Cowboy Left, Cowboy Right

Lars, Eric, Juanita, and Sandy and Peter Vestergard sat in the shady section of the Rodeo Pavilion at the fairgrounds listening to the school choir sing “Colombia the Gem of the Ocean.”    The pavilion, draped in bunting, was new and still smelled of the rough oak timbers.  The track below had been strewn with a dozen wagonloads of sawdust for the dedication of the new pavilion and the Fourth of July Parade.  The year was 1928, SonomaCounty was booming. The Vestergard family sat among the honored wealthy who’d donated the funds for the fine new pavilion.  Lars’ Stetson, Eric’s hamburg, Jaunita’s ostrich and egret plumed hat, and Sandy’s new boater– in their royal crowns the Vestergards did indeed appear regal, American Royal.  Lars thought of Sandy, Eric pondered the placement of the new pavilion’s exits, Juanita prayed that this event would end soon, and Sandy wondered how Lars would react to the idea of planting vines at the ranch.  He was certain that repeal would come and perhaps sooner rather than later.  Most vineyards had been plowed under the year after Prohibition. Now his 50 acres of established vines were a gold mine, a positive gold mine.  Wealth, he thought, is truly understood only by the wealthy themselves.

Now the horse parade had begun Sandy’s mind drifted to the past. The decade before had been tumultuous. His mind went to 1923.  That year found SandyVestergard at 23 years old, a ranch hand for the J. D. Makins ranch near Los Banos.  Sandy had grown up in Redwood City, his father author of America’s most popular mathematics text, his mother an assistant newspaper editor.  His summers, however, had been spent on his grandfather’s cattle ranch in Sonoma.  There the boy had learned to love wrangling, riding, and roping under the tutelage of the old man.  While his parents guided him from his cradle towards higher learning and a profession, the boy’s natural love of the outdoors and the sly tutelage of his grandfather pulled him in the opposite direction.  Success, money, and blood were the muscle and sinews of the Vestergards, and a great bond between grandson and grandfather, Lars and Sandy, was the family’s future.

The old Dane, Lars Vestergard, had jumped ship in San Francisco as a boy and worked his way to wealth first as a sailor, then as a naval engineer overseeing the conversion of sailing vessels to steam.   Lars oversaw the installation of boilers, shafts, and screws then sailed aboard the shakedown cruises.  Many of these shakedown cruises sailed between San Francisco and various Alaskan ports, carrying Chinese laborers to the fish canneries, returning with cargos of tinned salmon and timber.  On one of these cruises Lars had won a $5000 pot in a poker game with a group of Norwegian gold miners in Port Petersburg.  Tired of the rigors of going to sea he had invested this stake in pasture land in Sonoma County then built a lucrative cattle ranch, The Valhalla.  The Army contracts during the Great War had made his grandfather rich.  From the time he was seventeen at the old man’s insistence Sandy had hired out as a wrangler to larger ranches to the south to gain experience and learn aspects of the business of ranching he would not be exposed to at Valhalla, knowing that the 500 acre ranch would pass directly to him when the old man died.  .

“Here, Sandy, all dees ‘ands, dey bin verkin’ wid me feef-teen, some dem tventy years.   Old Sven tirty years. Dare all good, reliable, but it ain’t dat vay many places. Dey stay vit me cause I treat dem fair and pay better den odder ranches.   Lotta your cowboys is teeves, Sandy, ja teevs.  More than you tink.  Dey might gat a dozen ways to steal or rustle from a ranch. Only way you learn how to protect yourself is you got to rub shoulders out in bunkhouse and ‘round campfire.  Also your troublemakers, dem kind yust have to stir up the shit all the time.  These can put a mood on rest of the hands is worse than pox. Best t’ing you can do, boy, is listen real good, keep yer mouth closed but yer ears open.   You understand, boy. You go out and learn the nature of cowboys.

