Chapter 26 continues
The story so far: The striking miners lay down their weapons and start to march.
The last of the miners passed by. Katka recognized Samo, a boarder. “Where are you going?” she cried in Slovenian, breaking the solemnity of the moment.
“Come and see, Katka,” he said.
Boldly, she stepped in line after the last of the workers. Many of the other wives, children and relatives did the same. The parade of miners marched past the mine, through Biwabik, down Blood Red Road and kept going, up the road toward the Slovenski Dom. Word traveled quickly from the front of the line to the back. No one was going home. This walkout was bigger than the St. James mine. Milo, Paul and Andre the Bulgarian were leading the crowd to the Miller mine, in Aurora, five miles away. As they approached the Kovich farmhouse, Katka noticed that Mrs. Sherek’s buggy was parked outside, her horses haphazardly tied to a tree. The two boys she had taken with her as gunrunners were playing marbles in the dirt next to the buggy. Bruno, Anton’s horse, was standing aimlessly in the yard. Why hadn’t Anton put him in the stable? She ran out of line. “What’s happening?” she yelled to the boys.
“Baby coming,” one of the boys said.
Katka ran into the house “Teta Lily!” she screamed. “Teta Lily!”
She ran up the stairs to the bedroom Lily and Anton shared, and thrust open the door. Mrs. Sherek was there. Anton was there. Lily was there. A baby suckled her right breast.
Katka was momentarily speechless. She looked from face to face. Mrs. Sherek was humming, peacefully. Anton was grinning stupidly, looking at the baby, and Lily … Lily, of course, was talking: wildly, softly, a mile a minute to the child who had just recently entered the world. “Healthy!” Katka uttered with relief.
“As a horse,” Mrs. Sherek said.
“And as big as one,” Lily said, laughing.
“Oh no, dear.” Mrs. Sherek finished washing her hands in the basin. “Believe it or not, that’s a little babe, it is. But they all feel like a watermelon.”
“Funny, isn’t it? No one bothered to mention that to me,” Lily said smiling.
“Of course not. If women told the truth about childbirth, the human race would end.”
“Got that right.”
“I should have been here with you.” Katka peered at her little cousin. “I am so sorry.”
“No offense, dear, but you wouldn’t have been much use. That baby’s a determined one. Came barreling out like a bullet. Didn’t have no ether, neither. Whole thing couldn’t have taken more than fifteen minutes,” said Mrs. Sherek. “Besides, Anton and I were here in plenty of time.”
“Anton, will you ever forgive me?”
“It’s a boy,” Anton said, giddy. “We won’t name him until the baptism, of course, but in my head, he already has a name.”
“Don’t I get a say?” Lily countered.
“Not if you still plan to name him some cousinjack American name like Clarence. This boy is all Slovenian.”
“Yes. I can tell by his hairy back.” Lily removed the baby from her breast, turned him over and showed his backside to Anton.
“Not hairy,” he said. “Manly.”
“It’s just baby fuzz. Be gone in a week.” Mrs. Sherek took the baby from Lily and gently placed the sleeping child in the top drawer of the bureau. “You two. Out. When the baby sleeps, Mama sleeps. That’s the rule for at least a week. Lily is not to lift anything heavier than her baby.”
Anton leaned over and kissed the new baby. He kissed Lily, too, before following Katka out of the bedroom and down the stairs.
When they reached the first level, Anton grabbed his hat. “What happened? What did I miss? Show me your notepaper.”
“Doesn’t make much sense. Mostly chicken scratch.”
“Give it here.”
Katka threw it and he glanced through.
“No violence? Really?”
“Where they at, now?”
“I suspect they’re at the Miller by now.”
“Yes. I’m sure you’re right.” Anton left the dining room for a minute, and came back carrying his Winchester and a .45 Colt M1911 pistol, which he fastened with a strap to his leg.
“The Bulgarian said no weapons.”
“Let me guess. Keep your hands in your pocket and shame the company?”
“I like the sound of that.” Anton smiled, mockingly. Then he grew serious. “The Winchester’s for you, Katka. I have to haul a few things into my cart. I’m going to leave the cellar door open for a stretch. Watch so as no one comes in,” he said, tossing her the rifle. He hitched his cart to Bruno and led him to the back door. Anton went down to the cellar and brought up several heavy crates to load into the cart. “That’ll do, Kat. Close up the cellar for me. When Mrs. Sherek leaves, bolt the door. Don’t let anyone in unless they know the code. That includes regular boarders.”
“Two long knocks, followed by three short. Like this.” He rapped on the table.
“And stay here. That walkout is no place for women. And it’s no place for you, either.” He smiled.
Katka promised to stay put and wait on Lily until the miners came home. “You’ll send word if anything happens?”
“I will. I don’t plan to be gone long. But nothing is certain.”
“God be with you, Uncle.”
“Take care of my son. Lily did good, huh?”
“It’s a grand baby.”
He mounted his horse and headed toward the Miller mine.
Tomorrow: Chapter 28 begins.