Webster: Hurry, hurry, get your empty promises here

Miners line up for big coal's puppet show

Contributing columnistMay 12, 2013 

When the Addison's Snake Oil Medicine Show wagon comes to town, coal miners come a' skippin.' Nationally, there are 15 percent more skippin' coal miners with jobs under President Barack Obama than President George W. Bush, but that is skippin' for the Snake Oil man to do.

The wagon was pulled by mules named Craft (Gee!) and Booth (Haw!) doubletreed together so that one won't have more pull than the other. The wagon wheels were rolls of cash, Rolodexed. Good watches. But there ain't nothing like money to make wheels roll.

So the wagon comes in and they set up a stage and a crowd gathers to watch the show and hear the pitch. First some guys in blackface (coal operators who had daubed coal dust on themselves for a homey touch) came out and played a long tune so that the politicians in the crowd could all get out front and see who could dance the hardest to it.

When the musicians would hit a sour note, they would stop the song and blame something called the War on Coal. We don't know what that is, but apparently it puts coal miners to work in other places.

Then a large man who bore faint resemblance to the Gee mule came out and brought a smaller Howdy Doody-looking character, not in blackface, but redface, baldface, who then made the Snake Oil pitch. When Howdy talked the large man's lips hardly moved at all. You thought strings were being pulled but they were hard to see.

This miracle medicine, Addison's Snake Oil — made of coal, alcohol and wind will cure gas, the worst enemy of a coal miner. Has fracking got you hacking? Take a dose of Addison's and you coal miners will get relief. Take a whole bottle and you can get strip mine permits where they sell fishing licenses. Drink a case of Addison's Snake Oil and soon you, too, can buy into a state university and name a basketball team after yourself.

That stuff makes you forget stuff, like that your senator voted against the change in the black lung law to help widows.

Of course we have bought this snake oil for years and we're not as sure that it works as we used to be.

One time the snake oil guy told us that if we just bought his medicine we had 200 years of work left. That sort of proved to be about 180 years too long of a prediction.

And in the old days, they didn't have to tell you the side effects of medicine, so 20 years ago, we thought that letting our local power plant be exempt from going modern was a good idea and swallowed that and now that plant is shut down and all the ones who had to follow the law are going, and you get lonely for coal trucks on Route 23.

They are seriously considering renaming the snake oil to Addison's Jobs Oil. Anything that has "jobs" in it sells good, whether it has any chance of working or not.

But there is something about that snake oil that makes you feel good. It is somewhere between finding a piece of lean on a cracklin' and finding a three-acre patch of ginseng.

Reach Larry Webster, a Pikeville attorney, at websterlawrencer@bellsouth.net.

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