So for four years he’d cowboyed.  The J.D. Makins’ ranch was his fourth and last preparatory job.  Early on Sandy had learned to hide his education.  He’d  rejected a university education although he’d received a thorough grounding in mathematics, the arts, sciences and literature from his parents, from independent readings, and from the extraordinary influence of Lars, his autodidact grandfather.  The formal subjects he appreciated but these were subjects guaranteed to rankle any cowhand and topics on which he wisely remained silent.  True to his grandfather’s words he had seen cowboys of various shades – good, lazy, smart, stupid, and crooked.  He’d seen hands pilfer small stuff, tack or tools, just to sell for drink money, and he’d seen one greasy fellow drag dead steers to a cave for a butcher in town.  At the Merriweather Ranch the hands told the story of the foreman, the boss, who had been in cahoots with a station master at a SP depot who’d rustled over a hundred head one year before getting caught. Still, most hands were decent enough if you discounted drinking habits.  The Makins Ranch job would be his last and after the fall roundup, he’d return to manage Valhalla with his old granddad.

At Makins Ranch a cowboy called Crowder was cut from strange cloth.  He’d served in the Army in France.  He’d been aboard Makins Ranch for several years and was one of the top hands.  He was generally liked because he was a skilled and hard worker, but he had a flaw in that he talked too much.  The other hands made jokes about his yammerin’ and yack, yack, yack.  But he was always quick to lend a hand and he had a special magic with horses.  Mr. J. D. Makins swore Crowder spoke Horse Language and considered him a highly valuable asset to the ranch.  He had taken a shine to Sandy and talked J. D. into assigning him to ride beside him. It was a good mix.  Billy Crowder never stopped talking and Sandy generally opened his mouth only to eat, drink or spit. Lots of hands, especially top hands, kept a proprietary grasp on their skills.  A common attitude was “I learned this the hard way and so can you.”  But Billy frequently stopped motion in the middle of an action to show Sandy a short cut, or show a clever way to avoid the slips and errors.  And Sandy came to agree with Mr. Makins that Billy Crowder must know Horse Language because he sat a horse better than any man he’d ever seen.  On a horse Billy and the horse were a single entity.  Working stock, cutting out, dragging a load, jumping – it all seemed effortless to him.  And so a strong friendship developed between the two.  Sandy looked up to Billy, fourteen years older and so wise to horses and ranching.  He recognized that although he had but scant education he was a thinker and a reader and for that he held the cowboy in esteem.  But also there was an unexplained natural attraction they had for one another and the two spent all of their days and much of their evenings together.  They never tired of one another’s company and never quarreled.  Late one afternoon Crowder was showing Sandy how to tie a French bowline.  “Sunday I’m goin’ to a meeting over in Los Banos, come on along – they’ll be some grub and maybe a lady or two.”

“Nah, I’m not religious, Billy.”

“This aint religion, it’s sort of an education thing.  Maybe like a college lecture.  The guy teachin’ was a good friend of Jack London’s.  He’s been all over and gives a mighty interestin’ talk. He was in Paris when I was over there in the Army.   Come on Sandy, you’re my only real pal an’ I wouldn’t be askin’ if I didn’t think you was smart enough to appreciate somethin’ that don’t smell like cowshit.”

That Sunday they rode through Los Banos and joined two dozen other men and women in a hay barn half a mile out of town.  On a table of planks were plates of fried chicken, tamales, tortillas and beans, jugs of buttermilk and a bucket of beer.  The two young men joined the luncheon with others chatting and eating around the trestle table. Afterwards the men stepped outside the barn to smoke.  To Sandy’s surprise two of the ladies joined the men smoking tailor-mades and talking about the weather and horses.  “These gals are your bonafide libertines, buddy and they’ll do more’n smoke tailor-mades if they git to likin’ you.  It’s like gay Par-ee, hombre.”

He felt the stare on the back of his neck and turned around to see a girl quickly shift her eyes to her shoes.  He walked towards the pretty redhead who was eating a pear.  “Nice pair, Miss.”

