Chapter 39 continues

The story so far: The strikers try to prepare for the onslaught of deputized criminals.

 

Andre spoke last. He explained how the company planned to make the workers look unpatriotic. “By fighting for our own equality and justice and dignity, we are honoring the spirit of America,” he said.

They lined up, four abreast. Men took turns carrying a banner that read “One Big Union.” Some of the men carried red flags. Although most of the socialist miners were in the union, not all union members were socialists. For them, the red banners were a symbol of the blood they had spilled in the mines. Blood they hoped to never spill again.

The band played Solidarity Forever. They marched through the streets of Virginia, to the Alpena mine. The men walking the picket line cheered jovially. The parade marched back into town down Second Avenue. When they got to Seventh Street, they discovered they could not cross. They stopped and stood in silence looking at what lay before them. Forty-four newly deputized lawmen wearing shiny badges and dirty clothes sat atop their horses, smiling smugly. Each deputy held a stack of fliers in one hand.

Paul and Katka had left Biwabik for Virginia at the same time as the deputies. Because they had taken the train, they arrived first. They stood under the awning of Oleson’s Bar with several other patrons who had ventured outdoors to witness the showdown. Moose Jackson was positioned in the middle of the deputies, his gigantic frame perched on a strong gelding. He looked incredibly pleased with his new position of power. He began to yell.

“My men will be distributing a pamphlet that you all must read!” He turned to the deputies and said something in an impatient voice, after which several of the deputies jumped down and approached the men, shoving fliers toward their faces.

Moose began to read the same document that the sheriff had read earlier regarding the governor’s edict. He stumbled over the word “insubordination.” He skipped it, and moved on to “disloyalty, mutiny (which he pronounced as mutt-in-nye) … or refusal of duty in the military … or shall willfully ob … obstruct … shall face up to twenty years in prison.” He was so intent on trying to read and pronounce the words on his pamphlet that he paid no attention to the assembly before him.

“Moose!” one of the deputies yelled. “These son-of-a-bitches are all fresh off the boat. Not a one will take a flier. They can’t read or speak a lick of English. Look at this.” He pushed a flier toward Milo. Milo put his hands in his pocket and kept his eyes on his shoes.

Moose Jackson looked at Milo, as if trying to place him. His forehead crinkled, and then eased, as he recognized Milo as someone he had once punched. He responded to the deputy. “They’re faking it. Force the immigrant slime to take ’em.” Each striker stood his ground. The fliers flittered off the men’s chests onto the street. It was still humid and the air was stagnant.

“How about this?” Moose said. “I got a new law to deliver. It ain’t okay for you men to have your little parades anymore. As of this morning, they is against the law. This law be different from the other one — the one that says we can arrest you for not working. That one don’t take effect for three days. But this one, it takes effect right now. Sheriff Turner decreed it this morning. No more than three union men can assemble together in a group on public property. And what do I see here? One, two, three, four. Four, right there in the front row. Four more behind them. And four across as far back as I can see. Now, do we need to arrest you boys, or are you going to split up and go back home?”

 

Tomorrow: Chapter 39 continues.