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This is a rich man’s war. “Murderers!” the principal cried. “Do you know what that means? Can you think of what it means to lie in ambush and hide and wait with murder and envy in your heart and then shoot to kill—to kill innocent, unsuspecting, men? If you have been to Centralia you will understand how easily anyone with murder in his heart could hide on Seminary Hill and in the buildings on Main Street and shoot down into a crowd and escape safely. That is what the murderers who killed Warren Grimm and Dale Hubbard have done. Warren Grimm was shot in the abdomen and died in terrible agony. Dale Hubbard was killed by a fiend who wanted one last victim before he was captured—by Wesley Everest, who has paid for his crime with his life. I do not want you to think of these murdered men as mere names that mean nothing to you. You must think of them as someone you know and love—as young Americans, like your own brothers, as young men only a few years older than you are, with mothers and fathers who are grieving for them now, just as your own parents would grieve for you if you were killed, as young men with arms and hands and clear bright eyes and ready smiles, fearless and friendly, shot down from behind, crying out in terrible agony as they died.
“Captain Warren Grimm.” They bowed their heads.
“Dale Hubbard, Ben Cassagranda, Alfred McAllresh, we pledge ourselves never to forget that you have died for us.” Never to forget! They left the building quietly. But the excitement and the exaltation and the sense of pain and grief did not go away, and by nightfall so much had happened that Kelly thought life would never get back to normal. He went with Paul Collins to look at the guns that Paul’s father had stored in his closet; he saw the new watchmen standing around the mill gate and at the edge of the town. Then he delivered his papers and the boy scouts collected the progerman handbills that appeared, mysteriously, in the streets; there was a fight and a logger was driven out of town. Then his father made him keep off the streets and in the morning all the handbill they had burned were back on the streets again and they burned them again. Then they went into the hills to look for the wobblies and there was only the logger who was sick and an old man whose face was bruised. But mostly there was a sense that the woods were no longer safe, and nobody knew what was going to happen.
When they left school Paul told him: the wobblies and progermans were going to be killed. Paul’s father was the town superintendent, and be knew. There was a wobbly army in the hills and the wobblies wanted to close down all the camps and mills. Paul’s father had a box of army rifles in his closet, and a bullet from an army rifle would go lengthwise through a railroad tie. The wobblies who escaped from Centralia were trying to get to the logging camps in the mountains, and the woods were full of them. Kelly heard all this and looked toward the woods that had never seemed filled with menace before. The day was cloudy. At the base of the logged-off hill the sawmill drummed steadily; the morning logging train had come in from camp and the logs were being dumped into the pond. He could hear the whistle signals from the logging engines in the woods and the occasional shrill whistles from the mill as the sawyers signaled for the millwrights when something went wrong. Between the mill and the school the rows of company houses, all alike, ended in the cleared space before the company store and the church and the pool ball, where the stage from Centralia turned around. Beyond the town the fringe of big trees, left as a break for the winds that swept up the valley stretched to the river; and beyond the river the green foothills of the Cascades repeated in ranges that grew higher and higher until they ended in the white wall of the peaks. Snow had already fallen on the higher ranges.
But now it was different. Deep in the shadows, beneath the big trees, safe in the underbrush, the treacherous unamericans moved without sound. He had heard people say, “The woods are full of wobblies.” Before it had only meant that the loggers in the far camps, always going on strike, were slackers and progerman troublemakers during the War. Now the green woods seemed crowded. The wobblies were strong in the camps, but they could not come into Paradise because Mr. Collins and all the new watchmen and the members of the Paradise Lumber Company Baseball Club threatened to horsewhip them and shoot them on sight and tar and feather them and run them out of town if they so much as shot off their mouths there. Now they were in the woods. The woods were alive with them. They slipped with unamerican stealth through the heavy salal bushes and crowded with progerman silence through the thickets of devils clubs. All day long Kelly looked at the green wall of timber and thought of the gray crowd of murderers who had buried themselves within it.
The evening stage came and he delivered his papers. There were twenty-five extra copies of the Tacoma Tribune and the Seattle Star, but no copies of the Union Record. He sold all the extra copies. The old logger who always bought the Union Record asked him, “Why don’t you sell a workingman’s paper?” and Kelly replied proudly, “I peddle American papers.” The old logger looked at him in disgust and said, “You peddle ------, you mean.” The papers said that one of the wobblies, Wesley Everest, had already been lynched. There were eight more in jail. They were all going to be killed. It served them right. The papers said that Centralia was tense and the nearby communities were tense and new outbreaks were feared. They said that Governor Hart stood ready. In every paper Governor Hart stood ready, and Kelly wondered what a governor did when he just stood ready all the time.
But at night, during the movie, the trouble started again. The accident siren blew at the mill. The men ran out of the show. A car had driven through town, and in the dim light handbills lay scattered like leaves over the wooden sidewalks and in the yards of the houses. The watchmen at the no trespassing sign had fired at the car as it passed. The crowds formed in front of the movie and the people began to talk. Shadowed under the dim street light, subdued and excited, the men handed the leaflets around. Kelly read one of them hurriedly: Governor Hart, the willing tool of the millowners, he read. Then in big letters: Was it Murder? The Truth About Centralia. They were progerman handbills, and he knew it was wrong to read them. Wesley Everest, lynched and mutilated for defending a workingclass hall.... Workers, defend the victims of the Centralia frameup.
The boy scouts began gathering up the handbills and burning them.