“Thanks.  I’ve got another if you’d care for one.”

“That’d be nice, yes, please.” From a pocket her apron she handed over a ripe pear.  Juice trickled down his face and she laughed as he wiped his chin with his elbow.

“I’m Gladys Sorenson, I’m not supposed to be here, but I am. What you think of that, cowboy?” For an instant time stopped and he felt what Ramon, the Makins Ranch’s Mexican cook described as La Gloria.  The combined sensations closed out everything else for a brilliant instant, indelibly imprinting the smells of the hay, the pear, the lavender scent of Gladys’s hair, with the brilliant blue of the afternoon sky, the love for his grandfather and parents, Billy’s friendship and the realization of the strength and potential of his own youth. “ This world is so goddam good,” he thought.

“When I say I am pleased to meet you, I mean it, Miss Gladys.  I’m Sandy Vestergard.”

“If my daddy knew I were here there’d be some kind of hell to pay, I’ll tell you.”

Just then someone rang a cowbell summoning everyone into the barn for the presentation.  The two sat together on the hay bales, their ankles, then elbows, then hands touching.

The speaker stepped up to his platform, a wagon bed.  His coat and tie off, his sleeves rolled up he got right to the point.” Hello folks, I think I got to meet each of you over all that delicious meal for which I thank you once again.  Maybe you’ve heard of me as Aaron Fuller the Red or Aaron Fuller the Communist. Aaron Fuller the Agitator.  Well, I’m that Aaron Fuller and I am not a Red, nor Communist, nor Agitator.  I’m just Aaron Fuller, and like you I’ve had a belly full.  Now I’m not talkin’ about this chicken or tamales, I’m talkin’ about a belly full the butchery of that senseless European War, a belly full of slave wages while the Industrialists, the Factory Owners, the Pope in Rome, the Politicians wax fat on blood and sweat.  Our blood and sweat.  I have had it up to here, friends with the abuses of rampant Capitalism and its lackeys—the police, the Pinkertons, and even the Army. How far will they go to protect their masters?  We could ask Frank Little .  Or Joe Hill, but they’re dead.  We could ask Wesley Everest who was lynched from jail, his teeth knocked out with a rifle butt, was castrated,  ladies, I’m sorry,…he was castrated, my friends, castrated then hanged naked from a bridge and shot full of lead all afternoon.  Ah but Wesley Everest is dead too.  Their crimes?  They wanted fair pay and an eight hour work day and all they got was blood in the sand.   It doesn’t have to be this way, friends.  The speech’s power was in Fuller’s ability to pique the audience’s emotions.  His sincerity and oratory skills were formidable and only on the ride back to the ranch was Sandy able to break down the arguments logically.  In his head he imagined the conversation he would have with his grandfather.  Lars would probably defend American Capitalism which had allowed him to prosper.  Maybe the old man would tout the progress spawned by competition.  He was never sure; Lars could throw curve balls that often destroyed Sandy’s argument.  Billy, however, was convinced that the IWW represented a righteous path to fairness and decency.  He’d paid the two dollars to join and the red membership badge now his greatest treasure.  He rattled on about the successes of the miners, the Pullman strikes, the longshoremen.  “Seattle, Spokane and San Francisco – why we could be next out here in the valleys, we could be next. Why not cowboys next, Sandy? Why if enough cowboys between here and Hollister listened to what Aaron Fuller was sayin’ here this afternoon, it could happen. Aw he was a swell speaker, wasn’t he.  I told you it’d be swell, didn’t I? Gosh he was swell.”  Sandy diplomatically escaped Billy’s enthusiastic pitch preferring to talk about the beautiful cigarette smokin’ redhead Gladys Sorenson whose daddy owned dairy cows and the creamery in Los Banos.  They had exchanged addresses and promises to write.  He was already composing the letter in his head.

