Black Yarn: A Fictional Series (part 3/10)

cont’d from parts 1/10 , 2/10

The Chief

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My duties at the Bull’s Head Tavern were not complex. Between sudsin’ up empty goblets and spit-shining shot glasses, I’d take my hand at the old broom and keep Pop’s floor so clean you could eat off it, though I would never have recommended the practice.

As I said, Pop was the proprietor and bartender of the place, which I always thought meant he was at one part sheriff and another part priest. I swear the man spent more time breaking up fights and listening to people’s worries than he did pouring liquid.

Everyone called him either Ed or Demps, short for Dempsey, depending on how well they knew him. He always told people they could call him Ed. But his close friends took more liberties with him. Made it real tough to recover a tab as well..

Chief Bender was one of those guys who referred to Pop as Demps. I guess it wouldn’t have surprised me to find out old Chief was the originator of the nickname. Most of the guys from the ball club frequented my pop’s establishment, but Chief was a true regular. Poor soul must have spent more time at the Bull than my pop. Thing was, you’d have an uneasy feeling in your stomach when Chief was in the bar drinking whiskey cause his moods could change with the snap of a matchstick.

Some nights he’d just sit there and tear in his beer, which meant he’d complain about everything from mining to baseball until he had his fill. I liked those nights cause the other two options were a whole lot messier.

Some nights he’d just go insane right from the start. And that’s maybe where his “regular” status came from, cause it may have been a regular occurrence to see Chief dancing a damn jig on top of the bar or picking a fight with anyone who happened to be at arm’s length when the urge arose.

Option three was similar but far worse in comparison. These were nights where Chief would start out tearing in his beer and finish as a wild ape. The worst of both worlds.

One particular night, round the same time Dusty’d been shipped out to the Danville Ward, Chief sulked his way up the steps on the corner of Locust and Railroad Streets that led into the Bull’s Head. I remember I glanced up from my washing and shot a look at the barmaid, Ms. Lucy Boudreau. She shot the same look back at me. It said, “Steer the hell clear of the Chief tonight unless you want an earful.” We couldn’t have been more accurate in our appraisal.

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The corner of Locust and Railroad Streets; original location of The Bull’s Head Tavern

“Hey Demps, pour me a shot, will ya?” Chief grumbled as he moped over to a stool at the bar. Pop stared at him for a moment. And just for an instant I thought he’d refuse the man. But I’d never seen that happen at the Bull before and I wouldn’t this time either. After a moment, he tipped the bottle and filled the glass.

“Go easy tonight,” Pop said as he nudged it forward on the bar.

“Why should I?” Chief mumbled into his drink. “No one in this town gives a God damn about me.”

“There you go talking with your backside again. Now, whatever happened today let’s forget it and go on with our lives.” Pop was direct, but he always made you feel at ease and in control of the situation. Unless, of course, your name was Chief Bender.

“I’m not gonna forget about it, Demps! All I done for this town? Won a darn game for that team single-handedly just last week. Now they bring out the Bronx cheer for me. Well, I’ll show ‘em.”

“Show ‘em what, Chiefy?” Lucy always had a way of reducing the situation with a subtly inappropriate comment. Unless, of course, the situation included a one, Mr. Chief Bender. I swear, when he got his mind wrapped around a problem, there was nothing that could shake him loose.

“I’ll show ‘em what I’m made of, Lucy! I’ll show ‘em they can’t win without me! I’ll show ‘em that everybody strikes out once in awhile!”

“Is that all that happened, Chief? You struck out?” Again, Pop tried to bring him back to Earth.

“All that happened? ALL THAT HAPPENED!?! With the bases loaded, Demps! To end the game, Demps! We were only down a run, Demps!”

“Ok, ok, I get it. They booed you cause they blamed you for the loss. So what?”

“So what? Demps, I mighta choked in a big spot out there, but I didn’t lose us no damn game. No. We was up by two just the inning before. New center fielder can’t catch a damn pop up. Costs us three runs! You think they remember that, Demps? You think they remember how old Dusty got run outta town? You think—“

“New center fielder? Who’s playin’ center for Dusty?” Pop’s eyes were wider than a couple of saucers. Oddly, when I looked over at Chief his eyes were even wider.

“Well—it’s O’Malley.” He said it with finality.

“O’Malley! Are you kidding me, Chief?”

“Shhh-h! You want anyone to hear you questioning the boss in public?”

“Well, you did yourself. And you just answered your own question.”

