Anderson was good and faithful, and he would work his arms and legs off for the pigs; but the spirit of unrest entered every herd which he kept, though neither he nor I saw it clearly enough to go and “tell it in the city.” With other swineherds my hogs averaged from fifteen to eighteen pounds better than with faithful Anderson, and I am, therefore, competent to speak of the gross weight of the spirit of contentment.
STRIKE AT GORDON’S MINE
Frank Gordon owned a coal mine about six miles west of the village of Exeter, and four miles from Four Oaks. A village called Gordonville had sprung up at the mouth of the mine. It was the home of the three hundred miners and their families,—mostly Huns, but with a sprinkling of Cornishmen.
The houses were built by the owner of the mine, and were leased to the miners at a small yearly rental. They were modest in structure, but they could be made inviting and neat if the occupants were thrifty. No one was allowed to sell liquor on the property owned by the Gordons, but outside of this limit was a fringe of low saloons which did a thriving business off the improvident miners.
There had never been a strike at Gordonville, and such a thing seemed improbable, for Gordon was a kind master, who paid his men promptly and looked after their interests more than is usual for a capitalist.
It was, therefore, a distinct surprise when the foreman of the mine telephoned to Gordon one July morning that the men had struck work. Gordon did not understand the reason of it, but he expressed himself as being heartily glad, for financial reasons, that the men had gone out. He had more than enough coal on the surface and in cars to supply the demand for the next three months, and it would be money in his pocket to dispose of his coal without having to pay for the labor of replacing it.
During the day the reason for the strike was announced. From the establishment of the mine it had been the custom for the miners to have their tools sharpened at a shop built and run by the property. This was done for the accommodation of the men, and the charge for keeping the tools sharp was ten cents a week for each man, or $5 a year. For twenty years no fault had been found with the arrangement; it had been looked upon as satisfactory, especially by the men. A walking delegate, mousing around the mine, and finding no other cause for complaint, had lighted upon this practice, and he told the men it was a shame that they should have to pay ten cents a week out of their hard-earned wages for keeping their tools sharp. He said that it was the business of the property to keep the tools sharp, and that the men should not be called upon to pay for that service; that they ought, in justice to themselves and for the dignity of associated labor, to demand that this onerous tax be removed; and, to insure its removal, he declared a strike on. This was the reason, and the only reason, for the strike at Gordon’s mine. Three hundred men quit work, and three hundred families suffered, many of them for the necessities of life, simply because a loud-mouthed delegate assured them that they were being imposed upon.