Near his home in Bandytown, West Virginia, Leo Cook visits the Webb Cemetery, where several of his relatives are buried. Mining firms must maintain a 100-foot protective zone around such burial grounds. | Ami Vitale/Panos Pictures Just down the road from Lindytown, West Virginia, Leo Cook looks out a window in the now-vandalized building that once served as the meeting hall for members of Local 8377 of the United Mine Workers of America. Back when the building was in use, Cook sometimes polished its wooden floors. | Ami Vitale/Panos Pictures Cook visits the former meeting hall of Local 8377 of the United Mine Workers of America near his Bandytown, West Virginia, home. | Ami Vitale/Panos Pictures "I saw Lindytown disappear," Leo Cook said. "Three people up there that died, and I believe in my soul -- I'll go to my grave believin' this—that aggravation's what caused it." .

Leo Cook
Bandytown, West Virginia

I grew up in Ducky Fuller holler, right up there on that mountain. I loved it. When I was a kid ... lord, I'd catch crawdads and lizards and go fishin'. You could drink the water out of that creek up there.

The whole top of that mountain was nothing but farming country, where the mine is now. We used to have a tater patch up there. Of course back then we had to raise what we eat. Grew corn, beans. We had cellars that we kept it in. We had chickens and hogs and cows. We hunted every night. Coon huntin' and rabbit huntin' and squirrel huntin'. That's how we had stuff to eat, you know.

We had a big radio—it run on a battery. We listened to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night, you know. We felt like we was rich. I'd walk off that mountain with a quarter, and I'd see a movie and buy a bag of popcorn. For a quarter. You could buy a pop for a nickel. My dad started out in logging. I'd see him come home in the wintertime and take his pants off and stand 'em up on the floor, 'cause they's frozed. He used to tell me that the timber was so big it'd take two days to cut one tree down with a crosscut saw. Two days. This is the God Almighty truth -- I seen trains go outta here, a flat car'd have one log on it. That's all it'd haul. One log. That's how big they were. I worked for the mining companies for 28 and a half years. Six or seven days a week. I made good money.

This mountaintop removal done wrecked West Virginia. Ain't no way these trees are going to grow back. Ain't no way. Might be little pine trees or a little locust tree or grass, but that's it.

My neighbors -- a lot of 'em don't like me fighting the mountaintop removal. They say, "Leo, you got no business getting involved in that." I say, "Well, one of these days you're gonna wish you got involved in it. When it's too late, it's too late."

I got a letter about a month or two ago that they're gonna be blastin' up over there, within a thousand foot of my house. A thousand foot ain't that far away. They haven't tried to buy my place, but I'm a'lookin' for it.

I saw Lindytown disappear, and what happened in Lindytown, it's gonna happen here in Bandytown too. It's gonna happen right here. It's comin'. It's comin'. (Interviewed May 31, 2012)

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