Chapter 49 continues

The story so far: Flynn gets the attention of Eugene Debs and other national leaders.

 

Elizabeth offered Katka and Old Joe a ride to Duluth in a borrowed motorcar. Although the summer of the strike on the Iron Range had been the most suffocatingly hot that anyone could remember, the weather in Duluth was different, foggy and comfortably cool, as if Lake Superior had exhaled a refreshing, breezy mist on the port town. Katka and Old Joe wandered around for a spell, poking into a shop here or there, and gazing into the vast span of water. “Pretty town,” Old Joe said. “This was your first view of Minnesota, ay?”

“I barely remember it,” Katka said. “I had left everything familiar behind. When I got on that buggy with Anton, he was a stranger and everything around was new. I saw everything and nothing all at once. It was like I was blind.” So much had changed. She was no longer the timid, skinny orphan who had arrived with her name fastened around neck.

They walked down the hilly streets of Duluth to listen to Eugene Debs. The crowd looked like ants, Katka thought. The men dressed in shabby brown suits or faded overalls, the women in tattered shawls. Elizabeth, on the other hand, wore a sharp, button-up, ruffled blouse the color of pearls. Her skirt was long and practical, but she was wearing her telltale wide-brimmed purple hat. She looked beautiful and several newspapermen took her picture as they waited for Debs. Finally, Elizabeth took her place up front on the stage. Katka and Old Joe stationed themselves about fifty feet back. Katka wanted to hear everything.

The wind was blowing as Eugene Debs took to the podium and the crowd began to applaud. He was a smallish man whose bald head glimmered in the sunlight. Debs was one of the founders of the IWW and he had been to Minnesota often. He waved to people he recognized in the crowd. Although he had recently left the Wobblies over some disagreements with current leader Bill Haywood, he was an ardent supporter of the Mesabi prisoners. He took a sip of water and then hushed the crowd with a hand gesture.

Debs began by giving a brief background of the plight of the miners on the Range.

If they dared complain they were discharged. Spies among them kept them under suspicion of each other. Petty bosses ruled over them like despots and if they would hold their jobs they must be bootlicking sycophants and slaves.

“He’s a good speaker, for such a little man,” Old Joe whispered to Katka. “And he tell it true, too.” Debs focused on the fact that the deputized gunmen had entered Anton’s home without a warrant and precipitated a fight. When they tried to defend themselves, they were considered criminals.

The Steel Trust is itself the arch-criminal in the case and its clutches are red with the blood of the innocent, but no grand jury will find an indictment for these multi-millionaire murderers. It is only the poor who are indicted for being the victims of crime and only the rich who go free in spite of their guilt.”

Katka took notes as quickly as she could, hoping that the Ladies Auxiliary would help her translate the speech into as many languages as possible. But there were two moments in the speech when Katka’s quill simply would not move:

… there is not a shadow of doubt that the trust has them all marked for execution …

… These comrades, tho as innocent as babies, will be murdered by the Steel Trust as certain as the coming day unless the working class is aroused and stands between the brutal trust and its intended victims …

 

Tomorrow: Chapter 49 continues.