Back in the days when donkeys, mules and horses were used to haul ore cars in the coal mines of West Virgina, their animals were purchased, at great price, by the miners themselves. Thus, to lose a donkey was a tragedy that might cause the miner's family to starve.
One night, a miner was leading his donkey home after working the late shift in a mine. He decided to walk along the railroad tracks in an effort to shorten his trip home. As he and his donkey walked inside the tracks, he looked ahead of them, and in the distance saw the unmistakable headlamp of an oncoming steam engine.
It was far enough ahead of the miner and his donkey to be of no immediate concern to them. Minutes later, the miner heard the chugging engine and determined to get himself and the animal safely out of danger.
But the donkey stubbornly refused to budge. No matter how hard the miner pulled, cursed, or beat the creature, it refused to move off the railroad track. The train sped towards them; both the miner and the donkey were in peril of losing their lives.
Finally, the miner was forced to dive out of the way of the onrushing locomotive just before it ran over him. The donkey was killed instantly, cut up into pieces, and left on the track in the wake of the coal train.
The miner was in shock. How was he to feed his family now that the donkey was dead? Then the frugality of the miner's Scots ancestry came to his mind, and the miner began to pick up the donkey meat. He would smoke the meat to preserve it for the coming winter months. At least his family wouldn't starve.
He began collecting the meat, beginning with the smaller pieces. He finally had all of the carcass collected except for one large ham with the rest of the rear leg attached. He pulled at it to get it off the track.
Another coal train was coming.
But the ham wouldn't come free. It's hoof was lodged beneath the rail where the impact of the train had jammed it. The miner pulled and pulled at the ham, even as the train bore down on him.
Just as he pulled the ham free, the train struck him, cutting off his head, and throwing his corpse into a creek next to the railway.
THE MORAL OF THIS STORY: