Thursday, May 17, 2012

T. E. Story #86

"Gentlemen," I addressed the group seriously, "You have found out a good deal of information about the purpose of our mission.  It is obvious that you have found out about my previous military experience, and I thank you for your previous kind words.  However, you have interfered with a government project designed to help you as you have stated.  Now, as to my joining your militia, I am afraid that I cannot accept your very kind invitation simply because I am under a long time contract to the government already, and that forbids any other contract acceptance at the same time.  However, because of my experience in the Mexican War, I fully understand that an Engineer is necessary in a military organization.  If you desire, however, I give you my word, that if you will choose a young man from your organization that is smart and wishes to learn how to be an engineer, and who is a full member of your militia,  I will write him a letter of introduction to Col. Abert who is the Corps Commandant of the U.S. Topographical Engineers.  When I get back to Washington City, I will be pleased to insure that your young man has the best of training, and I will add his presence to my field work at least once a year during his training.  Would that meet your needs and desires in this instance?"
There was a silence around the table for a full minute.
Charley turned to the others and said, "Well, what do you think about this offer?"
Cass answered after a moments consideration, "Mr. McKay is right, in that we have interfered with his government mission, however, my response to that is that he is the only person who has answered our concerns about an engineer.  I have come to believe that Mr. McKay is trustworthy and I am in favor of his offer.  Both you and I know of a good candidate for such an appointment and training."
He looked around the room and slowly the others nodded their heads.  Charley looked at me and said, "Well, I guess that you have your answer."
I replied, "Very Well, then if you will provide me with your candidate's name and contact information, I will write the letter of introduction and deliver that letter to you when I return to Aquia.  Now I need your promise to keep this discussion very private.  The reason is that apparently we have raised some hackles somewhere, probably in those large businesses who would much rather keep this report quiet or still more probabble would rather do the survey themselves so they could pad the items found to be repaired or rebuilt for a much bigger contract value.  If you will do that for the mission I will be pleased to give you credit for assisting me rather than obstructing the mission."  I smiled at the men after this last.
Charley grinned and then chuckled out loud,  and the other three men began to laugh as well.  Charley said when his chuckling was over, "Mr. McKay you should be a storekeeper.  You haggle well!"
I replied, " My thanks again, for this chance to assist you.  Perhaps now we could get some help in the restoration of the trace buckle, since we really must be on our way, as we are behind our schedule significantly.  I do not want our assistants to worry that we have been injured in some way."
Say no more, said Charley, and he pointed as Cass, "Please get the wagon hooked up properly -- Oh!!!  And by the way don't upset His young friend Josh.  Make sure you explain what you are doing to the wagon."
Cass and the other men saluted and left the room.  Charley turned to me and he said, "Now you and I have another item to discuss."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

