Chapter 32

The story so far: The strikers generate a list of demands.

 

Milo and Harris Maki arrived at the train station in Maki’s buggy. Harris Maki was a big man, nearly five feet ten inches and a heavy equipment operator at the St. James mine. Milo had been instructed to bring the soon-to-arrive IWW leaders to their hotel, feed them and get them to the union hall for the 7 p.m. meeting. Three fellow miners were at the station to help them. Milo helped Maki tie up his horses, then shook hands with the other men. They stood on the east side of the depot and watched for the train to approach.

On the other side of the street stood Sheriff Turner, Mr. Augustine Stone in his yellow suit and five armed mine guards. Mr. Stone called out to Milo and the men across the street. “Waiting for someone special?”

Maki called back. “Heard there might be some new ladies on the train.” Milo winced.

“Heard the same thing,” Mr. Stone said.

Each side stood and waited. Five miners on one side, seven company men on the other. Mr. Stone checked his watch. The four o’clock arrived and all the passengers disembarked. No Wobs.

The air was still unseasonably hot and humid. Mr. Stone had a chair delivered and he sat on it, smoking cigars while he and his men waited for the five o’clock. After a few minutes, some of the company guards sat on the ground.

The men on the east side sat on Harris Maki’s buggy and chewed tobacco. Everyone was sweating, wiping foreheads with handkerchiefs, sighing. No one spoke much. It was strange now, Milo thought, how much could be heard, now that the mines were no longer operating. Chickens in the distance, voices from main street, children playing chase in the mud.

The five o’clock train was late. Mr. Stone knew because his watch, which had been given to him by his father, told him so. Milo knew because his stomach told him so. Katka had made him a good, hot lunch, but it was obvious he was going to miss supper. He hoped the train wasn’t terribly delayed. Milo hoped he’d have time to get the important men to their hotel before the meeting started. They were probably hungry, too.

Some boys came skipping past. Harris Maki recognized them all. One of them, Benjamin, lived two doors down from him. Maki told him to run back to the location and tell his wife to bring him and his friends some food.

“Will you pay me a penny if I bring the food back, Mr. Maki?”

“Ain’t got no penny, Benjamin,” Maki said. “But I’ll give you a knuckle sandwich if you don’t. How that sound?”

“Ain’t never had one of those.”

“Always a first time, there is. Now run along.” The boy and his friends ran out of sight.

Milo and his fellow miners took up a game of Smear on the buggy. They were three hands in when they heard the familiar chug and whistle of the engine. “Train’s coming,” Maki said. “’Bout damn time.”

They watched as the locomotive approached. The first passengers off the train were four women and six children. The men on either side of the street tipped their hats to them. Next, twelve scraggly looking, dirty men lumbered off the train. “You there!” Mr. Stone said, stopping one of the men. “Who are you and what’s your business?”

“Name’s Peterson, sir. Came all the way from Minneapolis. We men heard there might be work here, opening up soon. Thought we’d beat the rush.”

Mr. Stone smiled and put out his hand to shake. “You are most welcome Mr. Peterson. Take your boys to Vince Torelli’s boarding house. They’ll be good to you. Tell ’em Mr. Augustine Stone sent you, and your dinner’s on me.”

“Thank you, sir,” one of the men said, tipping his hat. “We be sure to do that.” Most went straight away. A few lingered, lighting tobacco. Stone called to Milo and the miners nearby, “Looks like you boys have been replaced!”

“Scabs!” one of the miners yelled. The men who had lingered said nothing.

 

Tomorrow: Chapter 32 continues.