"My dad was a coal miner. All my family was," said Short.
But when, at 18, Short decided to go work in the mines, his family was not exactly urging him on.
"They told me not to," Short said. "It's dangerous."
Now 23, Short works as a roof bolt operator for Lone Mountain Processing. It's one of the most hazardous jobs in the business.
Short is among the young coal miners in Harlan County stepping up to fill a gap left in the labor force after years of low coal prices forced a generation of potential miners to find work in other fields.
"There's a decade of miners that have been left out," said Stanley Ditty, managing member for Harlan County's Sequoia Energy.
He said that coal mining now needs a new generation of trained workers. If that doesn't happen, "there's going to be a tremendous shortage of miners," said Ditty.
For many young people in the county, mining remains one of the few opportunities to stay at home and make a good living.
In 2003, the average salary in Harlan County's mining industry was $48,309, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's around 8 percent more than the national average for mining, including the pay for other natural resource extraction, not just coal.
Ask another 20-something miner, William Zunda, why he's a coal miner and you'll get a two-word answer: "Good money."
Zunda also comes from a long line of miners.
"It's carried down from generation to generation, from my great-grandpa to my grandpa, to my dad, and now me."
Coal mining gave Short the chance to stay in Harlan County, he said, instead of moving away for work.
"I don't like living in a big city. I'd rather stay right here in my home town," he said.
There are around 38 coal mines in Harlan County, employing close to 1,100 people, according to Carlos Cracraft, the U.S. Department of Labor's chief labor market analyst.
"The coal industry is the backbone of Harlan County's economy," said Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop. "I look for that to continue for years to come."
Buddy Johnston, manager of human resources and safety at Lone Mountain Processing, said that with the price of coal going up again, there's more stability for everyone in the industry right now.
His company is "always looking" for underground equipment operators and electricians, he said.
Both Lone Mountain Processing and Sequoia Energy hire through employment offices.
Lone Mountain requires two years of experience, and Sequoia requires that applicants have taken a 40-hour training course through the state. Training is updated throughout the year.
The dangers of the job are something that stay on Zunda's mind, he said.
"I've seen a lot of people get hurt. You've always got to be safe. You can't take short cuts."
According to Ditty, recruiting young people to the mines may be a challenge for some coal companies.
"The young people today, they don't want to get their hands dirty. The coal business is a dirty business," he said.
Grieshop said that the danger of the job also makes many think twice about becoming coal miners.
"I find people of all ages having second thoughts about working in the mines," he said. "It depends on their family history, their need for a job and their willingness to take a risk that comes with (mining)."
But coal mining of today isn't what it was 20 years ago, said Ditty.
"It's a hundred times safer today. It's high-tech mining, not a pick and a shovel."
He also said that new technology has cut down on the amount of dust in mines, which can cause black-lung disease.
Short said he's glad he made the decision to be a miner, and hopes to stay in the mines until he retires.
"The coal mines are a whole lot safer now. As long as you have good people, it's a really good place to work," he said.
If young people look to the mines as they consider their employment options in Harlan County, Zunda said that "they need to make sure that's what they want to do, and they need to be safe if they do it."