“What question?”

“Why the fans turned on you. Who else would they gonna turn on? O’Malley? Don’t make me laugh. Boo O’Malley? He’d have a whole mess of spectators dumped into the smelting pot! So quit your whining, Chief. They’ll forget it by tomorrow.” Chief seemed to see the logic in this point cause he clammed up for a few seconds and thought about it as intently as he could.

“Shut up and pour me another shot,” he said when he felt convinced.

“You gonna pay for that one first?”

“My name’s no good here no more? Bender has no credit at the Bull after he gets booed?”

“Oh, shut your yap, you good for nothing.” Pop pushed another sip of whiskey under Chief’s nose and the two decided to stick to silence for awhile. I remember thinking to myself, ‘it’s sure nice to have some peace and quiet.’

Boy, do I resent that thought–because all silence ever did inside that place was serve as an opening. And it was an opening through which the slimiest snakes were bound to crawl.

Remember how I told you about the ghostly specters of men who’d drift into the Bull’s Head on the wind? I’m sure it was true of many taverns at the time. Probably still true today. But it always seemed to me that Pop’s establishment attracted more than its fair share of ruffians and charlatans. And they were always bound to find some poor, unsuspecting glutton to punish with their scams or bilk of their earthly goods.

See, in all of the racket surrounding Pop’s and Chief’s little argument, nobody had noticed the two rough-bearded men who’d entered and made themselves comfortable. Not myself; not any of the patrons that quiet night; not Ms. Boudreau, and certainly neither Pop nor Chief.

Yep, those two just wafted in as ghosts, like always.

Both of the men wore peasant clothes. The usual rags of the miner: thrown-together slacks with patches and scratchy, white shirts stained in places with black coal soot. One of the men was quite tall with a long, slender face and close-cropped brown hair. The other was broad in the chest and neck. His thick nose made him look at home in the Bull’s Head tavern.

With painful predictability, these two ruffians were drawn to Chief as if he were a magnet and they a few bits of anthracite steel. Before I could even get Pop’s attention, the man with the face of a bull had a hook on Chief’s shoulder and the tall gentleman had received him with a crooked smile.

images“How do you do?” he asked through the jagged line of his smile. “Pleased to meet your acquaintance. Name’s John Kealy. A Locust Gap boy.”

“Don’t recognize you from the ball club,” Chief said.

“I don’t play ball. Just a miner myself, as is my associate.” He nodded in the direction of the bull-faced man. “Name’s Augustus Spies. People call him Gus.” The man he called Gus just grunted under his breath.

“I’m Chief Bender. Spend my fair share of time underground too. Right here in Centralia, down the Northern shaft.”

“Bender? You’re mighty good with the stick and ball, I hear.”

“Why thank you, sir. Glad to see my talents are appreciated by someone around here.” And he shot a know-it-all glance in Pop’s direction. “Hey Demps, how’s about a few refreshments for me and my friends here? Make ‘em doubles.”

Kealy was quick to reinforce his interest in Chief. “Like the ones you’re famous for hitting, am I right my friend?”

“Right you are, right you are. Your friend doesn’t say much, does he?”

“Gus? Well, down in the Locust hole we always say he’s more of a listener.” The three men all found this amusing, though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. I suspected Chief was as out in the dark as I was. But nevertheless, he let out a hearty chuckle and they all knocked back their whiskeys.

“Another round, Demps! So, what brings you gentlemen around here tonight?”

“Just looking more for a little scenery change.”

“That’s understandable,” Chief replied. It was so like Chief to just up and make friends with any stranger who happened to shower him with a passing comment. He was falling right into line once again.

“You know, Gus and I couldn’t help but overhear the plight you were discussing with the good barman over there.”

“Don’t bring me back into this,” Pop grumbled as he filled the shot glasses with another round.

“Don’t listen to him,” Chief said. “It happens to be a pretty big point of contention with me, what happened tonight.”

“Contention? Can you even spell that, Chief?” In his own way, Pop was really letting him have it this particular night.

“Shut up, Demps. Don’t you have another shot to pour?” He held out his empty glass for another refill.

“Alright. I gave it a try.” It was the last thing I heard Pop say to Chief for the rest of the night. Maybe for the rest of his life.

“So, fellas,” Chief continued, “What’s your take on my ordeal? You know, with the booing and all.”

“Well, I think it’s awful.” Kealy looked at Gus who offered a slow, steady nod before his smoother counterpart continued. “A blatant show of disrespect can only come from a misinformed direction.”

