father, from whom her mother, Martha Carr, is separated, is an alcoholic who still has a key to the front door. Forty-six-year-old Martha has born twelve children. Eight are living. The youngest is three.
Her daughter Rosie, has sensitive, clear blue eyes and reddish-blond hair, styled in curls. She's pretty. But that doesn't ease the injustices of being poor. “Poor people work and try to bring themselves up,” she said, “but the rich get the recognition. I ran track for my high school and won five medals. My name's not even in the yearbook. I showed some teachers and kids my medals, they laughed at me. Said I found them. To them I'm too poor and lowly to run. It's for the rich to do. The rich take up the whole road in their big cars. You just don't count. They say, “You don't work, you don't pay taxes. This is my road.”
There are two types of people in Harlan County: those that work and those that are “drawin'.” Neither take to the other very kindly. “All the laws are against the poor in Harlan County,” said Martha Carr. “The rich are always harassing the poorer class. We'd rather work than grow old and do nothing. But they don't believe us. They say we want to collect welfare—that we are a sorry lot. Well, there's no work for a woman my age. All the jobs go to the higher educated. We're on welfare and the federal government is generous with food stamps.
“We have no activities here. We get together, each brings some food to share, talking to one another, sitting in the backyard watching the sun go down. That's our entertainment. I love the mountains, but I don't love the life it offers me. It's like being in a barrel—trapped, and there is no way out. We break down. We cry just like babies. We complain. We talk. We're just pushed aside like dogs.”
Rosie may be part of that next generation that will tip her mother's “pork barrel.” She approached Harlan town's Mayor Roy Allison about holding a public forum to let poor people speak out about their grievances. Although her suggestion was denied, it demonstrated an activism uncommon among the people in Harlan. For example, Rosie's older sister eased her mother's burden in a more traditional fashion. “I was tired of seeing my Ma struggle the way she was and went off on my own. That's why I got married at thirteen.” This nineteen-year-old woman is now the mother of a six-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy.
Betty Lundy has lived in Sunshine since 1936 when it was Liggett Settlement Camp, and every house was occupied by a coal miner. She said, “It bothers me to live here because I can't clean it up. The ceilings are falling down.” Her son interrupts, “That's life. You take it as it comes. I was born here. I left. I'll always come back