JEROME, ARIZONA [HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR MARCH 13, 2004]

AMPUTEE

Myles Randall lost an arm in Spain

fighting in the Brigade

but something else was amputated deep inside

when he came home and found himself

blacklisted for his heroism

He stopped believing in a thing

himself included

He’d stay dead drunk for months on end

not caring where he slept

on floors or any place he passed out

not caring where his latest wife slept either

Then he’d come to one day and write a storm

of stories laid in Phantom City’s romantic past

He’d sell a few

[He had a following in pulps]

and off he’d go on another drunk

Myles would be blind in the Rio Grande Bar

while his wife was slopped in the Silver Spur

and the Mexicans saw that their kid didn’t starve.

PHANTOM CITY [MOSTLY JEROME] BY JOHN BEECHER

Ramparts Press [Scottsdale, Arizona, 1961]

 

Brother Markovich never stopped caring and he never stopped believing.

Bill Neece introduced me to him.

My folks had wound up with almost fourteen acres of very choice Lower Oak Creek land – in the Verde Valley -- with lots of creek frontage and full water rights. A gambler named Mr Rogers, who owned it, faced what was then a conventional Arizona judicial choice back in those enlightened days in 1950: the state pen – or leave the state. He chose the latter and sold his land to my parents for a song. Flagstaff, where we lived and then about an hour’s drive away, was 7,000 feet above sea level [mountains up to 13,000] and could get downright cold and very snowy. This lower Oak Creek land was 4,500 feet, almost always warm and virtually no snow. We built a cabin there and got to know our neighbors.

The Neeces lived right across the creek. Bill, from Louisiana, spoke with what I learned later was a Cajun accent. When he married Opal, a good Mormon related to the political Udalls, he converted and eventually became a bishop [local leader of a congregation.]

When I was a growing up kid, that whole region was dominated by the booming copper camp of Jerome. It sat up on Mingus Mountain to the west of all of this: the scattered ranches, the little towns like Cottonwood and Cornville and Bridgeport and Clemenceau – and Clarkdale, its own smelter town at the base of Mingus. You could look north and see the lower entrance of the vast Sycamore Canyon Wilderness.

Jerome started in earnest in 1883, became for a time the richest copper town in Arizona. When its 88 miles of underground tunnels burned, it shifted into open pit mining – and the subsequent dynamiting destabilized no end of homes and other buildings which were built on the steep mountain slopes. Originally, it was United Verde Copper Company but Phelps Dodge took it over about the time I was born, 1934-35.

It was, in its hey day, the scene of bitter labor wars. Its multi-ethnic work force – Mexican, Anglo, American Indian, immigrant, Oriental – had fought back hard against the force and ruthlessness of the mine owners and their managers.

Things reached a head in the bitter and sanguinary Summer of 1917:

Jerome, Arizona. July 10, 1917.

Two hundred thugs armed with Winchester 44/40s, pickaxe handles, and baseball bats designated themselves a "Loyalty League" with the blessing of the United Verde Copper Company. The great I.W.W. - led copper strike, [Industrial Workers of the World] -- from Butte to the Mexican border -- necessitated by
wartime inflation and static wages, had just begun. The so-called
vigilantes rounded up 75 key Jerome strikers in the early morning hours of that terrible day, beat them badly, placed them in United Verde boxcars, and took them far westward to Kingman, Arizona on the California border. When many tried to return, they were jailed at the Yavapai County seat of Prescott.

Two days later, on the Mexican border at Cochise County, 1200 strikers and sympathizers were rounded up by hundreds of Loyalty League vigilantes with the full backing of the Phelps Dodge Copper corporation and local lawmen – and taken by boxcars to Columbus, New Mexico where they were dumped in the desert with neither food nor water.

In the early morning of August 1, 1917 at Butte, Montana, a major I.W.W.
leader, organizer, and copper strike coordinator -- the Cherokee, Frank H. Little, with a broken leg from an auto wreck at Jerome -- was hideously murdered by gunmen employed by massive Anaconda Copper.

Blood dark clouds gathered in the Western copper country where memories are very long indeed. They are still there -- now, to this very day,

There was much. much more anti-labor and anti-radical brutality across the West -- and eventually the country itself. No one was ever punished for these atrocities. And then the Federal government rounded up 150 leaders of the I.W.W., quickly convicting them [along with Gene Debs, the socialist], of the completely spurious charges of "Espionage" and "Sedition."

That was long before my time, of course. But the historic, always
remembered Jerome Deportation was -- along with the racist brutality and economic exploitation of Flagstaff and many regional environs -- a key factor in my own eventual radicalization at barely 21.

Although for decades, individuals in the general setting continued to belong – on an at- large membership basis to the I.W.W. and the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers – the Jerome and Clarkdale copper workers were represented [for better or worse – usually the latter] by the A.F.L. Metal Trades Council, an entourage of craft unions.

And then, as the ‘50s began, the ore played out and the mines closed – and then the mill and smelter – and the whole region went economically straight to Hell. In a matter of a year or two, Jerome dropped from a population of 15,000 to 50.

