Still, we know the history of it. Our parents made sure of that. Told us plenty of stories about the sacrifices made on behalf of the working man before there were any unions to help him -- back when a dollar a day was considered too much to pay, back when greedy barons could work pre-teen children for cents a day, back in the 1800's when they could work men, women and children in 100-plus-degree woolen mills with windows shut so none of their precious threads might accidentally get caught in a breeze and cut into their profits.
The image that flashed in my mind, and I'm sure in the mind of Thomas as well, was of a black and white photograph framed and prominently displayed on the fireplace mantle in his home. It was of Thomas's grandfather, vintage 1937 and given to his family by the newspaper man who snapped it. Trails of dried and still-flowing blood covered his face, the result of an altercation at the picket line where steel workers were striking for anything that resembled a living wage. A caravan of trucks loaded with scabs attempted to break the line and when the picketers blocked the entry gates of the steel mill, cops moved in with night sticks and billy clubs to split open as many heads as they could, including the head belonging to one of my heroes -- Thomas's grandfather. He was a young man then, but it wasn't the first or last time he would take a beating for me.
For all of us.
Taken from the Jardonn story, The Thomas Coleman Full Nelson.
It's one of four in the MLR Press four-author collection, Hard Working Men, and I think we're about to need a new generation of men like Thomas's grandfather. The excerpt at bottom of MLR's page is erotic and mine.
Happy Labor Day!