Set in 1921 in "The Little Balkans" coal fields of Kansas, Milan and Danika Cratnick eke out an existence. Injury and death are everyday experiences. Their beloved union leader, Alec Howat, is caught between union executive John L. Lewis' bullying, and Governor Henry Allen's "Slave Law," which prohibits miners from striking. Danika and Neda Cratnick join the horde of women, led by Mary Skubitz, on a three-day protest march, making history that reaches the "New York Times." With the American flag before them and their prayers to St. Barbara, the over 6,000 "Amazon Women of Kansas," begin the battle. Who will win: the Amazon Women who empty the mines of illegal miners (scabs) or Governor Allen, who sends in 2,000 troops to subdue the women? This is a novel of suspense, conflict, and soul-searching for a way forward, when all doors seem closed, and the heart longs for life and freedom.
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Cover Art: Mural on the wall of The Pittsburg, Kansas Public Library Reading Room,
"Solidarity, March of the Amazon Army," by Kansas Artist, Wayne Wildcat. Used with Permission.
Excerpt from Boil and Bubble: The Amazon Women of Kansas
"No doubt about it. The scoundrel's guilty." John P. White, president of The United Mine Workers of America, leaned back in his swivel chair, while biting down on his Torano cigar. "We've had enough of Alexander Howat's impudence over there in southeastern Kansas, diddling with all those foreigners."
White cut his icy blue eyes toward secretary Percy, lips drawn grimly across his shoe-box face. His eyes caught on Percy's stare at the mention of Howat's name.
White continued. "Well, it's a bitter memory, Percy. We don't want war breaking out down there like it did in Trinidad, Colorado."
"Oh, no! A frightful memory. Terrible." Percy dug for his handkerchief to wipe a sweat bead from his brow. "You're referring to those unfortunate miners who were mowed down with machine guns by the National Guard. Ordered by Governor Ammons, too."
White lifted a starch-cuffed wrist and ran his fingers through his wavy hair. His legs shifted underneath his massive desk.
"Well, I've found out that Alec Howat is a documented troublemaker. "They don't call him 'Bull of the Woods' down there without some real reasons."
"Yes, Mr. White, but wasn't Howat expelled from District 14 after the fracas he caused? The last one?" Pettygrew cleared his throat. "You don't expect him to cause Trinidad, Colorado kind of trouble, do you?"
"Well, I demanded that he step down as president of the district, until his lawsuit against the operators' association is settled. I've changed my mind. I think Alexander Howat is guilty."
"That certainly puts a different perspective on it, doesn't it?" Percy added.
"Well, that dark-skinned little mucker has grown defiant, Percy. He's ignored my directions one time too many. What would you do with a feisty cock like Howat? They say the Scottish have skin thicker than a black oak plank."
John White stood, his long legs sheathed in narrow-cuffed striped pants. His Sacque-suit coat of expensive wool flannel flared open showing a heavy gold watch chain.
"But since you asked him to step down, isn't he off the map, so to speak?" Percy smiled as if he had rubbed Cloverine Salve on John White's ruffled disposition.
"Off the map?" White bellowed. "I've just received a copy of an affidavit accusing that mischief-maker of receiving $25,000 in a bribe. A dirty bribe! And the money sneaked from our Southwestern Union, too." He glanced at Percy, wondering if his fancy little secretary could see that his blood pressure was close to blowing the petcock.
"Well, a bribe is something, indeed, with which to be concerned." Percy's words bounced. His mouth drew into a pucker. He shifted a shiny two-toned spectator shoe.
"Not only the bribe, Percy, but he has allowed himself to be put back into the leadership in District 14 in spite of my orders."
Percy's eyes bugged. He clutched his note pad and pen, waiting for his boss to search for solutions as White stared out the office window, untangling his thoughts.
I knew Alec Howat's sneaky, but he's done himself in this time. Let him rot over in Pittsburg, Kansas if he hasn't already choked on the coal dust and grime.
Flooding our National offices with scurrilous letters, some unsigned, denigrating the national leaders. Ignores the National directives to stop the strikes.
"Percy," he snapped, lean cheeks flushed. "We're going to file a lawsuit. Suit against Smart Alec Howat and the operators there for defrauding the Union. Call the garage and have my Pierce-Arrow ready. You and I are going to visit Federal Judge Grosscup."
"Yes, President White. Yes, indeed." Percy scurried to his desk, his celluloid collar nearly choking him.
"We're going to demand that insulting little upstart's resignation as a District Officer. Fire him. Percy, we're going to fire Alexander Howat! Good riddance of that dung beetle rolling his ball of manure across that corner of Kansas. We've got him this time." He yanked at his watch chain.
Alec Howat, a deep-chested man of Scottish lineage and coal miner since the age of ten, eased into a club chair in the living room of his modest bungalow on West Park Street in Pittsburg, Kansas. The house nestled on a quiet street very near Playter's Lake, once an old strip mine.
His wife, Agnes, sat in a Victorian upholstered chair opposite him in the burgundy wallpapered room.
"Alec, dear. Do we have to fight this again? The election is over for the Union President. John White's in command now. Can't you let go?" Her fingers locked beneath her bosom.
"They've brought a lawsuit against me, Agnes. A federal lawsuit. Alec decided that this was the time for the full disclosure.
Agnes leaned forward, her fingers, tightening around her handkerchief, lifted to her chin.
"Lawsuit? What on earth for this time, Alec?"
"Some dirty skunk has dumped garbage on the desks of the International Union Officers claiming that I've accepted bribes to pay for stoking ballot boxes in the last election and paid mine operators here to ignore the strike injunction."
Agnes raised herself from her chair and stepped to his side. The soft pleated A line skirt of gray crepe swirled as she walked. She rested a small hand on his shoulder, an opal ring catching the light cast by the Faville-glass Tiffany lamp.
"Alexander, my dear husband. You've been loyal and faithful to the miners here. Always concerned with their welfare. You've proven your trustworthiness. Nobody could even count the times you've put yourself in jeopardy for them." Her hand slid across his broad shoulders.
He rested his brown-haired head against her bosom, sighing as her hand shifted to his cheek.
Fatigue and weariness. How long do I have to fight for our rights? How long, this time? Facing prison bars? For what? Bribery? God help us all.