The mining companies, having fought the union for over a century, turned an army of lawyers loose in the courts, and began hiring non-union workers. Thousands of unemployed flocked to the area, many with no mining experience, making the mines even more dangerous. Many of the mew workers were from Indiana, which ignited anti-Hoosier prejudices. Clashes between strikers and company guards were frequent and bloody, with the fights made bloodier by the easy availability of weapons in Kentucky.
The companies eventually built barracks-like "dorms" at mining sites so their new employees would not have to "face the danger of picket-line thugs." The barbed-wire fences, minefields, and armed guards caused many of the strike-breakers to give up their jobs, even though unemployment in the region hovered at 40%
The situation reached its bleakest point, however, with the Hansrote West incident of 2009, when the Hopkins County-based Hansrote West Coal Company decided that the most efficient way to compete with lager companies was to use slave labor. The slavery operation was uncovered following the escape of a worker, and the National Guard, after a brief, bloody fight with the Hansrote hired guns, but the company out of business. The outrageously criminal incident did supply the impetus needed to settle the strike, and in less than a week the sate government in Frankfort had taken over the mines, doubled the number of inspectors, and gotten the coal moving again.
barge traffic flourishes on the Ohio, Mississippi, and Tennessee rivers, and on Kentucky and Barkley lakes Most barges carry coal, with more valuable material shipped on the highways. There have been rumours, however, of more exotic cargo smuggled in piles of barge coal. Piracy is uncommon, but barges mount MGs positioned to sweep the deck it needed.
Western Kentucky contains a small amount of oil, all of it currently being produced by individuals owning a single well. The wells are widely spread, tenaciously defended, and are usually found in remote places, surrounded by barbed wire and land mines. The wells occasionally change hands through firefights, but their wide dispersal makes defense of a larger number of them costly; thus, the large oil companies have not found it profitable to take them over. Though the well owners will sell the crude oil to individuals, there are no refineries in the state. The tankers that collect the crude for the big companies are armed, and always accompanied by the armed well owners.
Kentucky has traditionally been known for race horses, fine whisky, and good tobaccoes. The western part of the state, however, lacks the open, rolling meadows needed for horse farming and the pure spring water essential to superb bourbons; the people have therefore contented themselves with growing thick patches of excellent, aromatic tobacco. Always a lucrative cash crop, tobacco today is a major source of income, and rumours of mounds of dark leaf hidden on coal barges is one reason for those unassuming boats to mount MGs.
Small tobacco fields can be found throughout the countryside, though the owners, like their moonshining cousins of another era, try to keep the patches hidden away. All fields are guarded in some manner, and the amount of firepower used goes up geometrically as the acreage planted increases.
Leaf and rough-cut chewing tobacco may be purchased at open-air - but heavily guarded - farmer's markets in most towns. Cigarette manufacturers are located near the Louisville/Lexington area. Kentuckians maintain a relatively casual air toward the lucrative product, unlike the furtive, almost underground atmosphere that often surrounds it in less productive northern states.
Stat run toll booths are marked on the map. They charge a mere $5/ton or portion thereof; this money is also used for road maintenance. The booths are well armed and armored, and contain escape doors for citizens involved in undesired duels. Combat within a quarter mile of a toll booth is prohibited, with surviving offenders arrested, and their vehicles sold at auction.
All the above information applies only to the main roads. Secondary roads are another matter entirely. Few are patrolled by any law enforcement, and many are in such bad shape that it is easier to drive beside them than on them. For this reason, off-road vehicles are common.
Truck stops are sprinkled throughout the region, but the best equipped by far is Grandma's Place, Pennyrile Parkway, exit #36. Grandma's has power facilities, 24-hour garage service for passenger vehicles or large trucks, a tire dealership with models to fit any size vehicle, a weapon repair shop, gunsmith, large restaurant (Brothers served first), a motel (part of which serves as a bordello), a small clinic, and a parking/camping facility. Duelling anywhere in the compound with either hand or vehicular weapons is strictly prohibited. Violations will normally be met with all available weapons.
Motorcycles, particularly off-road models, are extremely popular, and any town of over 5,000 will have at least one dealership. All dealers carry small bikes and normal accessories, and most have some light armament. The largest and best equipped dealership is Jackson Purchase Cycles in Paducah. JPC is a factory rep for all American, German, and Japanese bikes.
Hospitals are located in any town marked on the map, but Modisonville's Regional Medical Center has the most complete facilities. It can handle any medical emergency, but due to local fundamentalist religious beliefs, the RMC does not have a Gold Cross bank, the nearest being Nashville. The RMC has a fleet of radio-dispatched Ambunaughts, and several med-evac helicopters.
Madisonville is also the home of the area's largest wrecker service, Jones Brothers' Salvage and Arsenal. They run 24 hours, monitor CB emergency channels, tow anything, have a staff of 24-hour mechanics, will do some road work (for a heavy fee), and have acres of wrecked, shot-up, and burned-out vehicles, many still armed with weapons in varying stages of disrepair. Jones will make a fair deal for any used vehicle or part, but the large number of booby traps, guard dogs, and trigger-happy mechanics discourage theft. The Arsenal's mechanics can fix nearly anything, given time and cash.
Murray has recently become known as the "Hot Car Capital of America," and cash-only deals with "used car salesmen" can be quickly completed. The town's small college is today an agriculture and veterinary medicine school, though they do have a small clinic for people.
Most auto parts stores in the area carry accessories for off-road vehicles, but Jimmy Bob's Off Road in Hopkinsville is the region's most complete dealer with parts, accessories, and complete vehicles for sale. Though never convicted, Jimmy Bob is known to both sides of the law as a supplier of material that turns up missing from nearby Fort Campbell.
Evansville and Henderson jointly maintain the Audubon Arena, a multi-purpose facility on the Ohio River that specializes in horse racing and autoduelling. The two sports alternate during the week, with occasional special events like concerts or Roman boxing thrown in. A normal summer Saturday will have a mixed bull of racing and duelling. no other area towns have such active AADA-approved combat, though most hove matches at county fairgrounds on a weekly to monthly basis.
Hopkins and Webster counties have extensive abandoned strip pits which are popular places for private, off-road duelling. The Land Between the Lakes is another popular off-roading area, since the drop in traffic and tourists have allowed it to return to a more natural state. Occasional hunting expeditions are formed to reduce the wolf population in the LBL.
There are a variety of motorcycle clubs scattered around the region, but most are more beer-drinkers than gunslingers. The only true outlaw gang is the Comancheros, a band of no fixed residence who cruise the roads of Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee looking for shootouts and easy piracy. Turnover in the group is high, and it is hard to predict their reactions if met on the road. There is a "gang" in north Christian County whose members are all part of a pacifist sect. Members ride unarmed bikes on the most dangerous stretches of road in the vain hope of setting a better example. Attacking them is considered bad form, but their numbers remain low, and their life expectancy short.