Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘coal’

Big Muskie Bucket Exhibited at Miners Memorial Park

Big Muskie 325 tons of earth in a single bite!  The Big Muskie took that bite quite easily while mining over twenty million tons of coal in  Muskingum County of Southeastern Ohio from 1969-1991. Today all that is left of the Big Muskie, one of the world’s largest draglines, is this bucket capable of holding many tons of earth.

Miners Memorial ParkOn a crisp winter afternoon, the curvy, scenic road happened to meander past the site of the Miners’ Memorial Park in Morgan County, Ohio where the Big Muskie Bucket is the centerpiece of the park. While the ground was covered in a light snow and the gates were closed, the sign said : Walk-Ins Welcome. That was invitation enough to explore a little closer. My footsteps were the first to leave imprints in the snow this January afternoon.

Big Muskie BucketConsidered one of the seven engineering wonders of the world, this bucket weighs 460,000 pounds empty. If you look closely in the bottom left of the picture, a teddy bear can be spotted on the left hand side of the bucket…and it truly looks like “just a drop in the bucket”! When you consider this is only the bucket of the dragline…well, the magnitude overwhelms you.  It has been estimated that twelve car garages could fit inside.

This massive mechanical wonder was last used by the Central Ohio Coal of American Electric Power, or AEP, in the rolling hills near Cumberland, Ohio. Lucky it was being used by AEP as this huge machine was run basically by electricity, using enough electricity daily to power over 27,000 homes.  Big Muskie had a crew of five and worked around the clock to take advantage of the lower nighttime per kilowatt-hour rate. When you check out the first picture, knowing the size of the bucket, you then realize how gigantic the entire Big Muskie really was, actually twenty-two stories tall!

The WildsAfter the land was mined, it was beautifully reclaimed as can be seen in this picture. The ground was smoothed, trees were planted, and it was again an inhabitable place for animals.  In fact, The Wilds, a haven for wild animals from all over the world, is located within a short drive and is where this picture was taken. If you look closely in the open range, you can spot a herd of buffalo grazing in the snow with a beautiful lake in the foreground. The Wilds is one of the largest wildlife conservation centers in the world with some type of safari available most of the year to explore nearly 10,000 acres of that reclaimed land.

Today, AEP maintains this Miners’ Memorial Park. It is a great place to relax, even on a quiet winter day, while strolling around the huge bucket. There are several areas available for picnics as well as a shelter, which houses displays on the Big Muskie when it was working as well as other information on the area. As land was reclaimed, many camping areas with lakes and fishing were included so it is a great place for family fun during the summer months.

Even though the Big Muskie is no longer in operation, coal mining is still an important occupation in these rolling hills. Warning: Watch out for fast moving coal trucks on every curve!

To visit the Big Muskie Bucket on your next visit to Ohio, travel I-77 and take Exit 25 in southeastern Ohio. Be certain you stay on Route 78 and after many bends and curves – a rollercoaster ride – of about 16 miles, you will arrive at the Miner’s Memorial Park. The area is open May – October, but you can walk in and explore at any time.  Be sure to stop and scan the hillsides.

The Ghost of Walhonding at the Goblins’ Get-Together

Want to share a Halloween story in the spirit of the season as a diversion from my regular travel blog. Hope you enjoy!

Do you believe in ghosts? Melanie felt a bit skeptical, but her husband Jim refused to even talk about the possibility. Jim said that ghosts were as likely as a flying car.

On Halloween evening, they drove to the Goblins’ Get-Together at the popular Simply A-Maizing Corn Maze near an old coal mining town. Leaves floated down as a gentle breeze drifted through the valley on this beautiful Indian summer evening. The call of a hoot owl ensured vigilance under the hazy moonlit sky.

Friends gathered around a blazing bonfire, not to keep warm, but to watch the flames as they feathered into the air. Jim refused to wear a mask, even though Melanie explained, “Masks were originally worn to scare away the bad spirits, while people put food on the doorsteps to encourage good spirits. I’m wearing my mask just for fun.”

With moonlight dancing across the fiery autumn hills of southeastern Ohio, a mist rose from the nearby valley. All at once a cool breeze came out of nowhere. Melanie’s eyes glazed over with surprise and a shiver ran down her spine.

“What’s the matter Melanie?’ asked one of her friends, “you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“M-m-maybe I just felt a ghost! The icy air rushed past like someone opened the door to the freezer.” A faint smell of coal dust lingered in the frigid breeze. “Could it be the Ghost of Walhonding that our parents used to talk about? Remember those stories about the miner that was trapped in the coal shaft collapse?”

“Don’t be foolish,” grumbled Jim, “you know there isn’t any such thing as a ghost.”

At this old coal mining town, one friend suggested having a contest to see who could find the biggest lump of coal. They divided up in pairs and headed off in different directions.

Melanie suggested to Jim, “Maybe we should try over there by that old slate pile.” As they approached, they spotted a dirty young man walking by the pile where the silvery handiwork of nature’s lace maker glistened in the moonlight.

“We’re looking for a large lump of coal,” explained Melanie. “Do you live around these parts?”

“Been here all my life,” muttered the dusty man.

“Could you help?”

“Why sure. You wait here as I know a secret spot.”

In a few minutes, the young man returned with a beautiful large lump of coal. Melanie and Jim glanced at each other in surprise.

When they looked back, the dusty man had vanished, and a chill surrounded them; however, the coal remained at their feet.

Picking it up with quivering hands, they headed back to the bonfire. Everyone else decided the only coal left here was underground where the mine shaft caved in years ago, so Jim and Melanie’s find surprised everyone. Maybe later they would tell them of their encounter with the miner.

Could they have seen the Ghost of Walhonding and received his assistance? Who knows, maybe Jim will soon have a car that flies!

Read more about the Ghost of Walhonding in SOLD, a just released book of short stories by the Rainy Day Writers of Cambridge, Ohio. Gypsy Bev has two short stories included and my story, “What’s in the Jar?”,  also contains an encounter with  the Ghost of Walhonding.

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