Crackers and Missing Mountains. Tales within tales.

By Marion Harless, West Virginian

More taxpayer dollars are going to subsidize construction of huge air-polluting gas cracker plants. Gas and oil are cracked to make stock for plastic. Plastics are smothering us and the planet. If we really need more plastics, we can make them from wood, plants, and even coal, we can start mining them from landfills. Think of the jobs! 

Many chemical components such as mineral oil, glycerin, propylene glycol, ethylene glycol, and acetic acid can also be cracked out. But many nut and seed oils can substitute for mineral oil. Glycerin can be made from plants and some still is. We don’t need propylene or ethylene glycol for antifreeze, nor to make soft coconut or as a component of vitamin pills. Acetic acid is vinegar, easily made from apples, grapes, or almost any fermented material. 

Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough first published The Lonely War of a Good Angry Man in the December 1969 issue of American Heritage.  The good angry man was Kentuckian Harry Caudill, himself the author of Night Comes to the Cumberlands (1962) and My Land is Dying (1963), among his many writings detailing the seemingly futile fight against strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. 

The piece is included in McCullough’s Brave Companions: Portraits in History, published by Simon & Schuster Paperbacks in 1992. He recalls asking Caudill why he stayed in Letcher County. 

After smiling at his wife, Caudill related an anecdote dating back to a post Civil War feud involving Claib Jones. Claib was pinned down in his cabin by hours of firing. A pause in the shooting brought his opponent’s wife to ask Claib to surrender. Caudill thought Claib’s response was wonderful. The old fighter said, “No. We want to fight on a little longer anyway.”

Caudill surmised that that was the way he and Anne felt; they wanted to fight on a while.