One night in June after dinner a thunderstorm blew in.   All the hands were in the bunkhouse and Crowder was goin’ on about cowboys were, in general, same as peasants in Europe.

“I mean lookee here, your average cow hand; what’s he got? I ask you, what’s he got?  Shit, that’s what he’s got.  Couple pairs of pants, maybe his own horse, and he can count hisself lucky if his tabacca pouch is full.  He’s no better than a injun or some poor nigger down in the South.  We took ever’ bit of cash in this here bunkhouse right now I bet we couldn’t buy a cripple mule, no sir.”

Sandy noticed that Crowder had garnered more than the usual amount of attention. They may not be in agreement with him but they were listening, for a change.’

“Aw Crowder, you’re talkin’ through yer ass, as usual.  Ain’t nobody goes a cowboyin’ for the money.  It’s a way of life, pardner, a way of life.  Ain’t nobody forcin’ me nor you, nor nobody to cowboy.  Yonder’s the gate, you don’t like it – go down to the City and sell shoes or bibles.”

“Naw, Mack  YOU got it wrong.  Cowboys is cowboys ‘cause that’s all they know.  You ask where they come from and nine outta ten cowboys gonna tell you they run away from some poor broke-dick family raised him up on mush and beans and the smack of a razor strop. He come from poverty.  That’s where your cowboy comes from.  Poverty. Poverty and Ignorance.  That’s the way it is, and that’s where he’s gonna end up.  Broke down, arthritis, no teeth, dyin’ on a pile of straw tick in some shed or barn. Hooray for cowboys, hey it’s the life they chose. Bullshit, Mack.  Bullshit.”

Sandy, now drawn into this, asked Crowder, “Well, how would you fix it?  America’s gotta have cowboys.

“It’s simple; pay the cowboy what he’s really worth instead of sendin’ all the fat to the thieving beef brokers, bankers, and speculators.  By God we do the work and railroads and parasites back East take the profits.  There were three commodities brokers in Chicago that made over a million dollars apiece last year, a million damn dollars and I’ll bet not one of ‘em knows a bull’s balls from a tea cozy.”

Now Mack stood up. “Whoa pardner.  You’re movin’ onto thin ice, now.  You sound like them agitators up in San Francisco.  I was up there in 1916 when those bastards clubbed them strike-breakers down dead.

“Yeah, well it was those scabs had shot dead Olsen and the other union boss, shot ‘em dead  and in the back.  But Mack lissen, that ain’t the point.  Them longshoremen went on strike ‘cause they hadn’t had no raise in 15 years and them longshoremen in Europe was makin’ twice what Americans was. When it was over they come out with better conditions and a $4 day.  $4! Ain’t no cowboy ever seen a $4 day.  You think them dock donkeys work harder than we do? How much skill does it take to drag tinned bully beef up a gangplank?  Cowboyin’ requires all kinds of skills.  Cowboys should organize.  That’s what we need to do. That’s the only way to make the plutocrats and fat cats bend.  I bet if cowboys went on strike say at roundup time it wouldn’t be a week ‘afore wages ‘d be doubled, by God, I really believe it. “

The discussion went on with about half the men in agreement that cowboys deserved more than they got.  The others shied away from the issue or attacked Crowder’s argument as agitatin’ or red.  But sadly the next week Crowder was paid off and sent packing by old J.D. Makins.  Sandy reckoned that Mack or one of his pals had carried tales from the bunkhouse to the old man.  After Crowder left Sandy found it odd that no one ever spoke of him, not even Mack who had been so opposed to Crowder’s ideas. It was as though he’d gone to sea or had died. Sandy had very much liked Crowder and once he had revealed his politics he’d respected his thinking and his courage to express his ideas. But those thoughts he kept to himself.

