Poet and historian Carl Sandburg's "Memoir of a Proud Boy" imagines the last days of Don Magregor, a Socialist reporter who fought alongside striking Colorado coal miners. The Ludlow Massacre is described, including the death of  Louis Tikas.
Vintage Colorado Poetry
Poem of the Week
September 19, 2005
Memoir of a Proud Boy

He lived on the wings of storm
The ashes are in Chihuahua.

Out of Ludlow and coal towns in Colorado
Sprang a vengeance of Slavs miners, Italians, Scots, Cornishmen,
       Yanks.
Killings ran under the spoken commands of this boy
With eighty men and rifles on a hogback mountain.

They killed swearing to remember
The shot and charred wives and children
In the burnt camp of Ludlow,
And Louis Tikas, the laughing Greek,
Plugged with a bullet, clubbed with a gun butt.

As a home war
It held the nation a week
And one or two million men stood together
And swore by the retribution of steel.

It was all accidental.
He lived flecking lint off coat lapels
Of men he talked with.
He kissed the miners' babies
And wrote a Denver paper
Of picket silhouettes on a mountain line.

He had no mother but Mother Jones
Crying from a jail window of Trinidad:
"All I want is room enough to stand
And shake my fist at the enemies of the human race."

Named by a grand jury as a murderer
He went to Chihuahua, forgot his old Scotch name,
Smoked cheroots with Pancho Villa
And wrote letters of Villa as a rock of the people.

How can I tell how Don Magregor went?

Three riders emptied lead into him.
He lay on the main street of an inland town.
A boy sat near all day throwing stones
To keep pigs away.

The Villa men buried him in a pit
With twenty Carranzistas.

There is drama in that point . . .
. . . the boy and the pigs.
Griffith would make a movie of it to fetch sobs.
Victor Herbert would have the drums whirr
In a weave with a high fiddle-string's single clamor.

"And the muchacho sat there all day throwing stones
To keep the pigs away," wrote Gibbons to the
Tribune.

Somewhere in Chihuahua or Colorado
Is a leather bag of poems and short stories.

                          
---Carl Sandburg


Reprinted from
Cornhuskers
by Carl Sandburg.
Henry Holt and Company,
New York, 1918.  
Summer 2005. Ludlow Monument restored after vandalism.
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