Deedie, the Daughter of a Coal Miner

            August 1, 1930 was a hot afternoon in a mining camp in Garmeda, Kentucky when Deedie (pronounced â??Dee Deeâ??), was born the first child of Jack and Flora Hise. There were no doctors available for the coal minerâ??s families so she was brought into this world with the assistance of other motherâ??s in the community acting as midwives during her delivery.  She was a favorite of her father even though six other siblingsâ?? would later be added to the family.

          Deedie was her fatherâ??s favorite, for the first three and one-half years. With flaming red hair she was his little love.  Her father worked long hours in the coal mines but spent any free time playing games and holding her on his lap.  From family pictures and stories that have been passed down, she was always on his lap or running down the road to meet her father. The highlight of her day was to have him pick her up and carry her in his arms as he came home from the mine. In late 1933, another daughter was added to the family, and then in 1935, a son was added to the family.  There are also pictures of all three of these siblings running down the road to meet their father, but he always picked up his little love.

         As time passed, four more siblings were added to the family, but Deedie was always known by the family and friends to be her fatherâ??s favorite even though he loved all the other siblings, they never received that same special attention given to Deedie. It seemed that she always demanded and received those special hugs and attention from her father. There was no resentment every expressed by the other siblings as it was just an accepted practice. The other siblings especially the younger ones, were usually asleep very soon after he arrived home from work.

        The fateful day that forever changed her life came January 4, 1944.  At 5:30 PM, his union brothers came to the home.  Every mining family knew that meaning; someone had either been injured or killed in a coal mine accident. By the time they arrived, many families of the camp had noticed the procession and followed them to the home.  Deedie had just arrived home from school and was anxiously awaiting her fatherâ??s walk down the road when she saw the crowd, but not her father.  The union brother most close to her father called her mother to the outside and told her the horrible story of Jack Hise being injured by a slate fall in the mine just at closing time.  He had been taken to the mine hospital in Middlesboro, Kentucky and was critically injured. Deedie being 13 years of age quickly ran to her motherâ??s side and heard of the tragic accident.  The union brothers had a car and friends of the family came in to take care of the children as they took her mother to the hospital.  Though Deedie was hysterical, she could not go to the hospital because of the rule of no children under 14 years of age being allowed in the hospital for visitation.  It was 3:00 AM the next morning when Deedieâ??s mother arrived home with the news that her father had passed away.

            This life changing event took place at a time when coal mining female children were considered to be young adults, and there were even those at that age who were married. This may have been a practice since young males at 13 years of age were working alongside their fathers in the coal mines. Deedie was different, her father had protected her and demanded that she stay in school even though she saw many of her female cohorts leave school and become wives and mothers.  She had been obedient to any instructions from her father.  Everything in her life centered on maintaining a close and loving relationship with her father.


            With Deedie having been the â??starâ?? in her fatherâ??s eye, it was difficult for her to come under the supervision of her mother. One must also recognize that there were six other siblings and that special 13 years of attention from her father could not be obtained from her mother even though her mother loved her very much and did the best that she could to provide equal attention to her that the other siblings received.  Deedie had witnessed the practice and behavioral habits of the other children in the mining camp and began to develop some of their practices especially those that had negative attitudes towards their parents.

            A short time later, another shock came into her life; the coal mining company forced the family to move from the camp as it was for miners only. This meant that Deedie must leave her home and friends to another place that was unfamiliar to her and also required that she change to another school attendance area. With so many changes and trauma, Deedie became more and more uncommunicative especially with her family.

            Having seven children and her only income being $125 dollars a month for survivorâ??s income, it became more and more difficult for her mother to survive. Her mother made a decision to move her family to Oklahoma a place quite strange to Deedie, but where her mother had relatives. This was a small farming community occupied mostly with tenant farmers. For a year, the family lived with an aunt and uncle of her motherâ??s. They were to say the least, very strange acting to Deedie. The aunt was very aggressive and overly strict with Deedie and the other siblings. Deedie became more and more traumatized and finally received permission to live with another uncle and his family in a small town 13 miles away. One reason it was more satisfying was that he had a son of the same age, who was very kind to Deedie as was the rest of the family.

            This arrangement lasted for six months and then the uncle decided to move to California meaning that Deedie would have to return home. By this time, the aunt and uncle where she had previously shared a home had moved away and allowed her mother and family to remain in the home if they would farm a small plot in a â??share cropperâ?? arrangement.  Deedie upon her return became more and more withdrawn and rebellious against her mother and her discipline. In truth, her mother was not authorization but as relaxed as possible in her discipline. Deedie created so much rebellion (i.e., refusing to attend school), that her mother had to take very strict action even to the point of having to â??switchâ?? her one day in front of the other siblings who were horrified as they had never witnessed any harsh discipline  by their mother towards any of them.


