I heard this song recently that I hadn’t heard in a while.

“Ludlow Massacre” by Woody Guthrie.

It was early springtime when the strike was on,
They drove us miners out of doors,
Out from the houses that the Company owned,
We moved into tents up at old Ludlow.

I was worried bad about my children,
Soldiers guarding the railroad bridge,
Every once in a while a bullet would fly,
Kick up gravel under my feet.

We were so afraid you would kill our children,
We dug us a cave that was seven foot deep,
Carried our young ones and pregnant women
Down inside the cave to sleep.

That very night your soldiers waited,
Until all us miners were asleep,
You snuck around our little tent town,
Soaked our tents with your kerosene.

You struck a match and in the blaze that started,
You pulled the triggers of your gatling guns,
I made a run for the children but the fire wall stopped me.
Thirteen children died from your guns.

I carried my blanket to a wire fence corner,
Watched the fire till the blaze died down,
I helped some people drag their belongings,
While your bullets killed us all around.

I never will forget the look on the faces
Of the men and women that awful day,
When we stood around to preach their funerals,
And lay the corpses of the dead away.

We told the Colorado Governor to call the President,
Tell him to call off his National Guard,
But the National Guard belonged to the Governor,
So he didn’t try so very hard.

Our women from Trinidad they hauled some potatoes,
Up to Walsenburg in a little cart,
They sold their potatoes and brought some guns back,
And they put a gun in every hand.

The state soldiers jumped us in a wire fence corners,
They did not know we had these guns,
And the Red-neck Miners mowed down these troopers,
You should have seen those poor boys run.

We took some cement and walled that cave up,
Where you killed these thirteen children inside,
I said, “God bless the Mine Workers’ Union,”
And then I hung my head and cried.

(Lyrics via.)

The song references “Red-neck Miners.” This is a reference to the red bandanas worn by the striking miners. There’s mention of this in the wikipedia entry on the United Mine Workers and in some of the conflicts linked to from there, of which the Ludlow Massacre is only one. Also included is a reference to the “Redneck War” a few years after Ludlow.

I found a quote online (randomly, here) from “Battle of Blair Mountain” by Robert Shogan:
“…most(striking miners)took to wearing blue bib overalls and tying around their necks a red bandanna, which soon became the hallmark of the insurgent army,leading both friends and foes to refer to them as “rednecks,” a term that had not yet achieved its latter-day wide currency as a regional slur.”

This isn’t mentioned in the wikipedia entry on redneck. Some friends of mine from Florida and Virginia like to half-joke that they aim to put the Red back in redneck. I rather like that.

Howard Zinn’s written of the Ludlow Massacre, here and here. The latter includes references to Guthrie and some other good stuff. I’ve heard Zinn sometimes credits Guthrie with impacting the direction of his life, which I rather like.

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