The last day we visited, all of the puppies but the runt, Minnie, had found new homes.
Danny claimed "They don't think about us here." Companies are currently fighting for the ability to conduct mountaintop removal on some peaks in Danny's back yard. These practices stop the rainfall and cause other problems like contaminated drinking water, which might be to blame for the couple's sickness. Danny said "being out here is all I need" of his mountain home.
The Lankford's dog, Chanel, unexpectedly had puppies ten weeks before our visit. The Lankford's were taking care of seven other dogs in addition to the new puppies.
Faith is heavily relied on in the region, churches were seemingly more common than grocery stores on the mountain highways.
Rita and Danny care for a house of animals as their company.
The Lankfords were currently caring for their daughter's dogs, Bobo and Duchess, after her move out of her abusive ex-husband's house. The Lankford's were taking care of seven other dogs in addition to the new puppies.
Danny claims that his concoction of moonshine, eucalyptus, and peppermint will knock out any sickness.
Danny and Rita's daughter recently underwent a divorce from her abusive husband. Her husband was a nurse, and Danny claims the desensitization to violence might have been a factor in his actions.
"At this age you can't make no dreams come true, just live the ones you made."
Danny and Rita traded home cooked meals and conversation for our work repainting and sprucing up the interior of their home.
Brad Paisley warbles that you'll never leave Harlan alive. At the beginning of this March, my Alternative Spring Break service trip traveled to the area depicted on FX’s popular series, Justified, where jaw-dropping mountains, hard-nosed southern charm and rusted remains of a formerly dominant coal-mining industry meet in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains
We spent the year learning about rural poverty in Appalachia, but it wasn’t until we got there that we realized the realities behind the rust..
.In our short stay, we had the privilege to be welcomed by families young and old living in the area. The Lankfords were one such family.
Danny Lankford and his wife, Rita, have been fighting cancer and bankruptcy in Harlan County, Kentucky. Ever since Danny was laid off from the coal mines, it has been a continuing string of troubles. Nine years ago, the couple was forced to relocate their residence because a mining company bought out their previous home. A diagnosis of prostate cancer (possibly caused by his time in the mines or from the drinking water in the area) forced Danny into retirement from city work. Just two years later, Rita was diagnosed with colon cancer, adding to their financial strain.
Danny lists the calamities nonchalantly as just a part of life in Harlan. Danny and Rita's story is complex. Many members of the community share their struggles, where the remnants of a once-booming industry remain destructive to the environment and the lives of residents living in the valleys.
“The industrial revolution in America of manufacturing is over with,” Lankford said. “It’s been over with here for a long time. We’ve basically been left out, left behind. We don’t really count no more.
“We can survive. That’s what the people in Appalachia been doing before coal came, they survived.”
Despite the circumstances, Danny is perfectly content doing just that; surviving. As he looked off his deck into his own mountain 'paradise,' he explained that he has no desire to ever leave Harlan, alive or dead.
“At this age, you can’t make no dreams come true, just live out the ones you made,” he said.