            During this period of time, World War II ended and the soldiers were returning to their homes.  Deedie met one of the soldiers who was 10 years her senior. This may not seem too much of an age difference, but being 15 and having so many traumatic experiences in her life, it was just the beginning of more traumas. Her husband had been to war and was very wise to the world however he was uneducated and abusive.  It is unknown whether she ran away from home to get married, as she was under the legal age for marriage in the state of Oklahoma without permission from the parents.


            Deedie moved into the home of her new husband. This home consisted of living with his father and a brother of the husband who also had just returned from the war.  She was required to cook for them, something that she had never previously learned to do as well as their cleaning and washing of their clothes.  From the narratorâ??s knowledge, there never appeared to be any complaining from Deedie even though in retrospect, she must have suffered severely.  Deedie appeared to be ill most of the time, but was never treated by a physician.

            Three years after her marriage, her husband obtained a job in New Mexico working in the oilfield. There she met a nice married couple who became lifelong friends. Deedie continued to have health problems and finally had to have surgery removing one of her ovaries.  A few years later, she gave birth to the first of her three children.  Deedie and her family then returned to Oklahoma where her husband worked at odd jobs, mainly as a ranch hand. It was during this period that the other two siblings were born.

            The narrator of this biographic sketch joined the military and knowledge of all that happened during the next four years is second story related. Deedie divorced her husband and returned with her children to her motherâ??s home.  She had not completed her high school diploma requirements and she completed a GED exam, allowing her to enter college. There was a government aid program for students who desired to enter the educational degree program and she chose to become a special education teacher.

            Deedie met her second husband, a career military man and taught school in Arkansas, California and New Zealand. After her husbandâ??s retirement, they came to Oklahoma. Her husband decided to return to his home state in the Northwestern United States and Deedie remained in Oklahoma with divorce following shortly thereafter.  Deedie made a decision to leave her teaching career and become a nurse.  She attended nursing school and became an LPN.

            This career change to nursing developed into an extreme attitude of being a caregiver. It was during this time that she met her third husband who was also an extreme hypochondriac and alcoholic.  Her husband demanded her fullest attention and was very abusive. However, with the development of her attitude and his desire to be in complete control of her time, she did continue to work part-time in local hospitals. This provided her with some peace-of-mind and fulfillment in her life.

            Deedie suffered many illnesses; the most major was two surgeries on her knees from constant standing and an overweight problem.  During these years, she still remained at the mercy of her abusive husband and his demand for constant care and attention. This became so demanding that she became very ill and finally placed him in a Veteranâ??s nursing facility and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to live with her children who were now adults and married.

            A short period of time after being with her children, one evening she walked to the kitchen of a daughterâ??s home and suffered a massive stroke, she was rushed to the emergency room of a local hospital, but the stroke was so massive that she had passed away immediately . The date of her passing was 2004, ironically 60 years after the passing of her father in the coal mining accident.

            Looking back over the life of Deedie, the traumas, the decisions, and how she lived her life, the narrator often tries to take her life story as a puzzle and place together each piece struggling to find a fit for the oddly shaped pieces to develop a beautiful picture of the flaming red-haired little girl, the â??starâ?? in her fatherâ??s eye, the little girl running down the road each day to meet her father coming home from the coal mine, and the one day when he did not come home.

            Questions remain about Deedieâ??s life and personality, was it the culture of Appalachia and the coal mining way of life? Deedieâ??s inability to adapt to her fatherâ??s death or the many changes in her life of being among unfamiliar surroundings, or was it as one learns from developmental psychology, was it nature or nurturing or environment?  Was there an unconscious drive that somehow through her marriages, she wanted to bring her father back to life and care for him? It will never be known, for she never told her own story.


Leo Hise



One thought on “Deedie, the Daughter of a Coal Miner

  • May 7, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    This is such a moving tribute to Deedie. Its a hearbreaking story. Your father was taken away from her so suddenly at such a critical age that she likely felt lost, angry and sad. Top that with moving away from everything she has ever known and you have a formula for disaster. Back in those days, children who acted out were disciplined with a switch rather than treated by a therapist. People nationwide didn’t know any other way to deal with it. That causes a lot of kids to move on without truely healing. They are constantly trying to fill a void and bandade a hurt with another man, job, etc. Deedie’s story is not unlike other children her age, both in and outside of Appalacia, who have lost a parent, whether through death or abandonment. Its so sad. I think Deedie was trying to fill a void and she became an easy target for abusive men. She was trying to mask some of the hurt. Probably these men worshipped her until the ring went on her finger. May Deedie rest in peace. She is now home with her daddy again. Take heart in that fact.

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