See I guess the Ku Klux Klan didn’t like to imbibe.  They was good ol’ boys Southern Baptist Protestant while the miners the men who worked the coal fields like Charlie Birger himself who came back to Harrisburg after being in the army up in South Dakota good record honourable discharge and being a cowboy and all when he opened up a saloon here guess it seemed like good business to go in the liquor trade become a bootlegger seeings how most of the other men who worked them coal fields were immigrants like his folks with strong ethnic tendencies that included alcohol as a part of life them being Catholic or other religions and not a dry morality as practiced by those who regarded themselves as Klansmen.  From pulpit to politics you saw the dynamics as set by a dominant society in a specific geography.  And by well—the womenfolk.  Yep by the spring of ’23 the Klan had a good following in Williamson County supported by the farming community and folks in the larger towns holding meetings that had attendees sometimes in the thousands, but it takes a charismatic leader saying what you want to hear adds numbers to a group and the Klan found that in Mr Young someone with the propensity to have the law on their side and he had it being a former federal lawman.  Hell by the time he was gunned down most elected officials were Klansmen and mobs went from door to door forcibly searching for alcohol and if they found it why you found yourself in jail—a Klan jail.  They was the good guys you see.  Many of them deputized by federal authorities to aid in the enforcement of Prohibition.  But to Birger Harrisburg was his town.  He didn’t abide by no crime.  Wouldn’t tolerate it.  When somebody was robbed Birger repaid their losses and the thief was found shot dead a few days later.  But by oh about ’26 Birger knew it wasn’t rival bootleggers he had to worry about.  Everybody knew even his enemies the Klan was bad for business.

Seems simple enough but things get clouded when you don’t know whose side you’re on and that’s why you need to know who his men were.  I guess you see them in these old photographs you see the faces the eyes you can imagine the words they speak in their given background and we’ve had plenty of time to wait and see see how it all turned out how history puts it as such and such facts but I don’t go in for straight journalism because facts well they’re always slanted by opinion you see what you want to see and then you say that’s how it is.  You gotta look at the motive.  For Birger maybe it was money plain and simple.  I’m not sayin’ I know the man but I know how he died and the some ninety years that has passed since and the books the history books have already been written.  Maybe time makes us objective I don’t rightly know but even if I was or wasn’t a drinkin’ man I can’t say I do know.  I don’t know which side I’d have been on.  Some men don’t do things for money.  Good or bad right or wrong to some men that’s just words laid on an action later but to some men men who may want to see the world burn it’s the getting away with what can’t be gotten away with the impulse for what they do.  They know you can’t take away the desire and at any given point in history when someone has the power the majority muscle to say there are enough of us that say don’t do this why I guess there’s just some men who like to be outnumbered who like to say Yes there may be enough of you to say I can’t do this but to hell with you I’m gonna do it anyway.  No you can’t take the desire away but when you take away the warning when you say go ahead and do it I guess it ain’t really a desire no more.  I mean how can it be?

 

5

 

No I didn’t go in I just heard the shot fired and the sheriff he went in and then I heard more shots and when I went to see the Grand Wizard was dead.  Along with two of his men.  The sheriff he killed three of ‘em before he went down too.

It was an old saloon on a street full of mud.  Late January 1925.  Jack Dunby sat in a wooden chair in a small office in the back of the bar turned speakeasy looking over the man that sat behind the desk to the rear door of the establishment.  Concrete steps led up from it to the street where but a month before Robert Bingham had been shot to death after being caught stealing from the local merchants.  Dunby didn’t have his legs crossed in fact he had his knees together to hold his rolling papers.  But it wasn’t tobacco he was breaking up.

Have a drink?  Birger says from behind the desk.

No thanks, Dunby says, that stuff’ll kill ya.

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