In 1920, when I was 9, I was living with my parents in Green River,
I was one happy kid. I had a dog, Buck, a big, tough Airedale. Of
course, I didn't know he was an Airedale.
In Wyoming, they were called bear dogs because they were used in packs
to kill bears. Using the Airedales, the hunters would track and tree a
bear, then poke him out of the tree, then bear and dogs would fight it
out to the death. Obviously, there wasn't a branch of the Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Green River. Buck was the veteran of
several such fights and had the scars to prove it.
My father worked in the shops of the Union Pacific railroad. He was
big and strong and absolutely fearless. Then came a railway strike. My
father, although the president of the union, did not believe in the
strike. He and a man named Lewis were the only men in Green River who
didn't strike. They were hated for this, so hated that the railroad built
a barricade of sharpened posts around the railroad shop, much like the
pioneers built around their settlements. Inside, my father and Lewis
That summer I was with my mother visiting her parents in Mingo, Iowa.
When she learned of the strike, she was determined to go back to Green
River and join him, but it was deemed too dangerous for me. It was
decided to send me to live with my older sister, Jessie, in Balboa
My mother loaded me on a train in Iowa with a couple of yards of
tickets, and off I went.
Back in Green River, things hadn't improved. Shortly after my mother
got back there, someone threw a rock at the house, a death threat
attached to it. That was enough for my father. He strapped on his trusty
old, black powder .44 Colt and left the house, in spite of my mother's
pleadings. He walked up the main street to the end of town and then back,
daring anyone to challenge him. No one did. The strikers were afraid of
my father, allegedly a very dangerous man with either his fists or his
gun, so instead they killed my dog.
Meanwhile, there I was with all these tickets, making my way from
Mingo to the peninsula. In those days, each railway had its own station
in each city. Thus, when you came into town on one railroad, you had to
go across town to the station there for the next leg of the trip. It was
quite an adventure for a 9-year-old, but I finally made it to Los Angeles
and then to the peninsula, where I pretty much lived after that.
As for my parents, when the strike was settled, feelings were too
bitter for them to remain in Green River. The Union Pacific transferred
my father to Los Angeles, but in doing so, he lost all his seniority and
had to start over again. That was the way he was repaid for opposing the
* ROBERT GARDNER is a Corona del Mar resident and a former judge. His
column runs Tuesdays.