Home

Inspired by a true and terrifying day in Appalachia

To Touch the Earth Again


The iron whistle set above the adit of the North Slope mine was only eight inches tall, but its high-pitched sound could penetrate every nook and cranny of the coal-mining camp. Some of the camp’s Irish miners likened the sound to a banshee’s wail since the whistle cried the same blood-curdling warning:
The angel of death is nigh.


Possum Run, the unique coal town, deserves to exist— deserves to thrive—but fate has a different plan.

Only weeks out of medical school, Dr. Philip Springer sees disaster coming—but the wrong kind. He is forced to substitute for the only doctor in Possum Run, Tennessee, a tiny coal town isolated high in the rugged Appalachian Mountains. To the doctor’s surprise, Possum Run defies many mining town stereotypes. It is peaceful and harmonious and, despite the Depression, offers full employment. But trouble is brewing in paradise. A politically connected miner is endangering the mine, and the huge slag dam high above the town is leaking badly. Even so, under the masterful guidance of his faithful nurse, Philip learns to be a doctor as well as part of the town. Then one day, he and Possum Run face a danger far beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.


Rowland Creitz

Rowland Creitz is a former Marine, primary grade teacher, and school consultant. He lived in seven states, in many towns, and overseas before settling down in Stow, Maine. His interest in coal mining communities was sparked by childhood camping in the southern Appalachian Mountains and a map of his father’s 1933 journey through the Clearfork Valley that straddles Tennessee and Kentucky.