a thousand words Beyond the Hill

Wiqan Ang

Every Sunday, Charles Hicks sits at the same spot, four rows from the front.

“Been sitting here ever since I came here. Reckon it’s a habit I get,” Hicks said. “I love it, don’t have many members but they are good people.” Hicks has been a member of the Church of God in Mayking for the past four years.

Hicks has spent most of his life in Appalachia and only left once – for a job in Dayton, Ohio. “I went out to work one time but I didn’t like it,” Hicks said.

As the congregation sings hymns, Hicks either taps his lap or the pew with his left hand. His right jacket sleeve flattens to fill the space left by his missing arm. Like many others in Appalachia, Hicks depends on social security disability insurance for a living as he was injured while working in the mines.

Hicks has mining in his blood. He worked for 11 years before his injury stopped him.

“My grandfather worked the mines,” Hicks said. He said that his father and children worked in the mining industry, too. “All my kids got high school but they have mines in their head,” Hicks said.

His eldest son is a bolt machinist and his younger son was a mine surveyor until he lost his life in a car accident.

Wiqan Ang is a senior photojournalism major from Singapore. He can be reached at [email protected]