Chapter 49

The story so far: Defense attorneys denied access; prisoners languish.

 

The mines stayed closed. The prisoners remained jailed. Anton’s food stash was no longer available since he was in jail and Andy was dead in the ground.

Families lost hope and started moving away. Men began to cross the line. Considering the Mesabi strike a lost cause, the IWW stopped funding it so they could focus their energy elsewhere. Without the aid of its central leadership, the union of immigrants began to crumble.

Katka kept the livestock alive. She and Old Joe hunted in Anton’s woods. She shot rabbits, squirrels, even a skunk. The other boarders fished with cane poles and brought the scaly creatures home to Katka. She cooked huge stews every single day, tasteless because she had run out of salt. Hungry families stopped by every night at dinnertime anyway. They got just enough to eat to want more. In the evening, she wrote for Strikers News, doing everything she could to combat the company-owned presses that depicted Anton, Lily, Samo and Dusca as vigilantes. When she finished her third edition of the paper since the attacks, Katka grabbed her lantern and brought the typed paper out to the usual place. No one had picked up the last two, but she thought she’d give it another try. She looked around in candlelight, remembering how Paul used to wait for her. It was here, in this barn, that he told her he loved her. She ached for him. She put the ribboned manuscript in the box and hid it under Sasa’s nest. The next day, when she went to collect eggs, the manuscript was still there.

“Your distributor is dead,” a voice said. “But we found you a new one. It’ll be about a week.”

Katka turned away from the hen. A woman was standing in the doorway of the barn. She had dark, curly hair and pale blue eyes. She was not from here, yet she was strangely familiar. “Who are you?”

“Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. We met briefly at Ellis Island. You don’t remember?”

Slowly, the memory floated back. Elizabeth was Paul’s friend. She had worn that wide-brimmed purple hat. She dropped her suitcase after Katka and Paul had been separated at Ellis Island, giving Katka the photo of her and Paul in the lightning storm. “Last time I saw you,” Katka said, “You told me Paul had been detained. He is once again detained.”

“I’m here to help, Katka. Do you have any coffee?”

“Only rose hip tea.”

Katka and Elizabeth walked from the barn to the house. When the tea was ready, she sat at the kitchen table across from Paul’s friend. The IWW had sent Elizabeth to the Range to help raise money for the defense team and to increase morale in the deflated strikers. She had been up to Minnesota’s Iron Range once before, during the failed 1907 strike. Joe Hill, the man who wrote most of the Wobbly songs in The Little Red Song Book, had even written a song about her. It was called Rebel Girl.

“Andy Lamppi, the soda pop peddler. He was the one who distributed your newspaper,” Elizabeth told her. Katka thought of Andy, sweet Andy, who always had a free bottle of root beer for a penniless child on a hot day.

“What do you plan to do about Lily? Anton?” Katka’s voice cracked. “And Paul?”

“You care for him a great deal, don’t you Katka?”

Katka cleared her throat. “He is my world.”

“I have a plan.”

 

Tomorrow: Chapter 49 continues.