—written by Joe F. Stierheim
One day I had occasion to visit the manager of a strip mine at his on-site trailer office. Our conversation touched on the availability of coal in the surrounding Pennsylvania countryside. The area had been mined for many decades and though there were still sites on which there was viable coal, the manager confided, there were many people who had greater faith in the richness of coal deposits on their property than were justified. He told the tale of one man who had come to his office to interest him in a mining venture.
“There’s coal on my property,” the man had announced, “and I’ll tell you just how good a deposit it is. There’s a groundhog out in my field and when he digs his holes he turns up so much coal so that I can go out and collect enough of it to keep my stove going for a whole day.” The man paused long enough to allow the magnitude of his statement to become clear before he leaned forward.
“Now, do you think you be interested in mining for coal on my property?”
“I looked at that guy for a moment or so to make sure he was serious,” the manager told me, “and then I said to him, ‘No, I don’t believe I would be, but I’d sure be interested in buying that groundhog.’”
The man left and the manager said he has never seen him again, but at the time of the above conversation there had been another visitor in the office, a Mr. O’Brien, the representative of the coal company’s home office, which was located in Ireland.
“O’Brien sure was interested in what that man had to say,” the manager chuckled. “He left to go back to Ireland the next day and, knowing him, the story of that groundhog is probably all over Ireland and half way to Scotland by now.”
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