Dear Sandy,

                        I was so pleased to receive your letter of the 11th.  I hope that the sprained ankle is no longer a bother.  The directness of your questions please me but would be better discussed in person, but I’ll try to answer as best I can in writing.  I first learnt of the IWW reading a pamphlet written by the famous Helen Keller who is also a member.  I truly believe there is a class struggle, nay a class war, and not just here but all over the world. Because all over the world the rich bind the poor to superstition, hunger, ignorance and poverty.  Yes I do love America. Of course I do, but I want my country to be the place for “liberty and equal justice for all’ and that is not the case.  Capitalism, as you wrote, does indeed have its virtues, but unchecked, as it is becoming here in this country is an evil entity.  The capitalists, the industrialists, they’re using federal power and the police no differently than kings and rulers of foreign countries do. And now these Palmer raids must necessarily sicken any believer in justice.  Locking up Mr. Debs is an action that speaks for itself.  Even writing these things down on paper constitutes a risk now.  But I believe our greatest hope lies in spreading the truth which is the whole idea of the IWW.  In September I leave Los Banos for Normal School in San Francisco where I will complete the work necessary to teach here in California.  Education is so badly needed and I will gladly work hard and do my part both as a teacher and an IWW member.  Will you come down to the City to see me?  I am so pleased at our meeting and look forward to seeing you again.   Please write soon, I leave Los Banos the first week of September.  Warm Regards, Gladys

That fall Sandy returned to Valhalla as the boss.  He had broached the topic of cowboy pay to old Lars and cited the arguments that Crowder had presented. He expected the old man to defend the status quo.  But no, “Dat man Crowder he’s right, Sandy.  Cowboys iss chust like European peasant.  I know. Dat’s how I come to dis country. If you iss born poor over dare, you got no future, no hope and you must eat shit for your whole life.  Ja, cowboys is peasants because dey work like oxen but don’t get nodding for it.  If one cowboy say I quit dis,’ den here come five more who iss ready to take his place and work like ox for shit.  Now I tell you a little secret, Sandy.  Valhalla hands here always I pay dem good.  How much cowboys down in Los Banos make?”

“Same as everyplace, Grandpa, a dollar a day.”

“Ja, dat’s right.  One dollar or maybe less some ranches.  Here on Valhalla my boys $2.50 a day and Sven, top hand $3.50.  Good pay, good food, ever’ting fair, deese boys ready to ride out at midnight in tunderstorm to ditch or find dat lost calf.  Don’t never complain.  But one t’ing, Sandy.  Understand, they got to keep it secret.  Ain’t none of them odder ranches’ business.  They find out what fair pay is, some crazy shit rancher might send his hands to burn me out. See what I mean? So I say dis about your friend, he’s right ja, but he’s stupid because he don’ keep his  mouth shut and dat one is too dumb to know notting gonna change.”

            “Grampa, I know.  I’m old enough to understand all the hullabaloo down in San Francisco in ’16.  And it hasn’t gone away.  The owners complain that all the shipping has gone south to Los Angeles where the unions are outlawed. The unions are rightfully

trumpeting the fact that the successes of the longshoremen have made the City the center the union movement. Waiters, machinists, and teamsters  are all better off not only there but in Seattle and Honolulu too.  It’s a wonder when you consider the power of the shippers and owners.  When the miners tried to organize up north the mine owners sent in hired killers. “

“Ja, against the ranchers too. 

“But what if they’re wrong?  This is 1923 and the world is changing for the better; the working man’s day should be at hand.”

“Sandy, you tink right, but don’t you be one to tink stupid like your friend down in Los Banos.  Them owners got the power: the judges, army, navy, police, even universities and newspapers they all support the plutocrats.  Only ting you can do is take care of them what works for us.  Odderwise you get your skull split open, ja? “

That October old Sven, the ranch foreman died and Harry Christensen took his place.  Sandy would have to hire a good cowhand to replace Harry out on the range.

“Grampa I want to go back south and try to find this guy Crowder.  He’d be safe here.  I’ll tell him not to preach.  He’s the best horseman I’ve seen and a top worker.”

