Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Now his life is full of wonder,
But his heart still knows some fear

Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend


Malcolm noticed that Our American Cousin was extolling the delights of Cripple Creek, Colorado:
A cold Budweiser in the can and a decent cigar go along way to making me a content man. Throw in my fiance, a nice fire and the natural beauty that is Colorado to do the rest.
Being the cheery soul he habitually is, it didn't take OAC long to revert to type and animadvert to shovelling dung, Big Jim Larkin, the 1913 Lock-out, and the travails of the labouring man. All good stuff.

OAC exists, for Malcolm, as just one more largely-anonymous cyberspatial contact made. Yet, Malcolm wonders what it is about this guy that gives an emotional pull across continents, culture and generations.

Some summers back, Malcolm flew into Denver, en famille. Having spent some hours hanging in the sky from Memphis, Tennessee, humming John Denver (OK, OK! That's the title of this piece, too, by the way), watching the plains from seven miles up become more and more parched and brown. The perfect circles of the irrigation systems were a conundrum to be unravelled. Then the eventual uplift of the mountains was welcome and spectacular. Especially when accompanied by the (to this temperate European) Mother of all Thunderstorms.
Finish the anecdote, Malcolm!

Well, then there was the fraught process of car-rental. This had all been sorted by the booking agent back home. Hah!

Eventually, as the rain and lightning-bolts hammered down, a meeting of minds was achieved, and (as it seemed) the last vehicle in the pound was secured for the next three weeks. And so Malcolm, wife and two daughters watched and relished the continuing storm. Then a woman rushed past, upped umbrella (in a thunder storm! is this person mad?), and rushed across the tarmac apron, into the only car left in sight, and drove off.

Malcolm was left, slack-jawed, to return to the clerk to try to explain how the car had been lost before even leaving the joint. No problem! Phew! Did Malcolm mind a Utah plate? The significance of this eluded Malcolm, so general agreement ensued. A double upgrade! Wowza! And then this maroon battle-cruiser, with full velveteen interior, a madam's boudoir on wheels, was on offer. Apparently until now, and for reasons of good taste, it had been secreted from general view.

Kerouac country

And that was the start of Malcolm's acquaintance with Colorado. And from then on, it was all, quite literally, uphill: first north to Ford Collins and into Wyoming, then, by a commodius vicus of recirculation, eventually back via I-70. Steamy Glenwood Springs. The emotional power of standing astride the Continental Divide and realising that this trip had involved dabbling in both oceans. The grandeurs of the valley up to Aspen. A final loop north through Estes Park to Boulder, surely one of the nicest cities on the planet.

All told, a few days in a lifetime; but enough to give Malcolm some appreciation of OAC's landscape.

As for the cigar, no thanks. The Bud shows a degree of tastelessness that surprises, when there are some eight dozen breweries across the State. In Dumb and Dumber (one of the few Jim Carrey vehicles that occasionally staggers into the barely tolerable) Lloyd defines Cororado as "a place where the beer flows like wine". Many of the local microbrews are, in fact, as good as it gets.

Bloody Colorado

Yet, in this demi-Eden, as OAC reminds us, there is a history of labour wars. In the Right corner (Boo! Hiss!), the Cripple Creek Mine Owners. the Pinkerton goons. In the Progressive corner, the Western Federation of Miners.

The issue was the Eight Hour Day. The State of Colorado legislature decreed an eight-hour day. The Republican-dominated State Supreme Court vetoed it. A plebiscite voted for it. The Republican Governor, the anti-union James Hamilton Peabody, declared "if it requires the entire power of the State and the Nation to do it", he would prevent it.

Open war broke out at Cripple Creek. Strikers were "deported". Blacklegs were dynamited. Sheriff Robertson investigated; but was thought to lean towards the Union: he was given the choice of resignation or lynching.There were shootings: WFM members were besieged in their hall. When the WMF men surrendered, they were beaten and vigilantes and goons smashed union halls. The WMF was broken. That was not the end of the story ... for which see Big Bill Haywood and the IWW.

The worm in the bud ...

Malcolm is not, let it confessed, always the most benign and uplifting of holiday companions.

He has an unfailing ability to recall and expiate upon past miseries. Taking tea at Betty's in York, it was the Cliffords Tower pogrom. A bottle of wine at B├ęziers, it was Arnaud-Amaury ordering the massacre of Cathars and catholics: "Kill all. God will know his own." He stood at Harfleur and the battlefield of Agincourt to recall Henry V ordering prisoners to be killed. Then there was the bridge at Portadown. The defenestrations of Prague (back to that manure heap!). A Sunday at Auschwitz and Birkenau. There is a psychological pattern emerging here.

Perhaps therein is the explanation for the kindred-feeling he has for Our American Cousin and his
ohgotohell.blogspot.com.
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2 comments:

yourcousin said...

Malcolm,
When it comes to anything that can go inside of me, my rule is that simpler is better. I truly am a meat and potatoes kind of guy and have been known to get into such a rut that if Chicken Paprikas (pronounced pop-ree-kash)was not served on Monday night then I was up in arms.

Budweiser is the only Monarchy I support but I am also open to PBR, Old Milwaulkee, or Carling Black Label. That is hypothetically speaking of course as Bud is the only beer I buy. I never have nor will I ever like micro-breweries regardless of how good they may be.

I am the type of man that will walk into a room and see two identical cubes, one which is red and another which is blue. Automatically and arbitrarily I will pick one and tell you that any fool who thinks that the red cube could possibly be preferrable to the blue cube is not only full of shit but probably hates and America, his mother, and little puppies.

Also to be honest I don't normally have an after dinner cigar. Usually it is soley one before and one after work.

As for labor. The WFM did survive and was affiliated with the IWW until 1910. It later became affiliated with the CIO and was later swallowed up by the Steelworkers which still has a presence on the Western Slope. I had heard (via a second source from Utah Phillips) within the last couple of years that a couple of mines up in Canada being familiar with the WFM's history had organized under the WFM banner, but this simply an independent union taking the name rather than a historical continuity.

yourcousin said...

Oh wait I almost forgot that I once used the story of the defenestration of Prague to pick up a chick. It has no real connection to anything but I'm still really proud of that fact that it worked.

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