T. E. Story # 85

I was sure that nothing else could surprise me on this mission, but I guess I was wrong.  "What??  I said, “ You are asking a perfect stranger to join your militia organization?  You know nothing about me and you are willing to potentially put your lives in my hands as your military engineer?  That is a very strange request."
Everyone was quiet for a moment, and Charlie cleared his throat.  "Wal, " he drawled, "We know a little bit about you, which is why we delayed your departure earlier today.  The price for the work that the saddler has done for you, as well as the blacksmith has been taken care of.  We felt that we needed to insure that we had the time to check up on you through our local people, and we think that we know you pretty good.  We know that you served in the Mexican War and your brief service was applauded by Col. Lee in regard to your field map sketches.  We know that you were very successful as a river clearance engineer.  We also know about your recent success and your present activities.  Added to that, we see that you have established yourself in a successful business to disguise your mission to avoid all contract proposals from people who might take undue advantage of our Virginia Communities with the advanced knowledge.  After all, we have seen many such antics by local groups."
I froze in my seat, the pistol under my armpit suddenly feeling very insignificant.   There were four men in the room and I was not absolutely positive that I would be allowed to get my pistol out and into action.  Even more important, I have no desire to shoot any of the people who shared the room with me.  It will be difficult to talk my way out of this situation, but it probably will be the only way I can or will be able to ease out of this problem if there is any way at all.
"In that case I guess I don't have any secrets from you people,"  I grinned as much as possible and waited for the other shoe to drop.
"Yes, sir," said Charlie, " We do know a bit about you, thanks to our resident Deputy Marshall.  We know that you carried out a very complicated river clearance project on the Mississippi.  But the real clincher was what we found out about how you have been advanced in the engineering and that is why we have asked you to join us.  We believe that your advancement to being a Major in today's world of the military is very impressive, but the important thing is what you are doing now."
This last, kind of, threw me.  He seemed to be very excited over this information which, if accurate, should be a much darker for me that it seemed.  What was going on?  "Well, it seems that you have me pretty well figured out.  So, what do you think of my present duties?"   I figured that it couldn't be much worse, so I might as well find out what was going on.
Charlie looked me and asked, "What's not to be impressed with?  Anyone who gets sent into the South in order to determine a better way to improve our civil necessities is welcome in this small town."  All the others nodded their heads and murmured in the positive.  Charlie continued, " Some of our lads noticed the interest that you had in the old steam powered ferry.  Then, it was your interest in bridges which have been mentioned by several people we have talked with.  Then your interest in the roads have also been noticed.  The Marshall told us that you are down here to provide a list of major improvements to our communication lines, roads, ferries, bridges, etc.  Obviously, with your experience, you were the one to choose for this task, and the task badly needs to be done, as you well know.  So we have decided that you are the person that we need for our unit."
I was stunned.  The ideas that these people had, and which were supported by the Deputy Marshall, made sense in one way, and, of course, it was advantageous to them to believe what they had been told. Now the trick would be to convince these people that it was to their advantage for me to complete the mission before making any further commitments.  Of course, these people do not apparently see the move towards war that seems so clear to the military authorities in the North.  Hopefully, this information will not be obvious to these people, any time soon, also hopefully I can talk with these people in such as way as to neither commit myself to their desire or to make them angry.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

T. E. Story #84

Josh and I approached the blacksmith.  As one would expect the man was huge and he was stripped to the waist, and rivulets of sweat rolled off his shoulders and forehead as he pounded the orange colored iron held before him on a huge anvil where he was working.  As we stepped into the working area, he put the iron that he was working back into the fire, and turned to me,  " What kind I do for yuh , Sir?"
I replied, " My young friend here mentioned to you about a badly bent metal trace buckle.  It is badly cracked in a couple of places as well.   Can you reproduce such a piece of hardware?"
The blacksmith turned away to a wooden chest sitting on a side stool not far from the anvil.  He flipped up the chest lid and reached inside.  He drew out  three buckles which resembled our badly bent buckle.  He grinned and said, "I reckon," handing the buckles to me.  I looked them over  and could see that the workmanship was excellent.  
"These look very nice, " I said, and handed the buckles back to him.  "How much will it cost to remake this buckle?" fishing in my pocket for the damage buckle and handing the damaged item to him.
The blacksmith looked at the damaged piece and said, "If you want the brass buckle restored that will take some time, and cost a lot more.  If you want the buckle made from iron, then I can have it done for you within the hour."
"Well," I replied, " Let's make it out of iron, since we will need to get on down the road as soon as my customers are taken care of."
The blacksmith nodded his head, and for the life of me, I could not detect any indication of guilt or participation in the breaking of the buckle.  I was sure , however, that the answer would be revealed before we left Aquia, if we were allowed to leave.  To the blacksmith I said, "Well then, I will leave you to it and I will get back to the wagon.  Is it all right to leave the wagon parked where it is?"  
"Oh, sure not a problem, " He said laying the broken buckle on the chest and drawing some thin square rods out of a wooden cask.
Josh and I turned away from the blacksmith and I retrieved my case with my writing materials and I headed back to the General Store.  Josh gestured that he wanted to stay with the wagon and water the horses, and I said that he was welcome to stay as he wished.
For my part I made my way back to the General Store, and saw Cass behind the counter again.  I asked him, "Can I use your Poker Room to take care of any customers that are coming down?"  
"Be my guest,  You will find some people in there already waiting for you."  
"Okay!!  That's great," I said, and I immediately headed for the Poker Room.  Arriving at the door, it stood ajar, and there were at least ten people in the room.  I greeted my customers, put my case on the table and opened it.  I sat down and asked around the room, "All right now, who is first, and then why don't you all figure out some kind priority list about who is next."  Looking at the tall gentleman who stepped forward, I asked, " What can I do for you, Sir."  The gentleman sat down and within a short minute we were in a deep conversation about the rewriting of a contract.  The rest of the day went by quickly, and when the last person had her letter in hand,  Ian had the idea that he didn't have a long time to wait for his answer.  He was correct, almost immediately Charlie and Cass came through the door with the two other men that Ian had met that morning.  Charlie immediately took a chair at the table and waved the others to chairs sitting around the  room.
Charlie said, " I am glad that you are still here. "
I replied, "Well, I wasn't going anywhere with the broken buckle that somebody arranged this morning.  Was that you?"
Charlie slowly nodded his head,  "We had to detain you here until some business was undertaken." 
"Okay, here I am, and I am not going anywhere until the new buckle is made by the blacksmith, and I find out what this problem is."   I looked around at the men seated and hoped that I was not being too abrasive.  This was getting close to the mission and I was not very excited about that idea.
Charlie spoke up,  "It must have been pretty obvious this morning that the letter that you read for us, was somewhat of a shock  It was obvious that we have a bad hole in our organization.  As I had mentioned this morning I had served in the militia during the Mexican War.  I remember very well the way we cheered Col. Lee but nobody here has any skill or knowledge at this area of military expertise.  What  did you say your specialty was?"
I replied, "I didn't, but my specialties were River Clearance, Bridging , and Canal Design and Construction.  Just what do those specialties have to do with my being detained?
Charlie looked around the room and all his friends nodded their heads.  Charlie looked back at me, took a big breath, and said, "  We would like you to join the Aquia Militia, and be our engineer!!!!"

