Starting at the Bottom


Simon Ortiz

The truth is,
most of us didn't know
much about the unions
at any rate.
A job was a job.
You were lucky to have one
if you got one.
The truth is,
the companies didn't much care
nor did the unions,
even if both of them
were working our land.

When the mines came
to the Laguna and Ácoma land,
the men and their families were glad
in a way because
the men wouldn't have to go
so far away to work
for the railroad in Barstow,
Richmond, Flagstaff, Needles.
Or to pick beets and onions
in Idaho, Utah, and Colorado.
Or work for the Mormons
in Bluewater Valley
who paid you in carrots and potatoes.

When Jackpile opened up
on Laguna Land, some Laguna men got on alright,
at the bottom.
You have to start at the bottom, personnel said,
for a training period and work your way up.
The Ácoma men went to the Ambrosia Lake mines
and always got stuck by the space
on the application forms
for previous mining experience,
but the mine steward explained,
you have to start at the bottom
and work your way up.

So, almost thirty years later,
the Ácoma men
were at the bottom
of the underground mines at Ambrosia Lake,
and the Laguna men
were at the bottom of the open pit at Jackpile,
they were still training, gaining experience,
and working their way up.

And weekends, that city jail
was still full.

From Woven Stone by Simon Ortiz, Vol. 21, in Sun Tracks an American Indian Literary Series, University of Arizona Press
© 1992 Simon Ortiz Buy Now

Books by Simon Ortiz

Woven Stone, Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press. (Hardcover)
Men on the Moon : Collected Short Stories, Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press. (Hardcover)
After and Before the Lightning , Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press. (Hardcover)
Speaking for the Generations : Native Writers on Writing, Simon Ortiz (Editor), Univ. Arizona Press.
From Sand Creek : Rising in This Heart Which Is Our America, Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press.
The People Shall Continue, Simon Ortiz, Children's Book Press. (Library Binding)

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