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Newspaper Page Text
FRIDAY, SEPT. 24, 1020
"I Were There"
A True Story. By H. E. Keas.
It was a bitter cold morning. The radiator
pipes in the telegraph office were humping and
sizzling with a full head of steam. There had
been a blizzard down the line. Number fifty-nine
was three hours late. Freight traffic was tied up.
Hardly a wheel moved. Having nothing much to
do, the bunch had been discussing things in ge
neral. They had run. the gamut from the war to
v,he latest price of shoe leather. There came a lu-l
in the conversation when
'"Lo buddies!" We all of us turned toward
the door. There stood a rather tired and forlorn
looking slim figure dressed in a tattered service
coat. "Can I come in ?" We all voiced our approval
at once. "Sure! C'm'on in and get warm." Halt
ingly advancing across the room, he took the prof
fered chair. "It's sure cold out. I'm chilled to
the bone." He edged his chair nearer to the rad
iator. "Any o' you buddies remember me? I used
to brake on this pike before the war. Been through
this old town many a time."
Scenting a story, the bunch drew closer. With
a faraway look in his eyes and a deepening of the
lines that seamed his face, the lad continued. "You
fellahs has heard o' Belleau Wood? I were there.
We sure had a hell of a time. Them Germans
came on thick as flies. It was a mad-house, with
the busting shells and screaming bullets. Me and
my three brothers was in one company. We all
were in the thick of it. My young kid brother was
shot through the head. He died at my feet. Second
oldest brother hit by a shell. They couldn't find
My pap is a li'ttlo man, and when thoy shake
hands that thug give him a hard jerk.
"Don't jerk me lilke that when you shako
hands, it hurts my lungs," pap says to him.
And with that the B'olrz man gives him another
hard jerk. So pap jest dnuvod off and slapped
him to sleep."
That and one other act of violence by miners
come to my attention. At Borderland No. 1 two
men weakened and lvluniod to work. The wife
of one of thorn, a very fat woman who needed
the exercise, mot 'the two scabs on tire pal
and bent both of them woroly. Tt was entirely
illegal, but it had the desired effect.
nothin' of him. See this leg here? Five machine
gun bullets went through 'er right there." He in
dicated the spot with a bony finger. "Guess my
brakin' days is over, its cork now. Guess you've
noticed my hair. Purty white for a guy only
twenty-eight years old. Shell-shock. God! I c'n
hear 'em yet." A fit of coughing shook his thin
frame. "Some cough I got. It's that damned gas.
Got me three times that way. Guess I'm lucky,
though. Oldest brother's worse shot up than me.
Gassed and hit by a shell. No arms, no legs and
blind to boot. Helped take care o' him in the
hospital after I got up and around. Gee, its sure
hell to be blind. But he don't complain much.
Always was a game guy."
The lad drew a paper from his pocket. "Got
my discharge today. Honorable discharge account
o' disability. I'm sure proud o' that paper. Nobody
c'n say I ain't done enough for my country. But
guess I'll be batty for some time yet. Not quite
right in my head at times. Doc' says get rid of
that in time. Says it comes from shell-shock too.
Say, any o' you got the makin's? Thanks. Can't
roll 'em like I used to. Hand shakes too much.
Went over t' the Milwaukee this morning to see
the Supe. I'm no good on the road no more but
he says he will give me a job as clerk. Quess I
c'n do that 0. K., if this head o' mine don't get too
queer. Like to get on with this old pike again but .
they say nothin' open right now. Well, guess I'll
be 'goin' on my way. Thanks for the heat and the
makin's and remember if anybody says 'Belleau
Wood', tell 'em I were there."
With a nervous twitch of his limbs he ab
ruptly got up from the chair and slowly shuffled
to the door, mumbling to himself. The telegraph
instruments were quiet Not one of us uttered a
word. The ticking of the clock on the wall sounded
strangely loud in our ears. Then... "Christ!", said
someone. Two or three of us heaved a sigh. The
lad was gone.
Do you know a good reason why the wolf
ing class ought to organize for the overthrow of.
capitalism? If so, don't keep it to yourself. Writ1
it up for the Toiler and let 20,000 people know