Sandy, you boss of the hands now, but you gotta be careful.  Go ahead, but Mr. Crowder he gotta keep his mouth shut.  You don’ want none of that kind of trouble, you understand, boy?”

He did understand and daily he reminded himself of the risk that Crowder could impose. But he believed he could convince him that a safe harbor among friends was providential and a closed mouth was a small price to pay for security.  He looked forward to the trip south.  Daily, sometimes hourly, he thought of Gladys Sorenson, of the brief two hours they had been together.  He’d unfolded and read her letter scores of times and longed to be next to her.  Inquiries after Crowder met head shakes and shoulder shrugs.  If anyone knew where Crowder was they weren’t telling.  He’d been three days riding to ranches around Los Banos gaining no information.  Then one evening he struck a conversation with a waitress in the hotel dining room in Los Banos telling her that he’d ridden down from up north looking for an old pal.

The girl looked around and in a lowered voice told Sandy that yeah she knew Billy Crowder.  Last she heard he was in the hospital up in San Jose but “But you didn’t hear it from me, Mac.”

He found Crowder in the charity ward, a long low out building behind the San Jose hospital in bed with his jaw wired shut and both arms in plaster casts.  The ward smelled of carbolic acid, iodine, and tobacco smoke. Billy lay in narrow bed his back propped up by pillows.  He was engrossed with a pamphlet he was reading when Sandy approached.  Withdrawing the flask from his inside vest pocket Sandy approached the bed, “Ready for a drink, cowboy?”

He spoke with difficulty through his wired jaw.“ Aw shit!  Tell me this aint my pal Sandy Vestergard.  Am I glad to see you, buddy. You dam betcha I’m ready for that drink, but you gotta pour it in the glass there with the straw.  Aw shit, Sandy you look better’n a band of angels, and lord don’t this taste jist like heaven.”

He peered down the ward, which had been an enlisted men’s barracks during the war, and which now housed 12 beds on each side, each with a small table.  The four beds at the end of the ward were separated by extra space and upright screens, the TB ward.  At the other end of the shotgun house was the nurses’ station with the one electric light dangling from a cord.  On the wall above a medicine cabinet hung a regulator clock.  The afternoon was hot and quiet enough to hear the clock’s tick,tock,tick,tock and Sandy’s gaze kept returning to the source of the sound to momentarily watch the brass pendulum’s swing as Billy spoke.

“How’d you get so busted up, Billy?”

Oh I come up to Gilroy on accounta I heard the Martinez ranch was hirin.’ Got jumped and stomped by these three bastards come up behind me and throwed a sack over my head and commenced to beat on me with a club.  Next thing I know Mexican family are liftin’ me up in their wagon.  Brung me here to the hospital and they’re tendin’ my horse down in Gilroy till I get outta here, Sandy.”

“Dammit, Billy.  I come lookin’ for you to offer you a job riding for Valhalla.  I had a hell of a time findin’ you. Now look at you—all stove up; ain’t this a thing?”

“Well, shit.  This goddamn wire is ’posed to come off today and they can have these goddamn itchin’ casts too.  I won’t complain.  No, I wont.   I ain’t quite ready to rope but I am damn sure ready to ride.  Gimme a week, Sandy.  I gotta ride down to Gilroy and pay these Mexicanos helped me and been  stabelin’ Apache.  Then I wanna head north.   The Wobblies are meetin’ up near Glen Ellen. Lemme go up there, then I’ll come back, get saddle broke again and I’ll ride on over to Valhalla.  You got a little money you can advance me, pal?”

“Billy I gotta make sure you have a clear understanding of your situation with me and Valhalla.  I admire your conviction to fair pay and fair treatment for cowboys and other workers.  Your heart’s in the right place, cowboy, but your head is up your ass.  If you haven’t learnt that by now …well, what can I say.  I want you at Valhalla cause you’re a top hand and ‘cause I like you and I want you safe, but you’re gonna have to rein in your mouth.  Our hands are paid fairly and treated right, you’ll see that so there ain’t cause for rabble rousin’ at Valhalla.  The fat cat ranchers around Sonoma are of the same mind as those down in Los Banos, they’re all in cahoots.  Me an’ you can discuss labor and class all we want to, but you gotta keep the politics outta the bunkhouse, you gotta Billy.  Think with your head not your heart.  Now here’s $60 buddy. I’m gonna see ya in Valhalla for sure now, aren’t I?”

