Some folks say a man's made out of mud,
but a poor man's made out of muscle and blood,
muscle and blood, skin and bone…
a mind that's weak and a back that's strong.
You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don't you call me, ‘cause I can’t go;
I owe my soul to the company store.
“Sixteen Tons” is a song about the life of a coal miner, first recorded in 1946 by American country singer Merle Travis and released on his box set album Folk Songs of the Hills the following year.
According to Travis, the line from the chorus “another day older and deeper in debt” was a phrase often used by his father, a coal miner himself. This and the line “I owe my soul to the company store” is a reference to the truck system and to debt bondage. Under this system workers were not paid cash; rather they were paid with unexchangeable credit vouchers for goods at the company store, usually referred to as scrip. This made it impossible for workers to store up cash savings. Workers also usually lived in company-owned dormitories or houses, the rent for which was automatically deducted from their pay. In the United States the truck system and associated debt bondage persisted until the strikes of the newly-formed United Mine Workers and affiliated unions forced an end to such practices.
The Armstrong Trail
The railroad corridor that was once the Allegheny Valley Railroad later abandoned by Conrail is now the Armstrong Trail.
It is a non-motorized recreational trail that is open to the public for walking, jogging, biking, and cross county skiing. The Armstrong Trail is currently developed to 15 miles by paved asphalt, crushed limestone, and crushed sandstone.
Located accross the Allegheny river from Wattersonville, PA the coal tipple (a structure used for loading coal into railroad cars) and rail bridge crossing Redbank creek pictured are features on the trail.
Note; It is a twenty mile drive between the first two photos of the same subject taken from opposite sides of the Allegheny river.