Chapter 35 continues

The story so far: Desperate replacement workers begin to arrive by the trainload.

 

The deputies and company bosses shook hands with the men and then went home to their various towns. Mr. Stone and Sheriff Turner, who both lived in Biwabik, took Stone’s motorcar. “Want to stop at Vince’s for a tumble with Leppe?” Turner said.

“Not tonight,” Stone said. “We may have avoided a ruckus tonight, but I expect we’ll see something grand tomorrow when we bust those men through the picket line. I want to be rested.”

At four o’clock in the morning, forty-eight bullets were fired into Mrs. Johanson’s brick boarding house. She and her boarders awoke with a terrified start. None of the bullets had hit a window and no one was hurt, but the sound was deafening. The men scrambled to put their clothes on. Those who had knives clenched them in their fists. There was chaotic yelling and stumbling about.

“Madness!” Mrs. Johanson screamed. “Madness!” She put on her bonnet and ran outside. The bullets stopped. She screamed for the deputy. “Deputy Baker! Get me out of here. They’re trying to kill me!”

Deputy Baker called out to her. She ran toward him. “My motor car is around the bend,” he said. “I’ll take you to your cousin Ida’s.” They left.

Within minutes, four buggies pulled up. Armed miners, who had been hiding in the bushes and trees surrounding the boarding house, approached. One of the armed men was Paul Schmidt. “Scabs!” he yelled to the men holed up inside. He crept forward until he was close to the window. Then he spoke loudly, but calmly.

“We could have fired in the windows. We didn’t. We wish no harm to you. I know you. I have known you for years. You are hungry, yes? You are tired, yes? You have mouths to feed and no means. Your woman is disappointed in you, perhaps? You are pushed to the edge. I am right, yes?

“See these men surrounding this house? It is dark, so most likely not. There are fifty-two of us, in case you are wondering. They are hungry too. They want to be treated like men and they are making sacrifices for that. They got babies too. Women they love. They are good men and don’t wish you a lick of trouble. My men, see, they wouldn’t start nothing. But once it’s started, see, well, what kind of man would let another man take something away from him without fighting back? No man.”

“Got that right, Paul,” one of the men yelled. Paul continued to address the laborers hiding in Mrs. Johanson’s boarding house.

“That’s precisely what you are doing, see? Taking something that ain’t yours. Something that belongs to these men — their jobs. And we won’t stand for that, will we boys? We don’t want to hurt you. We just want you to leave. What have you got to lose? You have coins in your pocket and food in your bellies,” Paul said.

Silence.

“We will wait,” Paul said. “We do not wish to harm men from the working class.”

The door opened. The men filed out, heads down, and got into the buggies. The drivers passed the men some whiskey and left for the station. When they arrived at the depot, a train was waiting. Paul tipped his hat to the conductor as the laborers piled in.

The next day, when the motorcade arrived to take the laborers to the mine, they found Mrs. Johanson’s boarding house deserted. Stone went immediately to Deputy Baker’s house. After getting no response to his vigorous knocking, he kicked the door down. The house was a mess. It was clear that Deputy Baker’s family had packed up as many belongings as possible and left in the middle of the night. They had fled in Stone’s motorcar.

 

Tomorrow: Chapter 35 continues