The Verdict -- Robert Gardner

In 1920, when I was 9, I was living with my parents in Green River,

Wyo.

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

worked.

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

Peninsula.

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

strike.

* ROBERT GARDNER is a Corona del Mar resident and a former judge. His

column runs Tuesdays.

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