“Say, didn’t I see you guys at that union meeting old O’Malley broke up a few months ago?”

Union?” Kealy looked a little startled, but he composed himself. “Do I look like a man who’s affiliated with any sort of union?”

“I suppose not,” Chief said.

“Union…..Mr. Bender, no union will ever be formed in these parts on account of one system, and that’s educational.”

“That is very educational.”

Old One Room School
Indiana County, PA
Route 110
1969

“No, Mr. Bender. I mean the educational system. Can you remember learning even one thing worth knowing when you were rotting away in the Centralia school house?”

“Well, I reckon not,” Chief responded, slightly lost in thought.

“Now you’re still rotting away down some hole cause the school house got you nowhere. Am I speaking truth now, Mr. Bender?”

“It sure sounds that way.”

“And tonight, when those fans treated you like a no-talent busher, once again the troubles started at the schoolhouse.” Now Chief was really looking confused.

“The school house? I don’t believe I understand how the problem started down there.”

“Think about it, Mr. Bender,” Kealy hissed over his whiskey. “If those fans had been educated properly, they’d have known who it was that cost them the game.”

“Boy, Mr. Kealy, I think you’re onto something. That damn school house is the bane of all existence up here in coal country. Did you hear that old Dempsey? The school’s at fault.” Pop didn’t respond. “Oh, the hell with you.”

“Well, Mr. Bender, don’t you think now’s the time for revenge? To take the action you should have taken a long time ago?”

“Of course I should! What action?”

“Actions against the school, Mr. Bender. Political action against the school.”

“Political action? I don’t know much about politics, friend. Maybe I ain’t the right person to go starting any actions.”

“Nonsense, Mr. Bender. That’s why myself and my associate are here. We can help you with the action end of it. Mr. Bender, come now. It’ll just be a small gag. We’ll sneak into the school house just before classes and write a nice, little political message for them on the chalkboard.”

“Think it’ll get my point across? Is it dangerous?”

“Mr. Bender, it’s chalk. Now come up with something you’d like to express to those evil educators of the world and meet us outside.” Kealy offered up his crooked grin one final time before tipping his cap as a signal for Chief to meet them outside.

Now I told you I’d heard the last thing Pop ever said to Chief, and that’s the truth. But I can tell you Pop had a few more choice words with him outside of my presence. I couldn’t tell you what they were cause as soon as Kealy and Spies were completely outside he looked at me sternly and said, “Boy, don’t you have to relieve yourself right now?”

I nodded, even though I didn’t have to do any such thing. I made my way to the outhouse cause I knew this was Pop’s sign that the language was about to turn ugly. I figured a good five minutes would give Pop enough time to clear the air, so I made myself as comfortable as one could be inside a dark, smelly shack. A couple of times I thought I heard men whispering, but I chalked it up to an overactive imagination and the blackness of the night.

But then I distinctly heard someone talking. It was Kealy and it seemed to be the tail end of his conversation.

“Just trust me,” he said. “I know it’ll work.” That was all I needed to hear. I bolted back inside the bar in time to see Chief slam his shot glass down on the bar and storm off out the door. I started after him, but Pop grabbed me by the collar.

“Leave him, Eddie,” he said. “Some men just won’t learn.”

I couldn’t argue with him. The second I saw the big baboon rumble down the steps of the bar, a strange feeling took hold of me. It was as if I was sure that boy was bound to write his own epitaph.

Now, I can’t be sure exactly what those ruffians and their overgrown transplant got themselves into that night. Course, it’s my very intention standing before you right now to report to you the events as they unfolded in O’Malley’s mine paper. Not all that surprising I happen to have the clippings with me right here. Before I do, I might as well clue you in on a few peculiarities I was able to piece together by myself.

At the very top of my list is a little confirmation I could give you on the identities of the two shadowy gentlemen, Mr. Kealy and Mr. Spies, who left the bar that night with the Chief. See, Chief was onto something when he tried to pin those men down as union officials, only he was off the mark by just a hair.

In those days, the conditions in the mines were disastrous. Mining in general still is a mighty dangerous venture. I tried to count one time how many ways there were to die in a mine. You could meet your fate in an explosion, get trapped under a cave-in, choke on poison gases, get flattened by a coal car or kicked in the head by a mule. You could even be electrocuted if you were real unlucky. Anytime I thought about it I could dream up new and more gruesome ways to die underground without ever feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin again.

