Henry By Matthew Daigler Henry woke up at 5 o clock in the morning. He began to get ready for work like every other morning. He pulled on his boots and put on his coat and began to walk out the door when his twin little sisters Ethel and Vivian stopped him. He had almost forgotten his hat and lunch pail. He thanked his sisters and began walking to the coal mine. Henry arrived in the breaker room and was hit with a wave of heat and smoke in the air. He never could get over how hard it was to breathe in that room. The breaker room was basically a room with many benches and chutes full of flowing coal under their feet. The breaker boy’s job was to pick out the pieces of flint or steel stuck in the coal. He was looking at the dirty depressing room and was hit with a wave of heat and dusty air. He made four pennies an hour which was barely enough combined with his mothers salary at the hospital to feed their family and pay the bills. Ever since Henry’s dad died of emphysema he couldn’t continue getting an education. He had to join the almost twomillion children employed during the 1930s. He was in a never ending cycle of poverty. He shook his thoughts away and got to work. He was about four hours into his shift when Henry heard a scream coming from the boy behind him. The boy behind him named William had just fallen into the deep chutes of coal. If a breaker boy fell in the coal and couldn’t get out right away he would burn and die. Sadly this was a common sight and the boy William could not get out and was found burned and dead three hours later. In all the confusion a large piece of coal hit Henry’s hand and crushed his finger. He had difficulty working but if he slowed down he would be fired and within a day another boy would have taken his place. “Mom I’m home,” said Henry as he walked through the door. “What happened to your finger?” asked Mom as she saw his bandaged finger. “A piece of coal fell on it it’s not a big deal” said Henry. “Ok I’ll put some bandages and goose grease on it later but can you check on your sisters, I think they might be having trouble with their homework?” said Mom. Henry walked over to the kitchen table where they were working on their homework. They were having trouble with their math homework and Henry sat down to help them. The question they were having trouble with was 3 X 7. Henry looked at the problem but no answer came to mind. He stared at the question but he couldn’t figure it out. He realized that he was not as smart as he used to be. He finally gave up and went to bed.
The next day Henry woke up and started walking into the kitchen. When he was walking he passed by his mirror he looked at himself and saw something unfortunate. He was walking with a hunch. His shoulders were rounded out and if he tried to stand up straight he was put in a lot of pain. He was bent over almost 10 hours 6 days a week. His back was in the condition of an old man. It was Sunday so he had the day off. He decided to go to the coal mine to pick up his pay for the month. He made about thirty-five dollars this month. In these hard times this was considered a lot of money. He picked up his pay in cash from the coal mines and began to walk down the street back home. While on the street he encountered a man with a roulette table. He had a sign up that said “CORRECT BETS WILL INCREASE MONEY TEN FOLD!” This was a big deal if he bet his money and was correct he would make 350 dollars. This was enough money to solve all his families’ problems. The risk was great but the payoff was much greater. He had always been a risk taker and he went up to the croupier and said, “I have thirty-five dollars down on 18.” “Wow that’s a lot of money you must be crazy, a professional gambler, or rich.” the croupier said. “Nope” Henry said and handed him the money. He had chosen 18 because his dad was born on November, 18th 1882. The croupier started the table. The ball went around and around and he saw it stop in 22, the number right next to 18. Then suddenly he felt his dad and then the ball rolled into 18. He won! He had won 350 dollars. He ran home to tell his family the news. “Mom I bet my salary at the roulette and won 350 dollars!” He said. “What!” His mom began to cry tears of joy his sisters came into the room and were speechless with happiness. Henry no longer felt like his dad was gone. he knew that his dad was looking over him.
Works Cited Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Growing Up in Coal Country. N.p.: n.p., 1999. Print. This book helped show me all the different jobs people did at a coal mine. It also helped me to decide my characters age and his job in the coal mine.
Bender, Pennee. â€œNo Rest for the Weary: Children in the Coal Mines.â€? Historymatters.gmu.edu. N.p., 10 Apr. 2012. Web. 22 May 2012. <http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5571/.>. This website provided a lot of background information about my topic. It also helped me to demonstrate the cruel conditions of coal mines in my story.