More on the Men in Caves

Where they came from, the summers were raw.  During prohibition they were fiercer still and the women kept their children inside; even on the days when the sun wasn’t a menace.  Someone whose face you recognized was usually dead by Monday, and the fathers left dinner tables suddenly and bristled at knocks on the door. The caves were something unearthly, and the men remembered those raw wound days of summer in the large cities they had fled from, and were grateful for the temperature in the mountain’s arteries.  The caves were cold, cold, cold and the walls glowed amber in the weak light of the men’s oil lamps. Some of the men still carried little knives around with them, even though they were almost 6,000 miles away from their almost feral boyhoods (mothers didn’t mind weaponry in those days). When the men in caves were boys, they had to form a straight line to manhood, no fooling around, turn your marbles and jacks in on your eighth birthday and pick up a pack of Lucky Strikes at the door. They still felt like scrawny tom kittens most of the time (probably since their boyhood was cut so sadly short), and they looked up to Blake like a hero-god among them. He was smart and educated, but he wasn’t uppity. He was handsome, but he had grease and soot under his fingernails just like the rest of them. They didn’t think much about Adam, only when he handed them their pay-notes on Fridays. He was of them but not them. Blake was of them, but a little bit above them. His pretty wife Justine they all fantasized a bit about, she was just that type of woman – whether she liked it or not – and let’s be serious here: she liked it.

South drift crew mucking out after shot, Independence Mine, 1939.

UAA Alaska Digital Archives


"... all my lovers were there with me, all my past and futures."

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