"Where are you working now?" a man behind me asked a friend he apparently hadn't seen in awhile.
"Kammer, which they're going to close," the friend replied. "That'll be the third career I've been run out of by the government."
He referred to the Kammer power plant near Moundsville, W.Va., scheduled to be closed because of new Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Beyond any doubt, the previous two careers also were ended by the EPA or a similar regulatory body.
The two men were in a crowd of hundreds of coal miners, people whose jobs are linked to the industry, and their families. They were at the Century Mine in Belmont County, Ohio, Aug. 14, to listen to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
I heard nothing good said about President Barack Obama's administration during the rally. Again, that wasn't a surprise. Virtually everyone present to hear Romney views Obama and other liberals as a major threat to their livelihoods.
The men and women who cheered Romney, along with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and state Treasurer Josh Mandel, did so with enthusiasm. Mandel is a Republican running to unseat incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
On display at the mine was everything that's right with our nation - men and women who want nothing from the government but the freedom to work and prosper. Several miners were wearing shirts proclaiming, "Century Mine. Site of Ohio production record. 859,772 clean tons. May 2012." One had a helmet decal noting a particularly good day operating a longwall miner.
As you might expect in a crowd of hundreds of people, there was a substantial amount of litter on the parking lot. But at one point a small American flag dropped from someone's helmet. It had barely touched the pavement when another miner stooped to pick it up. Would that occur at an "Occupy" rally?
Families were all around. Mothers and fathers had brought their children to see the man they hope will be the next president of the United States. Grandparents held small children on their shoulders. A few women wore shirts proclaiming they were living the dream of coal miners' daughters.
Folks at the rally were, in short, the kind of people shunned by the big-city crowd who have to buy their jeans pre-aged, with the knees torn at the factory.
There were a few boos heard as Portman, Mandel and Romney outlined differences between their vision for America and what Obama and his liberal supporters want. Among the loudest expressions of disapproval was what I heard when one speaker accused the president of attempting to eliminate the requirement that public assistance recipients work, try to find jobs or obtain training for new ones.
The United States of America - which includes places like Belmont County, Ohio, and Marshall County, W.Va., often referred to by the political and media elite as "flyover country" - was not built by an all-powerful central government, despite what Obama and his liberal cronies seem to believe. It was built by people like the miners who listened to Romney, many of them outdoors enthusiasts with at least as much regard for the environment as the bureaucrats who are trying to destroy their jobs.
It was built, in short, by people with a high regard for hard work, individual initiative and liberty - the very qualities despised, it seems, by the liberals who believe government is the source of all that is good.
About half the people in this country today do not pay income taxes. They are supported by the other half, those at the rally Tuesday were reminded.
No one at the Romney event begrudges help to those who need it - and yes, there are many. But 50 percent? That doesn't wash with men who have just finished a work day (or night) deep underground.
Has the shift toward reliance on government - and repaying the favor at the ballot box - gone so far that good men and women like those at the mine rally cannot reverse it?
We'll see in November.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mike Myer is executive editor of The Intelligencer and the Wheeling News-Register. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com