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PULP Originals

The Revolt of 1913

Ludlow is more than the deaths of miners. It was the generational struggle that started a coal war and would change American labor. 

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Settled at the entrance to a canyon in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, located along the western side of Interstate 25 approximately 12 miles north of Trinidad, the ghost town of Ludlow can be found.

“Ludlow” is not remembered or referred to as a place, but for being the name of the Ludlow Massacre. It’s recognizable Southern Colorado history, but what led to the massacre, low wages, poor working conditions and continued victimization of union activists, were common.

The worker’s riots weren’t portrayed as common until 1903, according to a hearing to the Committee on Mines and Mining of the 63rd United States Congress. There was a walk-out among miners in 1885, but it was of  “such insignificance in magnitude and duration as to fail of chronicle in the history of labor troubles, and now finds evidence only in the memory of man.”

Colorado Fuel and Iron Co., owned by the Rockefellers who ultimately pushed the miners to strike at Ludlow, was the result of mergers, many of them. Coal mining companies from Iowa began moving into Colorado around 1889, together they absorbed several small companies, and eventually took control of their competitor, Colorado Coal and Iron Company. That merger birthed CF&I.

Issues concerning labor had burdened the U.S. for many years before World War I and had resulted in widespread strikes, especially in the western part of the country.

In 1903, another walkout occurred. “Prompt and well-directed military intervention prevented the wholesale bloodshed and destruction of property,” the 1914 U.S. congressional resolution to investigate Colorado coal mining conditions said. “And the orderly deportation beyond the trouble zone of the nonresident trouble breeders speedily restored peace, and those who desired to work were protected in so doing, resulting in a return of normal conditions in the region where the organization was ignored, namely, the entire state, except the northern field and one or two isolated mines in the southern field.”

As a result of the 1903 strike, mines in the northern field were unionized.  

Restoring peace didn’t last long for the rest of the state, however. Another strike occurred in 1910.

Tensions escalated and eventually bubbled over when a union activist was killed in late 1913. It resulted with the miners at the Rockefeller family owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation’s going on strike. The miners officially left the coal camps on September 23, 1913.

Every aspect of daily life at the mining campus was under the control of the mining company, from the school to the church to the store to the administration of justice. 

A miner’s house was either a framed shack he built himself or a four-room cement-block house built by the company and rented to him by the company. Each toilet was made up of a few boards and a gunnysack tacked together around a shallow hole in the ground.  The water supply was always questionable, and Typhoid fever was a problem.

The work conditions in the coal mines themselves were extremely dangerous.  Miners worked on their stomachs or knees, and worked in almost complete darkness, inhaling suffocating dust. Inside the mines, the collapse of a wall or roof was a disaster waiting to happen. And disaster did happen. Often.

Miners in Colorado died at twice the national average, according to the Colorado Coal Field Project. The only place in the country more dangerous than Colorado coal mines were Utah coal mines.

Roofs caving-in on the miners was the biggest hazard underground, and explosives were the biggest killer above ground. The Denver Public Library has kept track of every major mining accident from 1884 to 1981.

Explosions resulting from an open light were common. On Nov. 8, 1910, 79 miners were killed in an explosion near Las Animas. A year later, 17 more men died in an explosion close by.

They were paid only for the coal they mined, and their wages were virtually determined by the company weigh men, and corrupt weigh men at the scales was a constant obstacle for miners encountered. 

This was to mark the beginning of what was to be a long, unforgiving seven months of continued brutality and repression at the hands of their bosses.

Attempts of unionization by the miners dated back all the way to the first strike of 1883. In 1913, the miners were attempting to organize into the United Mine Workers of America, but those advances weren’t welcomed by CF&I.

The Rockefeller’s evicted the striking workers from the company owned homes leaving them, and their families to face the harsh winter months without shelter. Assisted by the UMWA, the strikers then organized ‘tent cities’ and continued their strike.

A memo from the UWMA to its members during the strike said strikes were being held in Colorado and Vancouver Island, and campaigns for unionization in Southern Colorado and West Virginia would more-than-likely continue.

“In order to provide funds for carrying on this campaign we are levying an assessment of 50 cents per member for two months, during September and October… If each and every member will respond promptly and cheerfully, you will increasingly help bring about success in establishing the organization everywhere,” the notice said.

The campaign made little difference to the Rockefellers.

