Estep delights in catching a “horny head” within minutes of casting his line in the creek across the street from his home in Omar, W.V. The creek is polluted with raw sewage so everything he catches he throws back.
Michael Estep fishes in the creek across the street from his home.
Michael and Vada Estep cross the street on the way to the creek near their home in Omar, W.Va.
The streets are nearly deserted and many businesses are shuttered in the downtown Logan, WV, as seen on Aug. 12, 2014. The area has lost many of the mining jobs that used to fuel the local economy.
Michael Estep, who has lived his entire life in the same hollow, ponders his next move. He is thinking of relocating to seek another mining job four hours away in Wheeling, WV.