Hibbing Minnesota lies in the northern part of the state. A town of 14,000 it's history dating back to the discovery of the rich iron ore that made the Mesabi Iron Range world famous for the ore that came out of it's mines.
The glory days of the iron ore mining are long gone, replaced with a much lower grade of iron called taconite. The thousands that worked the mines have dwindled to less then then a third that worked there in it's heyday.
It drew immigrants from all over the world, uneducated with strong backs they were in demand. Italians from the alabaster mines of Italy, Yugoslavians from the coal mines of Croatia. Welsh coal miners and the ''Cousin Jacks'' from England all flooded to work the mines. Native Americans from the surrounding area worked there as well.
They worked cheap and if they complained there was always someone to take their place. Most lived in a company towns, with a company store. Many lived in what were called ''locations'' scattered around the Mesabi range.
It was hard and dangerous work. Open pit and underground mining were both in use.
Over 100 degrees in the summer in the ''pit'' and 40 below zero in the winter, if the mine didn't get you the weather did. The worlds largest open pit mine operated day and night, summer and winter churning out the red gold for use in a country that was building and expanding at a record pace.
It was in this backdrop that resentment was building among the ore miners, low wages, little in safety rules, sick for a day or so meant that you didn't have a job, the company simply found another immigrant from a long line waiting for work. Cold, hunger, back breaking work were the order of the day.
Weary men ended their shift covered in red ore, their skin the color of the earth. Eyes downcast it was a struggle to get to the ''top edge'' where buses picked them up to take them back to town. Greyhound Bus Lines started here, hauling miners to and from the mines.
The men that worked the mines were hard men, uncompromising, with a strong will. The company worked them hard, not caring for them or their families. Uneducated, many not able to speak English, but with a will that was much like the ore that they mined, steel, unforgiving and unbreakable.
On a hot August afternoon, they were dynamiting a bank so the huge ''shovels'' could start digging into the red gold. The explosion was early and not all the miners had cleared the area. The 500 foot bank came tumbling down on them, thousands of tons of rock buried the men, ore dust filled the air, it was difficult to breath the air was so thick with ore dust. Ten men lay buried beneath the rock. They would no longer see their children, hug their wives. They were the ''cost of doing business''...Little thought was given to them by the owners of the mine. It was back to work as soon as possible.
Back to work men, move that red gold for the company. It's money men! if you don't do it we'll replace you with the next ignorant immigrant in line.
The next day Pietro Salvatarro sat at the bare kitchen table, little food for his family he was angry, ten dead men and the company didn't think it was a problem.
A few days later, after the bodies had been dug out the funerals were taking place, The Italian Catholic buried four of its own. The Orthodox church buried three of it's own. Down the street the ''Cousin Jacks'' buried two of their own. The Ojibwe buried one of their own. Most of these families could hardly speak English and a high bred language had started in the mines were all the miners could understand each other.
Anger spread through the ''locations'', whether you were Italian, Yugoslav, Welsh, Fin, or a Native, the anger was just below the surface. Something had to be done for the miners.
Deep in the timber a single man stood, he didn't know the whites that worked the mines but he knew that they were being used like trash. This is something that he could not understand. It was time for the miners to fight back, and he would bring on the spirits that would help the miners.
A week later many of the miners refused to return until some safety rules were put into place. They were fired by the company and replaced by more immigrants. Soon miners were talking of outright rebellion until something was done to help them.
Winter was now setting in, bone chilling cold engulfed the locations. The miners and their families would fight to survive. It was then that an accident happened that changed history.
Two young children, ages six and nine were out walking the railroad tracks looking for coal that had fallen off the trains that hauled the red gold down to Duluth. The coal would be used to heat their company homes.
As a train gathered speed the children were intent on finding coal, never hearing the train bearing down on them. It was to late when they heard it. Sal, the older jumped off the track to safety but his younger brother Louis tripped and fell on the tracks. Sal ran back and grabbed his brother by the ragged jacket that he was wearing, but it was to late, the huge engine didn't see them on the track and it was on them before they could move.
Pietro was getting ready for work when a company man came to the house to tell him of the ''accident''...His two children were dead, killed while trying to get fuel to warm their house.
Word soon spread throughout the locations about the death of the two boys. Anger reached the boiling point and then exploded. Strikes were called and the company called it ''strike breakers'' the battles raged between the two groups with the miners losing ground. The strike breakers were armed with rifles, pistols and ''knee breakers'' long wooden clubs that could snap an ankle of knee with one swing.
Stone Hand saw what was happening to the miners and it was then that he would cross the line and help the white miners. People that had taken the Ojibwe land, but this was different, each of these uneducated miners had worked side by side with Ojibwe people and never had there been a problem between them. Now was the time for him to commit himself to their side.
