The town of Coal Creek was hideous. People from prosperous towns and cities
of the middle west, from Ohio, Illinois, and Iowa, going east to New York or
Philadelphia, looked out of the car windows and seeing the poor little houses
scattered along the hillside thought of books they had read of life in hovels in the
old world. In chair-cars men and women leaned back and closed their eyes. They
yawned and wished the journey would come to an end. If they thought of the
town at all they regretted it mildly and passed it off as a necessity of modern life.
The houses on the hillside and the stores along Main Street belonged to the
mining company. In its turn the mining company belonged to the officials of the
railroad. The manager of the mine had a brother who was division
superintendent. It was the mine manager who had stood by the door of the mine
when Cracked McGregor went to his death. He lived in a city some thirty miles
away, and went there in the evening on the train. With him went the clerks and
even the stenographers from the offices of the mine. After five o'clock in the
afternoon no white collars were to be seen upon the streets of Coal Creek.
In the town men lived like brutes. Dumb with toil they drank greedily in the saloon
on Main Street and went home to beat their wives. Among them a constant low
muttering went on. They felt the injustice of their lot but could not voice it logically
and when they thought of the men who owned the mine they swore dumbly,
using vile oaths even in their thoughts. Occasionally a strike broke out and
Barney Butterlips, a thin little man with a cork leg, stood on a box and made
speeches regarding the coming brotherhood of man. Once a troop of cavalry was
unloaded from the cars and with a battery paraded the main street. The battery
was made up of several men in brown uniforms. They set up a Gatling gun at the
end of the street and the strike subsided.
An Italian who lived in a house on the hillside cultivated a garden. His place was
the one beauty spot in the valley. With a wheelbarrow he brought earth from the
woods at the top of the hill and on Sunday he could be seen going back and forth
and whistling merrily. In the winter he sat in his house making a drawing on a bit
of paper. In the spring he took the drawing, and by it planted his garden, utilising
every inch of his ground. When a strike came on he was told by the mine
manager to go on back to work or move out of his house. He thought of the
garden and the work he had done and went back to his routine of work in the
mine. While he worked the miners marched up the hill and destroyed the garden.
The next day the Italian also joined the striking miners.