Thursday, May 10, 2012

T. E. Story # 83

It was pretty obvious that the letter disturbed Charlie, the Commander of the Prince Williams County Militia and those who were close to him.  His actions together with the storekeeper and the other men at the Poker Room  this letter was not welcome news, nor was it a reasonable request in the eyes of these militiamen.  However, to leave now would not be a good idea.  Charlie had asked me how long I was planning to stay which indicated that he wanted me around.  I suspect that were I to leave now, they would soon be in pursuit of me.  I think the best way is to stay a reasonable length of time and deal with any customers and see what comes next.  In this community I am a stranger, that is true, but my truthful answer to the question of who I knew in the Mexican War seems to have garnered some respect.  So, to these people I am a southern businessman who served in the state militia, and in the Mexican War with one of their respected citizens, who is currently the Commanding Officer of the military region in the West.  So, I think that Josh and I are reasonably  safe for the moment.  However, I need to get to the wagon and apprise Josh of the new situation.
As I walk out of the store, I notice several people in the street walking toward the Sheriff's Office.  I am wondering if the Marshall there is in attendance at this meeting.  I sit down on one of the empty chairs in front of the store and finish my apple.  The street is quiet again now and I throw my apple core into a nearby cigar butt can.  I get up and begin walking toward the blacksmith shop when Josh and the wagon are.  I would imagine that the leather trace is repaired by now, and I should get the wagon into a more suitable place where the signs can be seen.
A short walk through the town brings me to the Sheriff's Office.  There is a deputy sheriff sitting outside the entrance with a shotgun across his lap.  As  walk by the deputy looks me over but says nothing.  This is good and I make way to the leather shop.  The wagon is parked just outside the shop and the horses are gone.  I walk up to the wagon and hear some cursing just behind the leather shop.  Curious, I walk around the side of the shop and peek around the corner.  Josh is holding the two horses, while an old man (I suppose the saddler) is fitting the trace strap.  It looks repaired but the old man is having trouble with one of the trace buckles. I walk around the corner and greet Josh.  The old man looks up and then drops the strap.
"Have we got some trouble with the traces, 'I ask?
"The $%#@(*&^%$# buckle is bent and I can't straighten with this pry-bar!"  The old man was seemingly very frustrated and angry.
"Can the buckle be replaced?" I asked, curious as to why such a simple problem was raising the man's temper.
"Well, yes, I suppose so," said the Saddler," but I don't have one this size.  So, if you are in a hurry we will have to wire the straps together.  I f you have the time then the blacksmith over there," nodding his head toward the blacksmith shop, "will have to make another buckle."
"May I see the buckle please, " I asked the saddler?
"Sure enough," the old man said, I ain't sure how it got bent up so bad, cause it ain't a common thing to see."
I took the buckle in hand and examined it.  The buckle was bent nearly in two, and the bridge of the buckle was badly cracked.  "Thank you," I said to the saddler, "for finding this broken buckle.  I see that we will have to look to the blacksmith for a replacement.  How is the broken trace coming along?"
"Oh that is finished,  I just made a new trace strap for you, same price.  Sorry about the buckle, but it is funny tat I didn't notice it when unhitched the horses.  Well, I'll get back to work now.  Let me know when you get the new buckle."  The old man picked up his tools and went back into the shop.
I walked over to Josh and he pointed to the buckle in my hand and shook his head.  He pulled a scrap of paper out of his pocket and a pencil stub.  He wrote:
>>>Buckle good at store<<<
Hmmmm! that meant that the buckle was in good shape when we first stopped at the store.
I turned to Josh, "Did you leave the wagon at any time?"
Josh looked at me for a minute and then hung his head, and nodded.
"Josh, I said, putting my hand on his shoulder, 'It's okay.  "You can't be with the wagon every minute of every day.  Now, this is important, where did you go, and how long were you gone."  Josh looked me in the eye for a full minute, and I said again nodding my head, "Really my friend, it's okay, we just need to figure where and how long."
Josh bent to the paper and pencil again.  He wrote:
>>>Blacksmith look at wagon and show me tools, behind screen, five minutes<<<  Josh pointed to the heavy canvas screen that hung from the tree that shaded the blacksmith, and which separated the blacksmith shop from the leather shop.
I patted Josh on the shoulder.  "Good man, okay lets see the blacksmith about a new buckle, 'I said with resignation.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

