Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

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Crystal Zevon

Crystal Zevon is author of 'I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon,' an oral history of the life of her former husband and lifelong friend and co-conspirator

February 3rd, 2013 12:37 PM

SEARCHING FOR OCCUPY: Mountaintop Removal in Kentucky

A few days ago, I joined the 'Footprints for Peace' Kentucky Walk for a Sustainable Future through mountaintop removal country.  The horrific education I've received since my arrival is only made bearable by the committed company I'm keeping. On Feb. 1st, we arrived at the monastery in the mountains where we will sleep for 3 nights, and left immediately to meet Rick Handshoe in his trailer home directly beneath a mountain that has been 'removed'. He is in the process of leaving his home behind due to health concerns that have arisen since the onset of mountaintop removal, the effects of which have forever contaminated the land his family has owned for generations. Shortly after Rick began telling us about his on-going battle with the coal companies, the state, the Feds and even friends and family as he produces evidence of heavy metals, sudden water flows and the mountain sliding away day after day, he just broke down. People in our party who know Rick say they've never seen this burly mountain man give way to emotion before. Things are bad and getting worse.  Rick is on a one man mission to save his neighbors even though they won't believe they need to be saved.  

At one point, Rick told us about how he saw a neighbor building a swing set for his grandchildren.  He took over his latest water test results (he tests the new streams popping out of the mountain daily) showing that toxicity levels are as much as 4,000 times over the legal limit for safe water.  He pleaded with his neighbor not to let the kids play in the stream.  The neighbor shook his head and said, "Ah, Rick, you already got 'em to clean up Raccoon Creek.  It's safe now."  Rick again showed him the test results, proof that it is worse than ever.  "He's one of those guys that knows winter's coming but he don't bother cutting wood when the sun's shining."  He doesn't fault his neighbor for his denial.  There is no industry here other than coal, and he knows only too well that folk have to feed their families.  But, he can't stop trying.  These folks are his kin.  These are his mountains.  This is his home. 

Rick took us on a rigorous tour of his mountain and it was an education I will not soon forget.  We were all looking at the toxic mud seeping over our boots as we walked, wondering just how much were we being exposed to just by climbing this mountain once?

Yesterday, we started walking through a snowy blizzard with our banners and Japanes Buddhists chanting for peace and salvation for our good earth. Wilma and I ended up with the support van most of the way, but the walkers did 13 miles and were still smiling when they got in the van. These warriors are occupying this country with humility and dignity. Again, I am honored to be with them.  I urge anyone reading this to look up Rick Handshoe.  Support his fight.  We share this planet and the dignity and honor of one man who, as he said, doesn't even have a high school diploma and yet his studies and his water testing, not that of our government or the coal companies, are where the scientific evidence of this catastrophic demolition of mountain after mountain are found.  As we left, Rick said, "Shoot, when the state comes to test, they don't even bother to bring their own buckets for collecting the water.  They just use mine."  

http://www.footprintsforpeace.org

Follow the search at SearchingForOccupy.com

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