The scoutmaster pulled Kelly’s handbill away and tossed it on the fire. “This way, Kelly,” he said sharply. He pulled Kelly over to where the other members of the Black Eagle Patrol were lined up in military formation. Kelly did not like the scoutmaster. His name was Froggy Anderson, and he was the manual training teacher at school and a college graduate, but the kids made fun of him because he talked too much. Whenever they went on a hike Froggy Anderson would explain about the different trees and their leaves and markings, and explain that there were male and female trees just as there were male and female people. The scouts said that whenever Froggy Anderson sneaked out in the woods he sidled up on a good-looking female fir tree. He always made the little kids sit on his lap whenever he told stories around the camp fire or told scout lore after the meetings.
Now he was abrupt and determined. “All right, fellows,” he said.
“Pick up all the handbills you can get and bring them to me. Don’t stop to argue, just get as many as you can. We’ll give credits to the patrol that gets the most.” They ran through the streets until almost midnight, gathering the handbills and bringing them to the fire. Paul Collins said that his father was going to buy them all new uniforms for burning the handbills.
Sometime in the night there was a fight in the bunkhouse, and a logger was run out of town by the watchmen. A crowd gathered in the road, and someone tried to make a speech, but the engineer brought the shay out of the roundhouse and tied the whistlecord down so no one could hear what the man was saying. Kelly was still gathering the handbills when his father found him. His father had been looking for him ever since the siren blew. He made him drop the handbills and get home. In the house he shook Kelly and said in a voice that trembled with anger, “You stay out of this, son. Do you understand me? If I catch you doing anything like this again I’ll beat you within an inch of your life.” Kelly went to bed, half-sick with excitement and shame, while the other kids were still running in the streets and the people were still talking on the comers, his mind whirling with thoughts of the wobblies in the woods, the alabaster cities gleaming and free, and the soldiers lying dead in the streets like the four loggers who bad been killed when the headrig came down, and whose bodies had been brought into town, stretched out on the floor of the freight depot until the hearse came to take them away.
In the morning the handbills were there again, and the scouts were excused from school to gather them up. In the night someone had painted on the watertower: Defend the Centralia boys. There were more watchmen around the mill and a crowd of men with Mr. Collins’ guns along the road.
The handbills were the same as those they had burned before, but now there were more of them and it was tiresome to collect them again and burn them again after they had already burned them once.... At noon they hiked into the company timber on the east side of Paradise, and Kelly and Paul Collins found the two wobblies who had escaped.
Froggy Anderson went with them. Ordinarily they made fun of him on a hike and ran on ahead, but now he was serious and military and they were awed by the way he took command. The rain began. They crossed the Newakiaum and climbed into the foothills, following the mill creek, separating into pairs at the first ridge where a tall snag made a landmark they could see for miles. Kelly and Paul went up the creek while the others spread fanwise over the hills. In the deep woods, shadowed and noisy with rain, they hurried to cover their three miles and get back before dark. They had not gone far before they met the wobblies. It happened like this: Paul wanted to go back; he was tired and his feet were wet and he thought they had gone far enough. Kelly wanted to hurry because he had to get back to town by the time the evening papers came in, but he thought it would be disobeying the scout law if they said they had gone three miles when they had only gone two. They were arguing as they came to a narrow place along the creek, and Kelly called back, “What the heck. You baby,” just as he jumped from a halfsunken log in the creek to the bank, just as he looked up and in a spasm of fear saw someone, a logger, a wobbly, a ghost, hiding in the woods right beside him.
Bert and the old soapboxer had left Centralia on the night that Wesley was killed. They headed toward Klaber and Cougar Flat, but when they found the farmers frightened and unfriendly they circled back toward the foothills to try to reach the distant camps where the wobblies were strong. They had no food. The old man had been badly beaten on the last night in town, and after the first day he began agitating to the stumps and the trees. On the second be could only keep going for a few minutes at a time. On the second day Bert began to fear something else—a shape, a shadow, that moved through the woods ahead of them. Then on the third day he saw him clearly—a deputy gliding through the woods as swiftly and silently as a trout slides between the branches of a sunken tree.
Bert could see him clearly, not as a shadow, not as a movement, but as a man—a man dressed in a brown waterproof logger’s jacket, his face pale and smiling, a gun swinging idly by his side, hatless and yet dry in the drenched woods, a large man and yet so light on his feet that he seemed to dance soundlessly over the tender brush. Bert saw him clearly and lifted his rifle. The deputy disappeared. Bert could see the tree where he had been standing. Beside it the brush swayed and dipped in the rain. Bert swung his rifle to where the man might have hidden, where he might reappear, but there was no other movement and no sound but the infinite placeless rustle of the rain in the trees, a faint hissing like the sounds of insects on a summer night.
Fear overwhelmed him. He threw himself down and crawled backwards—awkwardly, spasmodically—into the brush that he had left. He could feel the sweat swelling on his flesh inside his wet clothing. He waited for some shot, some sound or sign of life; there was no place where all his body could be covered by the brush. Behind him he heard the soapboxer breaking his way loudly and fearlessly, heard him cough as he pushed against the clogged leafy underbrush. Then the old man cried out to the rain: Beware, beware! Oh, you men who work in these camps and these little sawmill towns. Who are your friends! Are they your friends, the bosses and the company rats? Have they risked jail for you? Did they fight the massacre of war?
Nothing answered him.
In scorn the old man cried: The Loyal Legion! Yes, the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen! With a general for your union secretary! And a millowner for your organizer! And a thief for your treasurer! And the cops for your sergeant of arms! The Loyal Legion!
Bert crawled back toward him. He called back, “Shut up,” but the old man could not hear.
He had seen nothing. His eyes had gone back on him. Nothing had moved. Yes, the old man said. The Four L is a safe union and a patriotic union and a union they will let you join. And I say there never was a union that fought for the workingman that the bosses did not hate and fight and try to destroy. And they cannot destroy.