July 29, 2009

Standing Up for Their Heritage



On Sunday, July 26, several members of the Cook family and their friends made a trip up to the family cemetery. They are determined to protect their ancestors.  photograph (c) antrim caskey, 2009

At the grave of William Chapman "Chap" Cook, who served as a Union soldier in the West Virginia Cavalry on Sunday, July 26, several members of the Cook family and their friends made a trip up to the family cemetery, which is threatened by Horizon Resources surface mine operation on Cook Mountain. The families are determined to protect their ancestors. photograph (c) antrim caskey, 2009



Since Monday, July 20, 2009, I have made four reporting trips to Cook Mountain in Boone County, WV, where a mountaintop removal coal operation has advanced to within several hundred feet of the largest of three Cook family cemeteries located on Cook Mountain. The three separate burial sites hold the departed dating back to William Chapman “Chap” Cook, a Union soldier with the West Virginia Cavalry. About 75 yards from the largest cemetery, where approximately 27 men, women and children are buried, there is an overlook where the coal extraction machines operate directly below. Below is a series of 4 images made over eight days from this overlook to illustrate the rapid pace by which Horizon Resources, LLC is moving to remove “a fist full of coal” just several hundred feet from Cook family graves.

JULY 20 2009



From the Overlook: Day 1

From the Overlook: Day 1: JULY 20, 2009



JULY 23, 2009



From the Overlook: Day 2

From the Overlook: Day 2



JULY 26, 2009



From the overlook: Day 3

From the overlook: Day 3



JULY 28, 2009



From the Overlook: Day 4

From the Overlook: Day 4



The blasting is getting closer and closer to the cemeteries. Yesterday, the overlook area was covered with a thick, grey, gritty dust. It piled up in the crevices of the leaves in the trees, it lay on Cook Mountain Road, less than 75 yards from the largest cemetery, and it extended in a grey shroud down the mountain, through the trees.  A drilling rig had moved around the mountain, closer to the cemetery, and was busy drilling blast holes.  Had you been standing on that road, walking towards your family cemetery when that blast went off, you’d be covered in the silica and diesel laden dust.



Rock dust from a mountaintop removal blast on Cook Mountain covered the trees and forest with a thick gritty dust.  photograph (c) antrim caskey, 2009

Rock dust from a mountaintop removal blast on Cook Mountain covered the trees and forest with a thick gritty dust. photograph (c) antrim caskey, 2009



The road the Cook family and friends have traveled over the years is barely navigable by 4-wheel drive, whether traveling from the James Creek or the Lindytown side of Cook Mountain.



About half way up the Lindytown side of Cook Mountain, a washout gulley is blocking access to three Cook family cemeteries on Cook Mountain in Boone County, WV. photograph (c) antrim caskey, 2009

From Lindytown: About half way up the Lindytown side of Cook Mountain, a washout gulley is blocking access to three Cook family cemeteries on Cook Mountain in Boone County, WV. photograph (c) antrim caskey, 2009





After Marvin tore up his vehicle in trying to navigate the Lindytown road to Cook cemetery, we took off on foot and hiked almost a mile to reach the graves. Marvin pointed out a piece of rock on the road that he thought was blown there by a blast on the Horizon Resources mountaintop removal mine site. Twenty minutes later, we noticed that the hum and roar of the machines had died down and then ceased. Moments after that, we heard a deep loud blast. We heard no warning signals. photograph (c) antrim caskey, 2009

Blast Rock? After Marvin tore up his vehicle in trying to navigate the Lindytown road to Cook cemetery, we took off on foot and hiked almost a mile to reach the graves. Marvin pointed out a piece of rock on the road that he thought was blown there by a blast on the Horizon Resources mountaintop removal mine site. Twenty minutes later, we noticed that the hum and roar of the machines had died down and then ceased. Moments after that, we heard a deep loud blast. We heard no warning signals. photograph (c) antrim caskey, 2009



If you and your vehicle make it up the winding, slippery, rutted road – you’ll have to travel over 5 mud and rock roadblock mounds over the course of one mile to reach two of the Cook cemeteries. If you travel from Lindytown, you’ll have to cross those same road blocks to access Chap’s grave site