Billy reached forward to clasp Sandy’s arm in his hand,  “Aw thanks, Sandy. Yeah I understand what your’e sayin’, I know…I know…  Lissen…why don’ you go up there with me tonight. There’s night motor coach goes up the coast. We could probably be there tonight and could we have us a time.  They’ll probably be some campaignin’ for Debs.  Hell the IWW is loaded with free-thinkin’ gals and there’ll be wonderful speeches and singin’ round the campfires.  Come on’ whadda ya say, pal? I ain’t askin’ you to become a card-carryin’ IWW, just to ride along with one ”

Sandy rolled a smoke for Billy then another for himself.  He gazed up through the cigarettes’ plume at the rolls of flypaper suspended from the hospital’s rafters and thought as the two nuns removed the wires from Billy’s jaws and the casts from his arms.  They could have themselves a time and he felt hungry for the information that would flow from such a gathering.  But he’d planned to ride into San Francisco to see Gladys. And as boss he considered a week away from Valhalla an extravagance, but then Lars would handle the ranch probably better than himself.

He put his horse in a livery stable and took the autobus up to San Francisco arriving just after dark.  In the fog the street lights cast halos.  At the YWCA he learned Gladys had left in a motor coach with friends for a weekend trip to Glen Ellen. Sadly he returned to San Jose and rode home the next day.

How would Lars feel about Sandy rubbin’ shoulders with Wobblies?  Lars the old pragmatist who could affect real change on a small scale under the umbrella of his Vallhalla was the same Lars who dismissed the wholesale tide of change espoused by the Wobblies and the Reds as dangerous, revolutionary idealism

“Dare all so full of shit, boy”. He’d told Sandy in a long converstation they’d had after the Aaron Fuller speech.”Dey see only dare own cause and dare confiction iss too strong so it make dem crazy.”

            “What about Rousseau and John Locke and Jefferson? And Adam Smith?  Is such soul stirring, stimulating idealism all shit too?”

“It aint so much shit if that was the way the world unfolds.  But it don’ work that way.  No.  And them people was out of touch with common man.  Rousseau , Lock,  them two never worked a day in their lives, freeloaders they was. –Just like that Marx don’t none of them know sweat or labor first hand– and even Jefferson he was rich man, had slaves do all the work for him.  Now we read all this new thought from them socialists.  So they got dare revolution over dare in Russia and when the dust settle, believe me Sandy, there will be rich pricks at the top and millions of little people getting’ pushed around by police an’ soldiers and priests.  There ain’t no system gonna work as long as there is two tings, Sandy.  Greed and Ignorance.  And them two tings aint never gonna go away on accounta Greed and Ignorance is secret weapons of the rich. This is a new country, give it time boy, and here will be like ever’ place else  chost a few greedy rich and plenty of dumb poor to work and fight the wars.  I tink maybe the United States get there real fast.”


San Francisco Chronicle 13 October 1923. 40pt. Bold Headlines. Ten Dead in Glen Ellen!! Two Women Among The Killed.  Dozens Injured at IWW Bombing.!!   A powerful bomb thrown into the audience at an International Workers of the World camp meeting killed 10 persons last night near Glen Ellen.  Dozens were injured by the explosion and the ensuing panic the explosion caused.  Among the dead are two women, Miss Mary Thompson of this city and Miss Gladys Sorenson of Los Banos.  Other dead include Mr. William Crowder…

© Gary Ives

First published in June 2012, “Tales of Old”, Issue №52 (podcast)


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