Chapter 31

The story so far: In the midst of chaos, Katka and Paul dream of a future.

 

Katka and Paul walked down the same path that she and Milo had walked almost a year before, toward the woods. When they were a quarter mile in, Katka saw a horse tied to one of the trees. She had never seen the horse before.

“Your carriage awaits.” Paul helped her onto the horse’s back, then mounted behind her. He gave the horse a swift kick.

“Where are we going?”

“To the fields.” They trotted through the forest, to the rifle range. Anton was there, shooting. Three men from Biwabik were with him. When Anton recognized his niece and his wife’s cousin, he put his rifle down.

“How’s Lily? The baby?”

“Asleep.”

“Is anyone else in the house?”

“No,” Katka said. “The men have all gone to make signs.”

“Old Joe is there,” Paul said, contradicting her. Katka hadn’t known this.

Anton gave a curt nod. “Anyone follow you?”

“Nope.”

“You can leave your horse here. Come on, Copper,” he said, taking the reins. “You’ll have to walk back on your own. Copper belongs to my friend over there.”

They continued walking, Katka following Paul, down a narrow deer trail. Eventually, they came to a place where an oak tree had been struck by lightning. It fell across their way and landed exactly in the middle of another oak, splitting it in two, about four feet off the ground. Katka was trying to decide if she should climb over or under the tree when Paul stopped.

“We call this the slingshot tree. Follow the slingshot.” They turned in that direction until they came to three giant granite stones, positioned by nature in a triangle. Paul walked toward them until they were standing directly in the middle. He picked up a stick from of the ground and hit one of the stones in code. They heard the code returned from underground.

Paul brushed away some sticks and grass, revealing a wooden door. They opened it and a man appeared, crawling up a ladder. “Paul.”

“Johan.”

Katka climbed down with Paul close behind. The cellar was four times as large as the one in Anton’s kitchen. It was loaded with crates holding guns and ammunition.

Seven men and one woman were assembled. Katka recognized Andre the Bulgarian, Milo and Mrs. Sherek, the midwife, who greeted her warmly. There was a small table, a few cots and five chairs. In the far corner, she saw a bedroll and a sleeping bag. This must be where Paul was staying. He never told her. Said he needed to keep his distance, to be on the safe side. No one knew he was Lily’s cousin. Katka sat on a crate. Paul sat across the room, next to Frank Little, who was part Ojibwe and also spoke French. The Bulgarian introduced himself as Andre Kristeva. She recognized him as the company man who helped lead the walkout.

“You’re that engineer who switched sides.”

“Engineer I am, ma’am. But I never was on that side. I’m a card-carrying Wob. Just working from a different angle. We are the strike force. I think you know everyone here, most about. That there is Johan Koski. Next to him is William Jarvi from the Finnish Socialist Hall. They drew up the demands. You know Frank, he’s ‘Finndian.’ Course you know Adeline,” He continued, pointing at Mrs. Sherek. “She ran the women’s auxiliary during the ’07 strike and she’s sharp as a whip, she is. Today, we will review the strike demands before presenting them to workers at the union hall tonight. Paul tells me you can read and write in four languages,” Andre said.

“Slovenian, Croatian, English and Russian. I publish a newspaper. The Iron Range Ladies Journal.”

He nodded. “We’ve all read it.”

“If you want your strike to work, don’t be forgetting the ladies,” Adeline Sherek said. “Womenfolk must have a say. It ain’t no picnic being a woman up here. While the men is working, the women is working too. We’re slaving away, just like you, but we got to be watching the babies at the same time. We got to feed the boarders. When the paychecks stop coming, how are the womenfolk gonna buy eggs? When children get hungry, mothers will do anything to feed them. If that means convincing their husbands to cross a line, they’d do it before they see a child go without bread.”

“I can’t think of a single woman who would tell her husband to cross,” Johan Koski said.

“That’s because you’re not a mother,” Adeline said.

 

Tomorrow: Chapter 31 ­continues.