Through various agencies the CF&I was able to hire men to take a more aggressive approach versus the striking workers, thus armed guards were supplied to harass strikers and union organizers. The miners however, persisted, even after multiple attempts by the CF&I and the National Guard to end the strike.

Union members and organizers were kidnapped and beaten, and shots being fired into the camps from strikebreakers and the National Guardsmen were a constant occurrence.

The miner’s strike would soon reach its climax, and National Guardsmen were ordered to remove the remaining tent colonies around the mines, despite them being on private property leased by the UMWA.

Ludlow was the largest of these colonies. And so, it was on the morning of April 20th 1914, troops fired into the camp with machine guns, anyone who was seen moving in the camp was targeted. The miners fired back, and fighting continued for nearly 14 hours.

That evening, under cover of darkness, the militiamen entered the camp and set fire to tents, killing two women and 11 children who were hiding from the gunfire in a ditch below a tent, 13 other people were also shot dead during the fighting.

As news of the massacre spread, workers from around the country went on strike to show solidarity with the remaining miners on strike in Colorado, and to express sympathy for those who had lost loved ones in Ludlow.

However, the workers failed to obtain their demands along with union recognition and many were replaced with non-union workers. No National Guardsmen was ever prosecuted over the killings.

Sixty-six people had been killed by the time violence ended.

 

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Arts & Culture

Art is Hard with Pueblo illustrator Riki Takaoka

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Takoka, Riki (web)

“I’ve almost quit doing art so many times.”

I’m at a coffee place downtown talking shop with Pueblo artist and illustrator Riki Takaoka. With works currently on display at the Q Pop gallery in Los Angeles, and a recent addition for possible contribution to nationally syndicated contemporary arts magazine Hi-Fructose, (not to mention freelance nominations from Paramount Animation Studios), I figured he and I were in for a quick convo about brushes or pen techniques. I wasn’t expecting that one of the quickest and most accurate caricature artists I’ve ever seen in my life would say he is quitting something he’s clearly great at.

But I was shocked to hear that come from his lips.

Shocked, but sadly not at all surprised. Talk to almost anyone in the so-called creative class, and they’ll tell you a similarly dismal story that usually goes as such;

1) Find something creative you love to do.

2) Take years and years honing and perfecting your craft.

3) Get good enough to be recognized for your art.

4) Ask for compensation for your art.

5) Get chided for daring to ask for said compensation.

image by Riki Takaoka

 

The worst part about hearing that from him is that the illustration work of Takaoka is flat out phenomenal. Blending playfully bold caricatures with a jagged surrealistic quality, Takaoka has developed a signature style and skill set that stands on its own. A style that he points out he has been brewing since childhood.

“When i was a kid, I would draw and redraw the same cover of PSM (PlayStation Magazine) over and over. I was just obsessed with it. I’ve stayed in my room for days sometimes, just trying to push myselfto do better,” Takaoka said.

But all the talent and hard work in the word can’t guarantee financial success in the art world.

When the topic shifts to art as a means of income comes up, Takaoka offers, “Art is hard. Not hard for me to make. It’s easy to make and I love it. Just hard for me to deal with. Or, I guess live off. Deal with trying to live off it. And it’s frustrating to spend hours making a commission piece for someone and then have to beg them to pay for it.”

Unfair doesn’t seem to do it justice. In no other profession other than the creative field will you hear of such a thing. I’ve never once heard of my food service friends offered to be paid by a future profit share, or my wife the hairdresser and stylist proposed exposure for their work as an alternative to actual money. But every day in creative lines of work, artists are at odds with clientele who want assets for nothing or damn near.

“I get that almost every time, everywhere. It doesn’t matter where I’ve been. I’ve lived in Hawaii, in Texas, here in Colorado.” he said. “Unless you’re a well known artist, people constantly try to get out of paying you for your work.”

“There’s been times where I haven’t drawn for three months straight,” he added, sounding a bit dejected. “Because sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth it. But it’s one of the only things I know how to do well.”

I asked him about his experience living and working out of Pueblo.

“It’s a nice place to live. It’s affordable. I can walk around and not feel stressed out about having to have two jobs to survive,” Takaoka said. “But the problem is no one wants to work with each other. Not everybody, but too many.”

Even though the art scene here is by no means perfect, he was quick to add, “but it is getting better I guess. And bigger. People doing more. Taking chances.”

In any other line of work, the odds of failure facing people would break most people. But not Riki.  At the end of our conversation, I asked if he considered quitting forever, which got a sly grin. “I can’t quit, I guess. Maybe I’ll just stop for a while. But not completely. At this point it’s like handwriting to me. Period. It’s almost subconscious. It’s the way I see the world. And deal with it.”

