Tired of the grim images of Eastern Kentucky so often seen on national screens?
Go to www.preservationnation.org, click on America's 11 most endangered historic places and then click on Black Mountain, Kentucky.
There you'll see lovely photos of coal company towns Lynch and Benham in Harlan County: simple, solid architecture, some of it the handiwork of immigrant Italian stonemasons, set against the lush green Cumberland Mountains.
Also, the simple, solid homes of people who love where they live and are working to give it new economic life through tourism.
This recognition by the National Trust for Historic Preservation is a timely reminder of what's at stake — and what could be lost — as state officials consider a bevy of mining proposals that could cost the 1,400 residents of Benham and Lynch their good water and quality of life.
Various coal companies are seeking permits to mine over, under and through the streams that feed the underground reservoir that supplies Lynch's water.
(The water is not as clear as it used to be, say old-timers, because of silting from mining in the area, but it's still remarkably good, so much so there's been preliminary study of bottling it.)
Lynch is populated by a lot of retired miners and others with ties to the industry. They're friends of coal but they also know what will happen if mining is allowed so close to Looney Creek and its tributaries and if mine sediments are discharged into the streams.
They know that a town without water is a town without a future And they know about the damage to old and new buildings caused by blasting.
The top reaches of Black Mountain, Kentucky's highest point, are protected from strip-mining. But the lower elevations have no such protection.
The Virginia side of Black Mountain has been chewed up by mining. Without real enforcement of the laws to protect water and people, the land and water around Benham and Lynch will be the next to go.
In its heyday, Lynch was home to immigrants from 38 countries, pursuing the American dream in a town built by U.S. Steel.
The coal industry built Benham and Lynch, but that doesn't entitle the industry to ruin them.
It's time for Kentucky to start making sure that something of value will be left when the coal is gone.