T. E. Story # 82

Charlie handed the envelope to me and I took it gingerly.  As I turned the envelope over, I noticed that the mark in the wax had a mark very much like something that I had seen years earlier during the war.  However racking my mind as I was I could not remember where I had seen that design.  I opened the envelope and took out the single sheet of paper.  The letter head on the paper was the design of the Virginia State flag.  The letter was dated some two weeks prior to the present date.  And it was signed by the Commander  of the State Militia.  It read as follows:
>>>>   From:  Commander of the Virginia Militia;
>>>>   To:  Commander of the ------------County  Militia;
>>>>   Sir:
>>>>   You are directed to immediately submit to this office a list of the militia members under your command.  In addition you are directed to forward to this office a list of all >>>>  >>>>   uniforms, accouterments, and weapons needed to bring your militia up to a wartime status.  Further you are hereby requested and required to male list of the steps that >>>>   you have taken in your county to fortify your borders against unwanted visitors, and those who would do your citizens harm.
>>>>   Your Servant;
>>>>   Respectfully ;
>>>>   George Nanson , State Militia Commander
As I read this letter aloud to the group, I was interested in their receipt of this information.  Frankly they were all shocked.  When I finished reading the letter, I folded the page and put the letter back into the envelope and handed the envelope back to Charlie.  The look of shock on his face told the whole story.  I asked, "Would you like to write a letter of responses Charlie?"
"Huh??! Uh--- I-- uh NOt right now, uh-- How long do you plan to be here in town."  Charlie's question was like listening to a ghost whose attention was totally taken by another subject.
"A day or two I suppose, depending  on the business that comes our way," I replied
"Thanks," said Charlie as he turned away and headed for the door, motioning for Cass to come along with him.  I needed to get back to the wagon, but under no circumstances could I arise the smallest suspicion in regard to Josh and I and our business.  The words of this letter were the first authority which definitely had given some advance notice of the possibility of an armed insurrection.  This material needed to get back to Washington as soon as possible.
I walked leisurely out of the poker room with the others, and remained silent listening to the others.  Obviously, I was not a member of the village or the militia, so I had little to contribute.  The others were very vocal about the impossibility of doing what the letter demanded, and the amount of material and uniforms that would be needed.
When we got to the part of the store where the merchandise was, I spent a few moments looking over the selection of fresh fruit.  There was a large basket of apples which looked very good.  I took one of them and carried it to the young girl who looked like she was in charge of the store.  Cass was nowhere to be seen.  "How much for the apple," I asked.
The little girl said, " Just a nickel Mr.  My Dad said to tell you thanks when you came out of the Poker Room."  The little girl said as though she was the real owner of the store.  I decided to leave it at that.  I definitely needed to get to the wagon and get the words in that letter down on paper!

