Thursday, May 3, 2012
T.E. Story # 72
Josh and I waited in the wagon at the top of the hill over looking the ferry landing. Actually it isn't much of a hill rather just a little rise with enough trees on it to shade the wagon. Josh and I have removed the signs, and stowed them face down in the wagon, and then we had lunch. The wagon is off the road about thirty yards, which is sufficient. There is nobody else waiting for the ferry so it will probably be a lone crossing for us. I chose to use the time filling in my journal while Josh worked on a piece of harness strap that looked worn. The lad is quite a companion. It must be obvious that I need this kind of help on a mission like this, and he produces it without being reminded, and he is usually ahead of me anyway. About five o' clock the ferry came back to our side of the river. It slid into the slip and tied up. The crew came ashore an a nearby house, it seems , -- the Water's House, acts as a sort of rest area and shelter for the crew. Josh and I got underway and moved down the road toward the ferry slip. One of the crewmen came over and asked how many were in the wagon, while two others laid the planks for the wagon to go aboard. A dollar for the wagon and fifty cents for each of us. We paid them in southern bank bills which I had with me, and the two men at the pier waved us onto the ferry boat. Actually the ferry was a big barge, and the eye bolts along the upper rails of the sides told the story of the barge being converted from a hand ferry to a steam operation. The steam engine was on the far shore and held the ferry in the stream with two heavy cables. These cables were rigged so that one cable held the ferry barge in the stream and a large pulley near the back of the barge drew the barge across the river. A simple change of two large pulleys or blocks changed the direction of the barge. The barge also had a rudder on both ends and two men manned the rudder to keep the barge in as straight a line as possible across the river. I tried not to be very observant, and still see everything that I needed to see in order to get the rig down on paper. The rig was new to me and both interesting to me as an engineer and also as the mission demanded. Josh got down and walked around. A couple of the off-crew who were going home for the day were deep in a conversation and Josh surprisingly was soon right in with the group. I noticed before, that Josh has a way of directly focusing on what is being said in such a way that you get the feeling that he is really deeply interested in what you are saying. Soon the two men and Josh were talking and laughing and it seemed that Josh was getting a lot of the local gossip. I held my tongue, got out my bible, and read in it all during the ferry trip. Reading a bible is a good way to maintain a distance from most people. Finally, the ferry touched the slip at our destination, and we got ready to land. The barge eased into the slip with a gentle bump and we made preparations to leave the barge. Again the two men laid down the planks and Josh, now back in the driver's seat, eased the horse's and the wagon off the vessel. During the way over Josh had walked over to the horses when the conversation lagged at one point, and calmed the horses by shading their eyes and talking with them as he petted and patted both of them. The road on this side of the river led up a small hill curving to the right, and just over the hill there were a couple of trees and smooth ground. Josh pulled the wagon over and got out the wheel jack. I helped him set up the jack and we removed the wheel. I sat in the shade under one of the trees and Josh finished the wheel greasing. In just a few minutes the two men that had been talking with Josh came over the hill and were headed for a house down in the woods about a half-mile from where we were. They came over to say goodbye to Josh and one of them helped Josh put the wheel back on. I was deep in my book. The language these two men were using was a heavy southern twang, and my northern accent would certainly set me out as someone to be suspicious of. Josh was doing well enough and when the wagon wheel was well greased and fastened back in place, the men waved goodbye and walked off down the road. Josh came over and sat down beside me and gestured that he wanted a paper and pencil. With these instruments he wrote out the following, "The ferry is closed for the night. But there is a light on the far shore, and there is a relief crew to take the ferry back. The steam engine is left to go cold and then a pitch pine fire lay is placed inside, if the engine has to be started again. " We didn't know if Hezzie and Dan were already here, or whether they would come on the first load in the morning. So we settled in till dusk, until they would show up. We moved the wagon farther off the road, and then we ate a cold supper. Josh laid down in the wagon and I took the first watch. The woods were very dark and the wind off the river was cool enough for a jacket. Hezzie had said that he would contact us once we were over the river so we would stay where we were for awhile. I wasn't worried at all that those two would lose us. They were probably watching us now and waiting for full dark.