But, boy, the conditions back in the old days intensified those dangers. The workers had no protection. Slave drivers like O’Malley dictated such low wages and treated his men so poorly that they were forced to work longer hours than the human mind or body allowed. And they did it just so they could keep a decent meal on the table.

It got so bad the workers started searching for ways to gain rights. That’s when talk of labor unions began in the anthracite coal region. And, for the barons, this was the most horrific thing that could possibly happen. Unions meant higher wages, less work hours, and lower profits for the men at the top. Guys like O’Malley were quick to stamp out the faintest whispers of unionization. And our man in question, the baron that ruled our every waking day, was by no means the first or even the cruelest to do so. Each was just a single link in a long chain of brutal tyrants drunk with power and sick with greed.

I’d overheard my pop mention something to Ms. Boudreau after Chief left that evening about Kealy and Spies. His remarks were cloaked in secrecy, and he did a masterfully bad job of hiding it from me. I pretended not to hear him when he mentioned the ruffians were members of the A-O-H.

The letters meant nothing to me then, but I found out some years later that it stood for the Ancient Order of Hibernarians. It’s actually a pretty noble little outfit. Think it’s still in existence today. But the members of many of the early AOH chapters in the anthracite region used the charitable organization to hide what they were really organizing, which happened to be plans for a strong union, like the ones we might see in action today.

Now I know a worker’s union might not sound all scary and evil to you young people, but these were dangerous men to be around in this region during O’Malley’s reign at Northern. It’s probably why Pop bawled Chief out so hard that night. It’s also how he knew, and how I knew somewhere inside, that those men weren’t about to just pull a harmless, little prank down at the school house. They had a much grander political statement already planned. I guess I should go ahead and read you the article so as not to delay the inevitable:

 

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City Constable, Joseph Dropeski

CENTRALIA – A bizarre turn of events has left a school house empty, a man slain, and another man in jail. City constable, Joseph Dropeski, dispatched himself to the Centralia school house early Monday morning amid reports of a break-in. When the official reached his destination he was met at the door by a nervous gentleman he recognized as Mr. “Chief” Bender, a general laborer at the Northern Colliery and a popular member of the Northern Company Baseball Club. 

“Mr. Bender seemed out of sorts, he was sweating and began shaking at the very sight of me, and he smelled strongly of cheap whiskey,” Dropeski told reporters.

Dropeski then went on to paint a picture of the following bizarre chain of events. He said Bender stepped in front of the door to the school house upon his official attempt to enter and kept blithering something about a childish prank he and a few fellow mine workers from a neighboring town had pulled. The prank turned out to be nothing short of murder, as Dropeski soon found out upon entering the darkened school house.

“There were no other accomplices inside the building and the door was unlocked when I was finally able to coax Mr. Bender from before it,” Dropeski added. “Upon entering, I quickly noticed a severely beaten body lying in a rather unnatural position on the floor.”

The body turned out to be that of local school teacher Isaiah Green. He was later pronounced deceased on arrival. Green had been teaching at the school on the 200 block of Main Street for the past four years where he was widely respected and admired by his students. He was perhaps known more famously as the nephew of Northern Coal’s own Joyner O’Malley, and he was survived only by O’Malley and his own ailing mother, aged 60.

“It is our firm desire to see the perpetrators of this bestial act brought to justice,” Dropeski mentioned in a later statement. “At this point, all evidence points to Mr. Bender as the lone actor in this plot and we will proceed with such a notion until informed otherwise. We’re just thankful an overwhelming majority of the students at Centralia School had not yet arrived for morning class and did not witness the atrocity at hand.”

Bender has since been arrested and is being held in the city jail awaiting trial early next week.

I didn’t have the benefit of reading this article until about Wednesday or Thursday of that week, if my memory serves me right. It was mighty peculiar a murder took place and no official arrests were made until after the fact, despite finding a half-crocked and fully cracked ball player out in front of the scene as police arrived. Now, I don’t claim to know exactly what happened that night, nor do I know Constable Dropeski’s mode of thought as everything unfolded for him, but I sure can fill you in on a few details I saw and heard that helped me piece things together for myself.

On the Monday afternoon immediately following the incident, we were scheduled to make up a rained-out game against the boys from the Lehigh Valley hole. These kinds of games were rare, and they never drew a crowd on account of everyone being at work. But the barons would sometimes excuse the starting lineups of each team from their day shifts so they could finish out the schedule in a timely manner.

