THE MASSIVE passing of coal companies shut thousands of miners off from even the scanty benefit of two or three workdays per week and closed the doors of the commissaries and scrip windows on which they were dependent. Only a vast expansion of federal relief programs saved their families from starvation. The Works Progress Administration in particular endlessly multiplied projects to absorb the legions of marooned miners and the almost equally numerous starvedout hillside farmers.
The efforts of the Federal Relief Directors to find employment for these myriads of destitute, frightened men were sometimes comical. Sometimes worthwhile projects could not be organized rapidly enough and "gin work" or "little piddling jobs" were resorted to.
The clamoring workmen greatly outnumbered the available tools and on occasion this deficiency was circumvented by requesting the men to bring their own picks, mattocks, shovels and sledgehammers to the job. But sometimes, even when the tools were available, an interval had to pass before the fiscal courts and the federal agencies could give the projects the required clearance. During these red-tape delays the harassed local relief directors had to find something on which the men could work.
In the building of roads countless blast-holes were drilled in the rocky hillsides. Gangs of men drilled them along stretches of several miles at a time, and to prevent the holes from refilling with dirt and gravel they were plugged with wooden pegs. In some counties the relief directors set hundreds of men to work on the timbered hill