It was a ghost town – a phantom city.

People, down in the Verde Valley below, hung on as best they could. Saloons continued, with nightly visits by prostitutes; there were cafes – some with excellent Mexican food. There was even a marshal, an old precarious guy, who urinated in his pants at the slightest suggestion of tension.

And then there was Markovich, the senior barber in the whole region.

The profound economic collapse stirred and stimulated all sort of wildly irrational stuff. The whole country was still gripped by the Red Scare which was at its worst in the Southwest and the South. In the Verde Valley it was characterized by fears that "Communists" were having secret meetings – often at night at car dealerships – and the slow influx of artists and writers and poets who were to gradually expand the dying population of Jerome to about 500 [where it is today] were definitely seen as a Red Spearhead.

"Modern art is Communistic" were the whispers and ever louder charges – ridiculous allegations considering the drab and flat and photographic art which characterized at least most of the Stalinist system.

When I got out of the Army at the very beginning of 1955, I was radicalized – and a fresh member of the I.W.W. After wandering and working in the Mountain West for a time, I returned home to find a star to follow. Spending a few days at our Verde Valley cabin, I visited with the Neeces, told them I was now a Wobbly.

They, especially Bill who knew about those things, were just fine on that score. "There’s someone you should meet," he told me. "Markovich, the barber in Cottonwood. He was deported from Jerome in ‘17, came back and stayed."

I was excited. "Take me to him," said I. And Bill did.

Told by Bill at the Barber Shop – with its union sign – that I was an I.W.W., Markovich – a medium tall and chunky man in his sixties with whitening hair – looked a little skeptical.

And then I showed him my Red Card membership book. All paid up. He examined it closely, page by page, his eyes now burning. "Good for you," he said. "Damn good for you."

He told us – Bill, of course, had heard his story a number of times – about the Jerome Deportation of July 10, 1917. Markovich was one of about 75 or so striking miners and smeltermen pulled out of bed, some from picket lines, in the early morning hours of that day. This was accompanied by baseball bat blows to their heads.

His wife and children screamed frantically.

Taken to a United Verde train and boxcars, the men were again beaten and then thrown inside – warned never again to try to return to Jerome. Dumped into the desert at Kingman, they were warned yet again never to return to Jerome. But some, including Markovich and other family men, were certainly bent on doing so. "You just have to keep fighting," he said. They were then jailed at Prescott, Arizona – but released following heavy pressure from Arizona’s Governor George W.P. Hunt. Hunt, essentially a socialist who had come into the Territory on a mule, denounced the Jerome and Bisbee deportations in an extraordinary address before the Arizona legislature:

"At this juncture I am sorely troubled for lack of a word, a phrase, an
expression with which to give poignant utterance to that which is in my heart; to adequately describe a certain sort of thing in human shape that wears the outward semblance of a man, but yet is a craven cur; whose heart is as malignant as a cesspool; whose mind is a sink of infamy. . . .Such a thing is the "profiteering patrioteer," the detestable hypocrite who, with sanctimonious demeanor, goes through the mummery of patriotic service, though striving all the while to profit by his country's dire distress; to vent a personal prejudice under the guise of patriotism, or to gain for
himself a pecuniary advantage under the starry folds of his country's flag with which he drapes his sorry soulless figure. There is no word in all the range of human tongue from Sanskrit to Anglo-Saxon with which to describe this creature, so I abandon the effort in despair."

[From Vernon H. Jensen, Heritage of Conflict: Labor Relations in the
Nonferrous Metals Industry up to 1930 [Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
1950, pp. 426-427.]

So Brother Markovich and many of the other deportees came back – back to their homes. Stubbornly and courageously.

But he never worked for the Company again – never wanted to. "There can never be justice under capitalism" he said to me as he had said many, many times – and was to say many, many times henceforth. "The Wobblies were right, Debs was right." After a series of odd jobs here and there, he launched his barber shop and carried it through the years, then decades.

And it was always a Union Shop.

And, whenever I went in there for a haircut, which was often at various points, I heard the saga of the Deportation accompanied by the clip/clip/clip of his scissors – along with the same running talk on Revolution: why justice can never come under capitalism, why it can be brought only by industrial socialism.

He was a damn good barber. But he gave me – as Living History, Stubborn History – a good deal more than that. The ore was gone, the bosses were gone. But Brother Markovich and others – like the hard rocks of Mingus – remained.

HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] Micmac/St Francis Abenaki/St Regis Mohawk

In the mountains of Eastern Idaho
www.hunterbear.org

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]

 Stumbled on your web site.

Thank you for a good and interesting read...especially about mines and
Jerome.

My grandfather worked the mines in Jerome.  When I was a child he told
me stories about working underground.  He worked for the miners' union
in Globe.  He was kicked out of the mines and ended up in Jerome before we moved to California to find work.

It is amazing to see the differences published in the history books
about how wonderful the mine owners were and to compare the stories the
miners told about life and death a mile underground.

Thank you for your web site.

Dan Masden  1/19/05
 

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