T. E. Story # 81

Josh and I  walked the horse the last mile before entering the village.  The little town is sure to grow once the commerce begins getting better here in the South, just as long as the ferry runs, I suppose.  I sent "JJ" up one of the side roads along the river bank.  There are a couple of landings along the river bank that I wanted to have him take a look at as well as the fishery.  He will go on back to Washington City from there and report to Col. Abert about what has happened so far, in relation to the Engineer Captain and the attempt to stop this expedition.  As we enter the little town, we see that is only a single street which is the Telegraph Road going through the center of the village,  There is a saddler here, and we have a broken trace strap, so we will take care of that problem while we are here.  I will give Josh a paper and pen and let him handle getting a new trace strap.  Meanwhile I think that I will go into the general store here and see if there are any fresh fruits or vegetables available.  I enjoy going through old general stores since there is always a surprise around each corner.  Besides, it is the best way to advertise ourselves, and our services, while we make notes about the town.  Aquia has about 15 buildings, approximately half of them are private homes, and the rest are some kind of commercial buildings.  There is a stage stop here at the General Store.  At the edge of town there is a mule mill for grinding corn, and at the other end of town is a blacksmith shop. There is a combination restaurant and road house with what looks like rooms on the second floor, and a small bank building, "The First Virginia Bank,"  a stone building which is the Sheriff's / Marshall's  office, (and presumably a jail), and a stable.  The telegraph office stood by itself with the lone telegraph line coming down from the line of wire and poles that disappeared off to the North and south.  There is also a dry goods store with a fairly wide selection of cloth, ladies dresses and such.
We pull the wagon up to the General store , and there are several old men seated along the plank walk.  At the main entrance is a large pickle barrel and just inside the door a wooden indian holding a both of broken wooden cigars.  I will leave the wagon at this point, and let Josh take the wagon over to the saddler whose set up is in the same building as the blacksmith.
I greet the men seated on the porch of the general store and they all return my greeting,  There appears in the doorway a gentleman with a dark canvas apron.  He looks over the rig as Josh moves it away and asks, " What's the sign all about mister?"  This in a loud enough voice to insure that all the men along the wall can hear.
"Just a traveling Secretary," I reply.  "You know, for those folks who need a letter written, read, or copied."
One of the old men speaks up and asks, "Is the writing on your letters fanciful writing or just a no nonsense letter for business?"
I turn to the speaker and reply," Whichever way that you want it sir.  I can write in copperplate, which is the accepted business script, or Spencerian, for those who enjoy a more fanciful and flowing script.  I also do a Spencerian kind of drawing if the letter is  to be sent t a lady of your heart.  Do you have such a need sir?"   I ask of the man .  He is at least sixty years of age with a white beard and a large shock of white hair, long and windblown.
The other men erupt into laughter, at this, and the storekeeper says, " He's got you there Charlie,  We always knowed you had a secret love tucked in that tent a-hint yer house."
Charlie flushed at this gibe, and I hurriedly said, "My apologies sir, I did not mean to embarrass you.  But some people do have a need for such, and that is one of the things that I can do."  Charlie, looks my way, and asks can you read as good as you write," he asks.
My response is, "Why yes, I think so, as long as the text is in English.  I don't do so well in a foreign language."  I grin at this and the others including Charlie laugh and nod their heads.  A man next to Charlie says, "Hey, Charlie what about that letter you got  the other day."  The gentleman turned to me and said, "Charlie here is the head of the local militia hereabouts.  You know, the home guard and we get together once a month  and drill with our wooden rifles and then finish the day with a big feast , fiddle dancing, and lots of games.  It's a kind of holiday for everybody ."
I nod my head, I have seen such in my own hometown in the West.
