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We were in the deeps carting off the take when Howie started it up again: “Pete and repeat were on a boat,” he’d say to me, “Pete fell off, who was left.”

I’d stare him straight in the eyes and say “Repeat.”

And he’d laugh and say “Pete and repeat were on a boat. Pete fell off, who was left.”

“Repeat Goddamit.”

“Pete and repeat….” La la la– and that’d went on for about 20 minutes when I grabbed his arm, pressed my nose to his and said “Pete and I hope you fucking die were on a boat. Pete fell off. Who was left.”

That’s when the brace gave.

Black coal dust fogged the air, and when the debris settled, The old joker Howie was pinned under a bushel of it, with piece of wood the size of a Louisville slugger in his chest.

He was still alive, but not for long.

Sheila and the kids came as soon as they heard, and obviously weren’t allowed in the hole. I was with them as they said their goodbyes over the walkie.

When the other end went silent, I took little Cliff and Jordan by the shoulders, looked into their crying faces and told them:

“There are no more boys in your family now. Only men. Be strong for your mother.”

Andy Junk is a dumbo who hasn’t sent us a biography yet. Maybe this will be updated when it changes. Maybe it won’t. The point is…WHATTA DUMBO!

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