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Arts & Culture

Land Lines : PULP Artist of the Month

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Denver’s Land Lines occupy a truly unique headspace upon listening, which can only be described as “Fresh off the boat from Chilligan’s Island”. The Mile High trio, comprised of Martina Grbac (cello/vocals), Ross Harada (drums) and James Han (electric piano/organ), seamlessly meld vintage-modern baroque music with pop shimmer and gloss, like having a dance party at the symphony. Musically, Land Lines is at times is sparse and introspective, with clever and brooding lyricism, only to then turn that right on its’ ear as with bursts and blooms of  thundering pop force, (which contains equally clever and brooding lyricism). On their newest album “Natural World”, dark and moody synthesizer tones playfully buzz and pulsate to and fro over drums that are the audio equivalent of a saunter and sashay. But the lively pluck and eerie hum of the cello (compliments of Martina Grbac) is what sets this band apart from the pack, providing an melodic orchestral punch that cuts through the dense sonic layers like a Hattori Hanzo sword.

 

for fans of /// Portishead • Lady Lamb the Beekeeper • Beach Fossils

hellolandlines.bandcamp.com

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Music

The Local : BRIDGES

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BRIDGES may easily (and quite erroneously) get lumped in with every other current metal/hardcore band playing out today, but this does them no justice. Shifting between the audible snarl and massive attack of hardcore and metal to delicate and downright pretty alternative minded exalt on a dime, BRIDGES, in a very big sense, play simply heavy music. Not heavy in the classic metal distorted-and-detuned-riffs kind of way, but heavy in perhaps an emotive sense. There are elements of hardcore and modern metal, yes, but the real strength behind this band is that their music largely defies any easy categorization, instead using the 60+ years of combined innovation to bring about one of the most well versed and original bands currently in Colorado.   

On a whim, I asked them to quickly list the bands that they had played in or currently part of. They easily listed over a dozen, with some being short tenures in young acts fresh out of high school with others spanning for multiple years, tours, and record label heat.

But what really amazes me about BRIDGES is their reverence for each other. In all my time spent hanging out with bands (both my own and other), I have never encountered a band which seems to enjoy the presence of each other more. They bring the act of playing music back to a core that often falls by the wayside; Simply enjoying it.

I spoke with BRIDGES on a dimly lit porch, beers flowing, on a windy night Tuesday, November 10th 2015.

PULP/ Your previous bands all kind of sound like a lineage tree of Pueblo metal and hardcore. After hearing all that, how does it feel?

 

Matt (Herrera/guitar) / I think it’s really cool. I’ve always been fortunate that with all of the bands I’ve been in were with friends. Just playing together, getting along outside of music. And now, we’ve all been in other bands when we were younger. I met Joe and Adam when they were both probably like 14 o4 15, and now I’m playing in a band with them? I never would of thought.

 

Tyler (Boyce/Vocals) / But I can say that out of all the bands I’ve been in, this has been the most fun to be a part of. On a writing level and on a friendship level. It’s just always good.

 

In some of your previous bands, there was some label heat and contracts and business stuff. Are you dealing with any of that stuff now?

 

Tyler/ It’s definitely a lot easier with BRIDGES. With my old band, some of the guys got so sucked into wanting to “make it” that we were writing too fast and putting out stuff that wasn’t ready, and wasn’t as good as it should have been.

 

Matt /  Well with (previous band) Son of Man, it ended the way it did because by the end of it, it wasn’t any fun. It was all business. I want to try and take a more organic approach with this band. I want to still be busy, but not push anything that isn’t ready or right. Instead of worrying about obligations and the business of it, I want to focus on writing the best music we possibly can. Everything is so saturated right now in our genre. I don’t know exactly what our genre is, but it’s hard to stick out. I’d like to push our own thing, and not falling into a mold. My favorite bands have always been ones that are heavy, bot not in the usual way, you know?

 

How do you feel like BRIDGES differentiates from other acts out now?

 

Matt/ Well. Bands have started to, and I even hate saying this, but using dance moves and choreography.  It’s so stupid.

 

What does that mean? Like dancing with guitars?

