Now I've toured the country some,
Saw many a mystery.
So I sure as hell ain't that impressed
With local history.
I'm a modern, broke-down bindle-stiff
with a see-the-country itch,
I was thumbin' Colorado
And I'd caught a local hitch.
So I asked about a quiet spot
Alongside the road
Where I could cool my aching kicks
And drop my heavy load.
Was told about a tiny grove
On a hilltop, all alone,
So I laid my head against my pack
And I slept just like a stone.
But I dreamed I was awakened
And an old man called my name!
And he said, "This here is sacred ground
But your welcome all the same."
So who are you?" I yelled, irate.
" And how do you know me?"
Then he came real close and he sat right down
With his back against a tree.
" Now son, I am an old, old man
With a mess of broken rhymes.
Might say my job is tellin' folk
About the olden times.
" These fields of soy and beets and corn
Far as the eye can see
Are a patchwork quilt of green and gold
Where mine camps used to be.
" There ain't much left, `few rustin' cars
From the proud old Eagle mine...
And the tipple's gone. But once that was
The mighty Columbine!
" This hilltop-- well, it overlooks
A dozen rural towns
Whence miners trudged each day to toil
Beneath the coalin' grounds.
" They cursed the heat and dark and damp.
They fought the coal car mules.
They put their life-blood on the line
For Rocky Mountain Fuels.
" They heaved the timbers down the hole,
They blasted through the rock.
For wages low, by carbide glow,
They worked around the clock.
" Each miner knows the precious air
He takes with every breath
Can foul, ignite, explode, and send
A hundred to their death.
" And thus, you owe your very life
To company supplies,
But when the gear is gone, or broke,
It ain't the boss that dies!"
I sat, amazed. Who was this man
Leanin' against this tree?
And why should I sit listening,
And what's he want with me?
But he just kept on talkin' on
Like he thought I might care,
So I unpacked the pen and pad
I carry everywhere.
" Blast. Muck out. Timber and drill.
Round after bloody round.
Gotta be the closest thing
To hell we've ever found.
" As if it wasn't half enough
To keep the miners poor,
The boss's scrip was only good
In the boss's company store.
" Them wobblies called a state-wide strike
To get the eight hour day,
An end to scrip, for union rights,
And somewhat better pay.
" The state police then met the striking
Miners at the wire,
And suddenly they opened up
With live machinegun fire.
" `Twas on a cold November morn'
The rangers turned the tide--
Sixty of us stopped their lead
And seven of us died."
The old man with his coal black eyes
And ragged miner's beard
Whispered the words, "remember us"
And then he disappeared.
He faded into nothing like
A distant memory,
And suddenly I found myself
Just staring-- at the tree.
`Twas just west of Twenty-five
On Colorado Seven,
Good place for remembering
Miners gone to heaven.
And next time I'm passin' through,
I sure would like to see
Some kind of hilltop marker--
Just to mark the memory.