If Dusty Mulligan or ”Blackjaw” McCaffrey could see the deplorable condition of their graphite mine, they might never have called out for help on that cold, October morning. On that day in 1895 the mine collapsed. Until then it had been a buzz of activity, the centerpiece of an emerging economy unfettered by caution or guilt. It was a place where men like McCaffrey and Mulligan came to better themselves and their families, where drink and an iron-clad determination to win trumped the comforts we now take for granted. Sure, they knew the risks. But they took them gladly.
No one digs eight miles to hell without knowing the risks.
On that icy morning, as mothers and daughters gathered in tears, more than two hundred men arrived to dig the men out. Some used the broken whiskey bottles they drained the night before. Others searched in vain for a trowel.
But no one complained, least of all Mulligan or McCaffrey who later told The Bugle: “We knew we’d get out. We just wanted to make sure we got out in time to finish our shift.”
Fast forward to today where a crumbling, graffiti-strewn entrance mocks our illustrious past. Watch as the tourists who make the trek cringe at the gangland obscenities scrawled on our sacred relics. Watch again as those tourists drive away, ashamed for a town that recalls its past with grotesque theater… at an equally grotesque price.
Turning our graphite mine into a carny sideshow was the height of cynicism.
But allowing that sideshow to devolve into the cesspool it is today heaps shame upon us all.
We at The Bugle believe these so-called “caverns” should be closed at once and restored to their original splendor. We also believe they should be reopened with their original intent in mind: to provide the world the finest graphite it’s ever known.
Maybe then our forebears can reclaim the peace they rightfully deserve. Maybe then we can look them in the eye, McCaffrey, Mulligan and all the rest, men like those in the yellowing photographs that grace the halls of the Flubug Historical Society and say: “Yes. We did what we could do to preserve your legacy. And we’ll do what we can to advance it again… one lead pencil at a time.”