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The Ragman's War: Bucket of Blood    by R. S. Sukle order for
Ragman's War
by R. S. Sukle
Order:  USA  Can
iUniverse, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback
*   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

I don't understand the thinking that Americans would never commit the atrocities that we are seeing today. I refer to starting wars and abusing prisoners. The Ragman's War recounts a shameful piece of our past - a coal miners' strike in 1927-28. Have we learned nothing from history?

Miners were receiving $7.50 a day to extract coal from underground. They lived in company housing for which they had to pay rent. They could buy necessities from the company store at excessive prices. When their pay was to be reduced to $7.00 a day, they refused to work - they were hardly able to subsist on the previous wages. Instead of negotiating in good faith, the coal companies brought in strike breakers and mounted police to control the workers. The miners were evicted from their homes and their belongings sold to satisfy their debts to the company. Humanitarian needs were overlooked as wives and children succumbed to pneumonia and flu. The workers looked to their unions, who did little or nothing to alleviate the suffering. The strike lasted almost a year. While the coal companies and banks fought for every last cent and remained rich, miners were finally forced to go back to work for the lesser pay and still unsafe working conditions.

The Ragman's War tells this tale - a hard one to read. It tells of desperately ill people being carried from their homes - during eviction - and placed on the frozen ground to fend for themselves. Children slowly becoming emaciated and prone to any disease that came along, while others sat by and did nothing to ease the suffering. Men beaten to a bloody pulp by the coal police. Homes raided and women and girls raped. R.S. Sukle learned of these strikes from listening to her father and uncles. She felt it was a story that needed to be told.

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