In Dubious Battle

In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck

Book: In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Steinbeck
And more than that, we made the men work for themselves, in their own defense, as a group. That’s what we’re out here for anyway, to teach them to fight in a bunch. Raising wages isn’t all we’re after. You know all that.”
    “Yes,” Jim said. “I knew that, but I didn’t know how you were going to go about it.”
    “Well, there’s just one rule—use whatever material you’ve got. We’ve got no machine guns and troops. Tonight was good; the material was ready, and we were ready. London’s with us. He’s the natural leader. We’ll teach him where to lead. Got to go awful easy, though. Leadership has to come from the men. We can teach them method, but they’ve got to do the job themselves. Pretty soon we’ll start teaching method to London, and he can teach it to the men under him. You watch,” Mac said, “the story of last night will be all over the district bytonight. We got our oar in already, and it’s better than I hoped. We might go to the can later for practicing medicine without a license, but that would only tie the men closer to us.”
    Jim asked, “How did it happen? You didn’t say much, but they started working like a clock, and they liked it. They felt fine.”
    “Sure they liked it. Men always like to work together. There’s a hunger in men to work together. Do you know that ten men can lift nearly twelve times as big a load as one man can? It only takes a little spark to get them going. Most of the time they’re suspicious, because every time someone gets ’em working in a group the profit of their work is taken away from them; but wait till they get working for themselves. Tonight the work concerned them, it was their job; and see how well they did it.”
    Jim said, “You didn’t need all that cloth. Why did you tell London to burn it?”
    “Look, Jim. Don’t you see? Every man who gave part of his clothes felt that the work was his own. They all feel responsible for that baby. It’s theirs, because something from them went to it. To give back the cloth would cut them out. There’s no better way to make men part of a movement than to have them give something to it. I bet they all feel fine right now.”
    “Are we going to work today?” Jim asked.
    “No, we’ll let the story of last night go the rounds. It’ll be a hell of a big story by tomorrow. No, we’ll go to work later. We need sleep now. But Jesus, what a swell set-up it is for us so far.”
    The willows stirred over their heads, and a few leavesfell down on the men. Jim said, “I don’t know when I ever was so tired, but I do feel fine.”
    Mac opened his eyes for a moment. “You’re doing all right, kid. I think you’ll make a good worker. I’m glad you came down with me. You helped a lot last night. Now try to shut your God-damned eyes and mouth and get some sleep.”

5
    THE afternoon sun glanced on the tops of the apple trees and then broke into stripes and layers of slanting light beneath the heavy branches, and threw blots of sunshine on the ground. The wide aisles between the trees stretched away until the rows seemed to meet in a visual infinity. The great orchard crawled with activity. Long ladders leaned among the branches and piles of new yellow boxes stood in the aisles. From far away came the rumble of the sorting machines and the tap of the boxers’ hammers. The men, with their big buckets slung to baldrics, ran up the ladders and twisted the big green pippins free and filled the buckets until they could hold no more, and then they ran down the ladders to empty the buckets into the boxes. Between the rows came the trucks to load the picked apples and take them to the sorting and packing plant. A checker stood beside the boxes and marked with a pencil in his little book as the bucket men came up. The orchard was alive. The branches of the trees shook under the ladders. The overripes dropped with dull plops to the ground underneath the trees. Somewhere, hidden in a tree-top, a whistling

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