The spur line, long abandoned, ended at Blue Spring Coal, it too a victim of foreign imports, and a push towards Clean Air. But it was the short way to the water of the mine's namesake. Blue Spring, deep in the Oklahoma panhandle was clear, clean and the summer destination of every boy with a bike within 10 miles of the rail head.
The colliers had ridden in and out on the same trains that hauled the coal they mined. Blue Spring Coal had no road access. For quite a few years ... since 1890 ... the mine hosted the town of Blue Spring until the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor.
By July, 1942 every man, woman and child left to War Work ... either to build the airplanes in Kansas or the training basses scattered all over the table flat prairies of Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, or Nebraska, serving or servicing the service man.
Duty and honor satisfied, the survivors returned to the mine. Management welcomed them with open arms but the town ... too decrepit from being idle too long and the victim of one too many prairie fires, remained closed.
The houses weren't missed. Drafty and cold in the winter ... even with free coal ... and stifling hot in the summer ... no matter how many windows were opened.
Chicago's not windy, the Oklahoma flat is windy.
Twice during the mine's years of operation, the Oklahoma 'breeze' blew the topped full coal cars into the next county. Well, maybe not county, but right off the tracks where the local boys took bicycle, shovel and bucket and replenished the family furnaces. In the late teens, east past Alva, the wind picked up an entire train of fresh mined black rock, snatched it off the nearly mile long AT&SF bridge over the flooding Cimmeron River and dumped it entire ... engines, cars and caboose, along with brakemen, firemen and engineers ... in the river. The cars ... most of them in the main channel, anyways ... are still there.
Gathering that windfall of coal was the best excuse to swim in the cool, clear and clean blue tinted waters of the spring. It got the boys out of mom's hair and out of mischief ... idle hands being the Devil's Workshop.
Besides, it cut down on bathwater.
The day the mine closed, the men were greeted at the hoist entrance by the men in the suits, checks in hand. There were genuine tears in the executives eyes as they passed out the last severance check and collected signatures signifying acceptance.
These were men, the men from the mine and the office, who had had fathers and grandfathers gainfully employed since before the First World War. There were no huge bonuses for management or owners. Each was awarded as they had worked.
These men drank together, played together, fought the enemies of this great country together, mined together, mourned through the two mine collapses together. When officers and miners suffer through so much they have no have differences.
There was a long table set up out of the wind with State Unemployment Compensation employees,
the Department of Social Services had representatives taking applications for Food Stamps and Rent assistance. Oklahoma took pride in their state services.
There was a section with out of state mine owners handing out stacks of applications for experienced underground coal miners. There were even mine owners from foreign countries looking for foremen with underground experience.
When the last man cleared the hoist, men from the Office of Strategic Assets entered the mine, surveyed it and mapped it. Over the next week, the Army Corps of Engineers spent time reinforcing the passages and tunnels. They built a form and poured a reinforced concrete plug to keep people out and the coal reserves safe.
One never knew.
The mine sat ... unoccupied but not forgotten. Every year the ACoE examined the plug and checked for rising waters. Year after year the mine stayed dry and safe. Year after year the Army surveyed it's asset.
One year, there was a fire at the Army office in charge of, among many other things, the Blue Spring Mine inspections. The sole record explaining the reason for the inspections was destroyed. The inspections stopped.