Old Chief showed up that afternoon in a ripe state. Face was whiter than a freshly laundered bed sheet and his hair was drenched in sweat. Smelled a whole lot worse than usual too. About the only place he looked comfortable was standing out there at first base. I wrote it off to all the drinking he’d done at the Bull’s Head the night before, cause I didn’t exactly know just yet what had happened at the school house earlier that morning. But I overheard a conversation that piqued my interest even if it didn’t make a whole lot of sense until after I read that dreaded article I just shared with you.

“I need a minute, Rock,” Chief grumbled when he walked past him in the dugout right around the bottom of the fourth inning. Seemed old Clean-Livin’ was equal parts miner, ball player, family, and psychologist in those days. Maybe not in that exact order, but the man dispensed so much advice between innings to the boys on the team, it’s a small wonder he ever got a chance to watch the game at all. Probably should have been charging those fellas a premium all along. Maybe it would have kept poor Rockford out of the predicament he’d soon fall into, but I’ll get to that later. First, let me tell you how the rest of the Chief’s conversation played out. Mighty curious it was, indeed.

“What’s on your mind, Chief?” I remember Chief craning his neck at this point and doing a quick pan of the Canary bench to make sure no one was listening. ‘Course, I did my best to look disinterested. “What, you in some kinda trouble?”

“I think so, Rock. Got myself mighty tangled in the web.”

“I’m listenin’, old friend.”

“Well, I’s down by the old school house with a few new ‘sociates.”

“Associates? Chief, I know you ain’t no businessman.”

“Well, I wouldn’t call ‘em friends. Not after what they done to me. Told me we were in for a bit of merrymaking, just a few harmless pranks.”

“You join in on?”

“Sure did, Rock. Don’t know why I done it, but I got involved. Stood outside and hollered as soon as I saw someone coming. Just like we planned.”

“Then what happened?”

“Nothing. Nobody came out when I hollered. So I just stood there, tipped my cap to the school teacher and watched him go inside.”

“Sounds harmless enough to me.”

“Me too. But then someone come walking. Cutest little girl you ever saw. Big blue eyes and a big old dimple in her cheek.”

“What’d ya do?”

“A little more hollering, just in case my ‘sociates were still inside, though I couldn’t imagine where they’d gone. Well, that pretty little angel didn’t get more than two steps inside the school house without letting out the most God-awful scream you ever heard. I rushed inside and, well, I’m sure you’ll read the rest of the gruesome details tomorrow morning.”

“I reckon I will, if it’s that serious.”

“Oh it is, Rockford. It is. That pretty, little face all contorted. Her eyes wide as copper kettles and full of fright. I don’t know that I’ll ever get the image out of my mind. I stood there and stared at her for a few seconds. Then it dawned on me. I better high-tail it out of there. Didn’t get further than the doorstep before Dropeski come running up half asleep and all disheveled with morning rest. I didn’t want him to see what I just seen, so I stood there in front of the door for a moment. Had no idea where my ‘sociates had gone. Only left me with a mess on my hands and an open school house window.”

“A mess?”

“Like I said, you’re bound to find out soon enough. Just ain’t about to put it down to speech. Well, Dropeski told me I better stand down, and seeing as I had no good reason to give him for not moving, I obliged. But soon as that old constable was inside the building, I ran about as fast as a five-point buck, Rockford. I was on the horizon before you could blink an eye.”

“So what you want me to you tell you, Chief?”

“I just can’t forget that little angel’s face, Rock. She’s like a ghost rattling around in my head. Guess, I just need you to set my mind at ease.”

“Not so sure I’m capable of doing that, Chief. I think only you have control over something like that.”

“How so?”

“Go talk to Dropeski. Tell him what you saw. Turn yourself in and set the whole incident behind you. Doesn’t seem like you did much more than hoot and holler anyways.”

“You really think they’ll believe me?”

“If you done nothing wrong the lord will shield you good.” And this seemed to please Chief greatly. The muscles in his face lost their rigidity and returned to their normal chubbiness, and he gave Clean-Livin’ a hearty slap on the shoulder. But there was just something about the statement that didn’t give me the same confidence Chief took from it, especially after what happened with Dusty.

As the days went on, I came to realize exactly what Chief was trying to tell Rock in the dugout that day. And I’m sorry to say old Chief, as you must remember from the clipping I read you, never had a chance to turn himself in. He was taken into custody the very next day by Dropeski, and I can scarcely believe he was ever given a chance to share his story with officials.