He talked to the ''spirits'' asking for their power to help the miners.
Three days later a group of strike breakers had beaten Pietro and some of fellow miners. The miners were trying to stop new immigrants from going to work in the mine. The strike breakers shot one of the miners and beaten the others until they could no longer stand up.
It looked like the company was going to win again. The miners didn't have food for their families, they can been cut off from buying from the company store and were being thrown out of their company owned houses.
The strike breakers had just beaten another group of miners and were laughing about the bonuses they would receive.
Back at the local headquarters of the mining company the executives where in an argument about dealing with the miners. Only one man was telling the others that they were not doing the right thing. These men and their familes were starving and this was not right. Beau Richland spoke to the others. Gentlemen, we are not doing right by the immigrants. We must think of the long term, by putting in better safety rules and raising their wages will be good for the company, we'll get better work out of them and they'll be more loyal to us. If we keep using thugs to beat and break them in the long run they will win, it may take 20 years but they will win. Yes, we'll be rich but it will catch up with us.
To himself, Beau was thinking that it was more then the long term profit to the company, it was about being a human, one that would pay a good day's wages for a good day's work. Better safety regulations, this was important to Beau but he knew that it didn't matter to the others. To them it was making them rich on the backs of the immigrants. He was not going to win the argument, but he was determined to try to make changes.
Miles away Stone Hand called on the ''spirits'', now was the time to strike at the company.
As the executives left their meeting, heading home to their big warm houses and well fed children, not giving a second thought to the dead children, the cold and hungry miners nor the beaten or dead ones.
They would soon be reminded what greed would bring.
Big Jim Sellers was walking down the street, a block from his house when he heard a noise. Stopping to see if he could see what it was, as he searched the darkness the air turned cold, a slight breeze turned into blizzard and then the smell, that awful smell filled his nostrils.
Behind the odor and chill of death and the killing blizzard came the WEENDIGO. The skin pulled tight, its bones pushing out against its skin. It's completion the ash gray of death. It's lips tattered and bleeding from the its jagged teeth.
Big Jim could not believe his eyes as the creature reached for him. It grabbed Big Jim and tore him limb from limb with it's hands and teeth. Big Jim screaming did not phase the creature, as he struggled and screamed the creature ate his flesh and drank his blood. The pain of others meant nothing to the Weendigo; all that mattered was it survival. The more that it ate human flesh the more that it needed.
Sitting on a rock outcropping of the mine, Stone Hand knew what was happening, he had called in the Weendigo, the most terrifying creature known to the Ojibwe people. He remembered the elders repeatedly warning, ''Not to much. Think of tomorrow, next winter''. Kegoh zaum! Baenuk! (Think of others! Balance, moderation, self control).
Stone Hand knew that the Weendigo would not be stopped, it's greed growing with each human it killed. It could not stop, only if all men and women lived in moderation, the Weendigo and his brothers and sisters would starve and die out.
Human nature are too inclined to self-indulgence. At the root is selfishness, regarded by the Ojibwe people as the worst human shortcoming.
Soon the owners of the mine would learn this lesson. Until then the Weendigo waited in the shadows for his next victim, greed knew no boundaries.
Big Jim's body, or the little that was left of it was found the next morning. Panic spread among the owners and executives, the miners must have done this, they are nothing but stupid immigrants, only someone like ''those'' people could do such a horrible thing.
The miners were at a loss. No one among them would do such a thing or would they.
Stone Hand had set the Weendigo on the owners and only he knew when it would stop, if stop it would.
The Weendigo waited, always waiting for it's next victim. Yes, human nature would always give it more to feed on.
As the number of dead owners and executives mounted, Beau was trying to push through some of the changes he wanted. Now there were not that many that opposed him on the improvements for the miners.
Soon Beau was getting changes made. He meet with the miners and listened to their grievances, really listened. He got rid of the ''strike breakers''and the miners went back to work. Wary of Beau, but seeing the changes that he was making they were willing to give him time.
Soon all the owners and executives that were left alive had left the area and Beau was completely in charge. He started hiring men that shared his thinking, ''A good's day pay for a good day's work''...Safety for the miners, and no more brutal treatment of the miners.
That night Beau was headed home when the air turned cold, the wind picking up and the odor. Then before him was the Weendigo. As it reached out for Beau he thought that this was the end. Then the wind stopped the odor left and the Weendigo stumbled and fell to the ground.
Stunned, Beau could not believe he was seeing such a horrible creature. Slowly the Weendigo started to melt into the earth.
Beau could not comprehend what had happened.
Stone Hand knew what had happened. Greed had taken the greedy until there were none left Only a man that wanted moderation was in charge of the mines. The Weendigo could not survive under that scenario.
Kavika 2012. All rights reserved.
Credit to Basil Johnston ''The Manitous'' .