From the coal camps of northeastern New Mexico comes a tale of families and friends struggling to rise above working and living conditions Theodore Roosevelt once described as worse than the serfdom of the Middle Ages. In this prequel to 'Coal Camp Days', the Chicorico miners battle to establish a labour union that promises to rectify dangerous and oppressive mining conditions. The story opens in 1931 when Julian and Dahlia Heard, an African American coal mining family, take in Swannie, a town drunk. Swannie finds sobriety, peace, and opportunity with the Heards until his friend Judo Perkovich dies in a tragic mining accident. Swannie stands up for Judo's widow and, as a result, is fired from the mine. He finds work in Raton as a 'dry agent', waging battle against local moonshiners in Colfax County -- and the local coal camps. Swannie disappears one day while demolishing a still near Chicorico. When a body is found in the nearby hills, Swannie's friend Julian Heard is nearly killed by a camp guard who will stop at nothing to secure a confession for the crime.