Sure, there were rumors. They spread through the region like a scourge; how Kealy, Spies, and their outfit were responsible for the atrocity; how they were trying to send a message directly to O’Malley and his coal baron cronies. But there was no way O’Malley wanted news of that nature traveling through the Pennsylvania hills. It would have served only to cast him as vulnerable and to show his workers that maybe they did have a bit of their own power, their own control, if they worked in concert.

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State Penitentiary at Lewisburg, PA

Instead, they painted Chief as some wild gunslinger with an undying thirst for cheap whiskey. Only took but a few hours in O’Malley’s closed kangaroo court to send old Chief out to the state pen near Lewisburg. Always been a tough place as I’m sure you must know from living in this area.

‘Course the story and all its relatable rumors raged through the area mines quicker than an underground fire, and by Sunday sermon things were getting pretty heated. Not only had Centralia lost a darn good school teacher, but also one of its most beloved ball heroes. They were all for giving O’Malley the hell he deserved, but the expense in this case was much higher than these good people could endure.

Sunday service at St. Iggy’s was usually a solemn event, a happy gathering of all the fine Catholics in town. But this day was different. The men of the parish stood in a tight circle in their slightly threadbare but neatly-pressed suits, and the women formed their own circle, standing not so merrily in their frilly dresses and bonnets. Pop and I were usually among the first to arrive for procession, and we took our weekly standby seats on the church steps. I heard the names Kealy and Spies reverberate through both circles on more than one occasion, and the taut jaw lines and narrow eyes of the parishioners were not a usual sight.

Before long, Pop and I heard the familiar click of the latch snapping open, and then Father McDermott squeaked the arched, wooden doors to their welcome position. The pipe organ flushed its heavenly chords into the courtyard and the procession began. Its familiar pageantry was not enough to wash angry expressions off stony faces.

st-ignchurch1969I’ve never been to a Catholic church, especially St. Iggy’s, and seen a service stray from its time honored routines. And this particular service, aside from the periodic hushed remarks and fits of masked anger, was no different save but a few moments of the good father’s sermon. A good ninety percent of what that man said was so routine, so wrapped in godly talk, that even the most devout Catholics let most of it pass right out the other ear. But I’ll never forget at least one thing he said that day. Probably ‘cause it struck the fear of God in me, and it’s a fear that ain’t never left me yet.

“There are times when all that happens in our Earthly world seems nothing short of atrocity,” he said. “When God’s will could not possibly be at work. It may seem fitting to dwell upon these thoughts in times like these, but our savior would certainly disagree. His plan may not always be a direct path, but it is one we must trust, for he is not one to leave stones unturned.” There was a long pause, during which a few lonely coughs were the only respite from a deathly silence.

He continued. “I fear for the men who are in the mind to take the position of such stones. Mark thee well, as we’ve read in Romans 12:1849: Beloved, never avenge yourselves but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay,’ says the lord.” Father McDermott bowed his head and allowed the scripture to soak its way through the parish before he continued. “This I promise you, my sons and daughters.”

And, by God, didn’t Father McDermott count all his cards correct, ‘cause nobody in that parish did seek an ounce of revenge on Kealy or Spies. But it couldn’t have been more than a few weeks before both those boys got what was coming to them.

Spies got himself crushed to death in a shaft collapse over at Locust Gap Colliery. Got pulverized so completely they barely found enough remains to identify him. He was the lucky one.

Kealy, on the other hand, caught himself one of the nastiest cases of tuberculosis ever recorded in the great state of Pennsylvania. Fought the death throes for nearly three days before the disease finally drowned him out.

‘Course, none of this was a useful substitute for the man we all knew as old Chief Bender, but it sure built Father McDermott’s legend as a man who could lay a decent curse on you. Came back to haunt him in the end, but that’s another story altogether.

TO BE CONTINUED

Come back next Thursday for Black Yarn part 4/10 – “CLEAN LIVIN”

Must See: Chris Perkel & Georgie Roland’s “The Town that Was” (2007)

9 thoughts on “Black Yarn: A Fictional Series (part 3/10)

    • Yep. Actually came across it in some old newspaper clippings I dredged up while doing research, but there’s also a small mention of it in the Images of America Series volume on Centralia. I based Kealy and Spies on that story. You can’t believe how many tragic events (aside from the fire) happened in that town since it was founded. Cursed, I tell you. Cursed.

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