 

Matt /  Yeah, like head banging and spins and stuff. It used to be, when a band was getting into the music, it was just something that happened naturally. In Son of Man, really we were all just trying to keep up with (SOM bandmate) Mo. But I get it, when I was younger and in a band, we did tons of stupid shit. I mean, it was the late 90’s. We all loved Korn and Limp Bizkit, so use your imagination. (laughs) But it totally sucks when people and bands are more worried about a dance move or a look than what they are writing.

 

Josh (Ewing/bass) / Every time we jam, it’s all organic. (laughs) When you start choreographing it, it seems fake and more like going through the motions than having fun.

 

BRIDGES has always been a more sonically adventurous band to me. You’re heavy, but it’s more in layers rather than in riffs. Is that something you try to do on purpose?

 

Matt/ We’ve always made it a point to not write the same way twice.We all love different things; Clean parts, and having melodies and parts that go places, rather than just the same riff over and over. There’s no point in having two guitar players who are playing the exact same thing. We even talked about writing a pretty and clean (guitar tone) song at some point. It’s always better to try and work toward something new. It’s exciting.

 

Tyler/  And that’s one of the thing that initially interested me about trying out for the band. Like you said, there are layers to it. And it’s very intricate. You can dissect it, and you can find so many different types of music in it.

 

Joe (Johnson/Guitar)/ It’s just nice to have the people to do it. We’re all open minded.

 

Do you think Pueblo is hurting for an all ages place to play?

 

Matt/ Oh, totally. I think it has taken Phil’s (Radiator) being gone, and kind of ripped out without a choice, for people to realize that it is hurting. Sure, they’ve re-opened now, but they’re not all ages. It feels like there’s this big gap, but it’s slowly being filled back up. We played a show at the Daily Grind a while back, and we got to play for a bunch of kids who wouldn’t have otherwise got to see us. There’s an untapped youth market here in town, but there’s nowhere for them to go see bands play.

 

Tyler/ Another thing, is there are now finally young bands still in high school that are starting to pop up. But this scene isn’t what it used to be. Everyone we know now is older, and no one really kept going. Where are these new bands supposed to go?

 

Matt/ It’s a bummer because I’ve never even heard of these guys, and there’s nowhere to check them out. We’ve only played Pueblo twice in the last year.

 

Any reason for that?

 

Tyler/ It’s hard to find places where you can play. It’s hard when no one wants to invest in Pueblo. Everyone thinks that Pueblo is this s— hole, and it is a small town, but I love it here. I’ve seen and met a lot of cool people, and there’s a lot of cool things happening here. But nobody chooses to get up off the couch to see them. and yet everyone complains that there’s nothing to do. That’s the saddest part.

 

Josh/ There’s a lot of great stuff here that fails due to lack of support.

 

Matt/ There’s so much negative stuff being said and reported about our city, it’s just nice when people can get out there to other places and show them that we’re not all gang bangers and drug addicts. I mean, we all make jokes sometimes, but I want to share that there are good people and good things going on here. When bands come down here to play, they all say it’s great, you know?

 

With the band all coming from such different musical styles, is writing the way you do more difficult?

 

Tyler/  When we write stuff, we all kind of write with it too. Someone has an idea, and we all try to make it fit with how we see it, and still make it into something we’re all looking for. We all compensate for each others’ styles in that way. It’s a team effort.

 

Josh/ I think it helps that we all try to have an open mindset with writing. No one ever comes in and says “I have an idea and it has to go exactly like this.”

 

Do you feel like it makes it more unique that way?

 

Matt/ It makes it more real, and definitely gives it a more unique identity. It’s great. It makes it so that we can’t make anything cookie cutter. It’s good to be able to do that. More rewarding that way.

 

Tyler/ I also think it’s maybe why we all get along so well too. There’s never anyone jumping down someone’s throat about not playing something the “right” way. We just want to make something that we like a lot and can be proud to show people. We put a lot of time into it, and when we get any kind of good feedback about it, to say that it gave them some sort of feeling or emotion, that’s the coolest thing about making music. And makes us happy.

 

Josh/ And it’s totally applicable to anyone doing any kind of art. If you’re doing it the way you want, not under anyone else’s guidelines, and attain results that they’re proud of, especially if it’s someone telling you they love it, definitely makes it way more rewarding.

 

Is that part of the reason you guys play music to begin with? For that feeling?

 

Josh/ Oh, definitely. The core factor of it comes down to I love to do it for myself. I love playing music and playing it with my best friends.

 

Tyler/ Exactly. The best part, is you get to show up, hang out with your best friends, and make music that hopefully you can all enjoy and get behind. If not, why are you doing it?

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