Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Chapter 8: We Begin to Traverse the Webb!

This chapter introduces us more fully to Webb Traverse and his family: wife Mayva; sons Reef, Frank, and Kit; and daughter Lake. The chapter also revolves around two important historical events of the period which greatly determined the trajectory of their lives. First, the Repeal of the Silver Act in 1893, after which the Federal government no longer purchased silver to back the currency. This put the Webb family into desperate poverty as the entire state of Colorado entered a depression. Second, the miners’ strike at Cripple Creek in 1894 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cripple_Creek_miners'_strike_of_1894), a strike where the bosses were so brutal that the state militia was actually called out to protect the workers! The successful strike led to a backlash among mine owners, who famously hired the Pinkerton Agency to protect their interests.

Webb is a hard-core unionist, and his union card is “The most precious thing I own” (93). The card is emblazoned with a wonderfully Marxist motto: “‘Labor produces all wealth. Wealth belongs to the producer thereof’” (93).

We also meet some other characters. Webb’s accomplice in the anarchist bombing business,Veikko Rautavaara, the Finnish veteran of the Cripple Creek strike, and the Reverend Moss Gatlin (religion and Gatling guns?). Gatlin gives the moral imperative for Webb’s terrorism: “If you are not devoting every breath of every day waking and sleeping to destroying those who slaughter the innocent as easy as signing a check, then how innocent are you willing to call yourself?” (87). It’s Eldridge Cleaver’s formulation all over again!


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