30  G E N E R . S TA R K ached, and despite my tenacity for hard work, I was to be soon driven by God to look to other avenues of productive endeavor. The Collinsville Coal Company employed many new immi- grants to work the coal mines. Indeed the work was hard, yet I felt like it strengthened me. I found austere accommodations in Collinsville and worked my daily shift at the mine. The dust and poor air in the mine seemed to aggravate my chronic bronchial distress, yet the work was steady, and I was earning my own way in America. We were burrowers; large rodents seeking new depths, new layers of the visceral insides of the earth, as each day we chipped and scraped our way down, seeking new lows. The sought-after seam of coal lay somewhere ahead of us, and we staking a claim to new depths one shovelful at a time. I’m not sure I would have recognized any of my fellow labor- ers if they had approached me in the light of day aboveground with clean faces and washed clothes. We labored in a dark hole, inching our way along, laying track as we progressed to enable our faithful mule to convey the result of our diggings up to the ever-growing pile. I am still reminded of those mining days when I see the black mounds of the pocket gophers in the fields and grasslands. The woodworkers lined our man-made cavern with beams to prevent our borrow from caving in and burying us alive. Always I knew this way of life was just a stop-off point, a temporary activ- ity as my true destiny unfolded. Hans was a dusty, jacket-clad miner. His dirty face and beard were permanently smeared with the inner contents of the earth. His ever-present smile a constant sign of hope in the dim light of the mine. “August,” he said one day as we toiled in the half darkness of our lamps, “I love to move each shovelful; each time I bite into the untouched earth, it brings me closer to the goal.”