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Coal Camp Justice

Two Wrongs Make a Right
By Ricardo García



From the coal camps of northeastern New Mexico comes a tale of families and friends struggling to rise above working and living conditions Theodore Roosevelt once described as worse than the serfdom of the Middle Ages. In this prequel to Coal Camp Days, the Chicorico miners battle to establish a labor union that promises to rectify dangerous and oppressive mining conditions.

The story opens in 1931 when Julian and Dahlia Heard, an African American coal mining family, take in Swannie, a town drunk. Swannie finds sobriety, peace, and opportunity with the Heards until his friend Judo Perkovich dies in a tragic mining accident.

Swannie stands up for Judo's widow and, as a result, is fired from the mine. He finds work in Raton as a "dry agent," waging battle against local moonshiners in Colfax County--and the local coal camps. Swannie disappears one day while demolishing a still near Chicorico. When a body is found in the nearby hills, Swannie's friend Julian Heard is nearly killed by a camp guard who will stop at nothing to secure a confession for the crime.

Contributor Bios
Dr. Ricardo García has spent thirty-six years as an educator beginning in Tierra Amarilla and Wagon Mound, New Mexico as a high school English teacher. Since 1973, he has taught or served as an administrator in various colleges and universities. Currently, he is a Professor of Education in Teachers College at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is a storyteller for the Nebraska Humanities Coucil and author of a monthly feature story in the Raton Range on coal camp life. His poetry has been published in New Mexico Magazine, and his book, On the Way to San Francisco Bay, (Anchorage, Salmon Run Press, 2001) won the National Poetry Award for the year 2000. His other professional education books are: Teaching in a Pluralistic Society (Harpercollins, 1991); Teaching for Diversity (Phi Delta Kappa, 1998). He has conducted seminars or told stories in 35 different states from Alaska to Puerto Rico.