Grand Valley’s Radical Poets—Making Resistance Sound Good—1894 to Club Q

Poetry and song have always been a part of resistance movements, verse seems to have the power to strengthen one’s resolve—to move people to action—where prose falls short. Grand Junction has been the home to many movements and acts of resistance, it has also been the home of many fine poets. The following three poems, and the poets that penned them, are glimpses into the strength and motivations of those willing to put their bodies on the line to make change.

In 1893, the economy fell off a cliff. The Populist were a strong and radical political movement that supported first the disruptive Coxey movement and later the Pullman Sympathy Strike in the summer of 1894. U.S Marshals and later federal troops were deployed to the streets of Grand Junction in an effort to break the strike and keep the trains running. In Chicago, and around the nation dozens of strikers had been killed on the picket lines. Local poet, and populist, Jacob Huff published this poem of defiance, at the height of the conflict, while Grand Junction was under essentially martial law.

Jacob Huff, circa 1890s

Stand Up, Americans!

When monopolies grind the poor man in the dust,

In spite of our so called “just laws,”

When our Congress is bought by the wealth of the trust,

And the poor man is crushed in wealth’s jaws

When labor goes out in a justified cause,

It stirs up the scum of the town.

And sent forth to shoot lab’ring man down.

There are fools and fanatics spread over our land,

Who think that the poor have no rights;

While organized capital seems to them grand,

They spit on the organized Knights.

It is those who encourage the scab and the sneak,

And call on the scum of the town

To help our monopolies oppress the weak

And shoot the poor lab’ring man down.

I’d rather be honest, tho’ the rich we despise,

And own scarce a nickel or dime.

Then have the great fortunes our millionaires prize,

Built up by the oppression and crime.

I would ten times rather eat one meal a day¬

Go begging in village and town,

Than to go out to murder my brother for pay,

And shoot the poor lab’ring man down.

This is no time for prejudice, no time to fight

Over politics or public men;

Stand shoulder to shoulder, each man for the right,

and shout this o’er valley and glen;

‘Tis the land which our fathers have died to make free

From the grasp of old England’s crown;

If we stand up like men for our own liberty,

They dare not shoot the lab’ring man down!!

Grand Valley Star-Times, July 7th, 1894

Chuck Worley, is a legend on the Western Slope. He organized and protested the underground nuclear bomb tests Project Rulison and Project Rio Blanco, in 1969 and 1972 respectively. He would go on to help create a number of local environmental organizations including Western Colorado Congress, which continues to organize to this day, as Western Colorado Alliance.

Decades before Chuck made Western Colorado home, Chuck was one of a small and almost forgotten resistance to World War II. “Coward” is often applied to those who refuse to fight. But a look at Worley’s experience it clearly took great courage. Chuck’s draft board (the fact that there was a draft speaks to the unpopularity of the ‘Great War’), granted him Consciousness Objector status and he was to report to a work-camp and was forced to work for the government for ten cents per week. While working in Arkansas, Chuck and two other COs were nearly lynched by a mob of ‘patriots.’ Worley came to see that any support for the war effort was morally inexcusable. He walked off from the camp. Later he would be sentenced with about 6000 other men to prison for their resistance. While in federal prison Worley penned:

Out of Bounds

You who by the grace of law go free

walk by spongy springs

and load your lungs up with the smell of things

for me.

And when dawn


and silver noises dribble from her wings

gather up such nuggets as fall free.

You who are still in luck

dig your itching fingers deep in muck

and wash your eyes with all that’s fresh and green.

Summer finds me out of bounds this year…

but conscience clean.

Modern resistance has it verses. Caleb Ferganchick, “is a rural, queer, slam poet activist and author,” and is a leader within the LGBTQ+ community in Western Colorado. Caleb serves on a number of boards of local non-profits. The annual queer poetry slam, Slamming Bricks, is Caleb’s passion project.

Courtesy of Caleb Fergenchick,

On November 21st, 2022, a homophobic and trans-phobic gunman entered Club Q in Colorado Springs and opened fire. Five people died and many more were wounded.

How communities deal with major emotional trauma is often dependent on what narratives are available for people to take to heart. Caleb provides us a narrative that holds space and inspires resistance.

The Dance Floor

if I die on the dance floor tonight

know that I did not go willingly

that tomorrow I had dreams

of morning breath kisses

from a boy I pray is left behind

**the rest of his powerful poem is available at Here

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