Union Songs

Louis Tikas

A song by Frank Manning©2002 Frank Manning

- [play]

Guns and lives were cheap in Colorado,
And coal was king in nineteen hundred ten,
And, in the deepest coal mine’s darkest shadow,
There was no justice for the working men.

Every day brought cave-ins and explosions,
Because the safety laws were not applied,
For profit mattered more than the lives of all the poor,
And every day another miner died.

Bridge 1:
And the coal was black, and the blood was red,
And miners that dared organize always wound up dead,
And in those days of anger, a man of peace arose,
And words were the weapons that Louis Tikas chose.

In Walsenburg, in Ludlow, and in Sopris,
And thirty other towns they joined the cause,
Louis brought them hope when all was hopeless,
And he said the owner must obey the laws.

The miners went on strike in 1913,
And shootings left both guards and workers dead,
Louis’ voice was heard, he told both sides these words,
“Lay down the guns and talk instead.”

Bridge 2:
And the snow was white, and the blood was red,
That the miners and their wives and their little children bled,
And the owner took their homes, so they lived in tents in rows,
And words were the weapons that Louis Tikas chose.

The winter passed and still the mines were striking,
And the shooting and the killing had not ceased,
Louis couldn’t keep them all from fighting,
So the National Guard was called to keep the peace.

The National Guard arrived with their machine guns,
And they cracked a rifle over Louis’ head,
And they shot him till he died, but they still weren’t satisfied,
Till they filled his lifeless body up with lead.

And the sky was blue, and the blood was red,
And the National Guard left Louis and two dozen others dead,
Now he’s on a hillside where the Purgatory flows,
And words were the weapons that Louis Tikas chose.

Mourn with me, my sisters and my brothers,
For a leader lying silent in the grave,
A man who lived his whole life saving others,
And, in the end, his life is what he gave.
Louis lived his whole life saving others,
And, in the end, his life is what he gave.


Many thanks to Frank Manning for permission to add this song to the Union Songs collection. Frank writes:

"Louis was a leader of the coal miners in Colorado during the Great Coalfield War of 1913 - 1914. He was murdered by the Colorado National Guard in the Ludlow Massacre. He is sometimes compared to Joe Hill, who was executed the following year, except sometimes it is mentioned that no one has written a song about Louis.

This song is more a tribute to Louis than a union song, but I thought there might be a chance you would care to include it on your site. I have sung the song in various bars in New Mexico and Colorado, and I entered it in the 2002 Woodie Guthrie Song Contest.

By the way, Louis Tikas was a friend of my grandfather, who was among the 12,000 striking coal miners who spent the winter of 1914 outdoors on the Colorado plains".

Read Frank's article about his 2007 visit to Athens Look what unionsong.com has done!

Contact Frank by email at frankmanning@gmail.com