"Wal he got this here letter from the govamint, and we've been kind of wondering what it had to say.  We-uns here didn't want to show it around cause we didn't want to upset the people in town, but we should know what the govamint is wantin' with us.  There's been some strange stuff in the newspapers that come through here and we are a little concerned.”
"Shut yer fool trap Pete, this man we don't know nothin' bout him.  Beside the letter came to me.  If there's any reading or decidin’ to be done . I'll be the one to do it.  I command the militia here!"
"Well, then do somethin’, you old fool, and let's see what the letter says.  We got as much right as you do to know what is in it."  Pete turns to me and asks, "You look like you might have done some time in the military, can you keep shut about what you read in the letter?"
I ponder for a moment," Yes," I reply," I have served in the military during the Mexican War.  If you decide to let me assist you, Yes, I can promise you that no one else here will hear of anything in that letter."
Charlie slowly reached inside his vest and pulled out a long envelope with a swatch of Sealing Wax on the back.  The envelope looked as though it had been handled a great deal.  "What do the rest of you think about this?"Charlie asked the others.
The other men all raised their voices in agreement and Charlie said," Alright! alright! we'll do it.  But Cass we need yer back room."  Charlie addressed this last to the man in the apron.
Cass replied, " Sure , we only use it fer poker and such.  I reckon that it will serve for a readin""  He laughed, "Come on," he waved his arm, and then looked at me, “follow me mister, it ain't fancy but it is secure."  We walked through the store, and out onto a porch in the back.  The land fell away into a revene in the back of the store, and just off the porch was a small room, obviously added after the original building was constructed.  It stood on stilts about ten ft high over the slope, and was isolated except for the access through the porch.  "It's the "Poker Room" built this way to keep certain people's old ladies from peekin in to see what's goin' on," Cass explained looking back at the other men.  He took a large key out of his pocket and unlocked the door.  Inside the room was a table and about eight or ten chairs.
"Charlie spoke up, and said, "Alright, now you all have a seat, " and he motioned me to take the chair next to him.  "Before we start, I want all here to pledge to me that what is revealed here will stay here.  Nobody else is to know anything about this.  All here swear!"  All the men held up their right hands and swore to keep the information to themselves.  Then Charlie turned to me, “We don't know nuthin' about you mister, except that you do this fer a livin'.  I reckon yer word is good since you served in the Mex War.  Who did you serve with?"
"I was an engineer then, and I was lucky enough to be with Lt. Col. Lee when he surprised the Mexican Troops with his artillery, " I replied, curious as to how that would go over here.
"Hell!, said Cass. "Anybody who was with Col. Lee on that little trick, has got my vote.  I was in the batch of fellers that would've got ticked off bad if he hadn't been so dang clever!!”  Everyone in the room nodded their head.
Charlie said," Wal, I reckon then you is one of us."  He handed me the letter and said,
" Read it out and let's see what kind of trouble that the derned govamint has got us into this time!"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

T. E. Story #80

We are underway again!   Before sunrise the next morning Josh and I  drove out of the farmyard and bid goodbye to the friendly farm.  Into the woods and then after a few minutes we reach the main road .  Our destination is Falmouth, a small town on the North side of the Rappahannock River just Northeast of Fredericksburg.    We pass the one house along the road that leads to Telegraph Road and we see no lights in the house as we drive by .  On both sides of the road the forest is dark and somewhat forbidding.  As the wagon moves to the westward  the forest continues on both sides of the road.  The road itself is gravel and well constructed.  It looks as though it wold hold up to heavy wagons in a rainstorm.  I would give the road a "4" for it's  structure.  There are deep ditches along each side of the road which drain into the woods on either side.   As we approach the stream along this road the road winds down into a shallow canyon.  The is a 2 to 3 degree decline into the canton until the bridge over the creek is reached.  The stream is small this far from the Potomac, and it runs fairly slow and no deeper than ten inches.  However, there are marks on the rocks under the bridge that the depth was at one time about three feet deep.  The water rising to the height would be moving fast and well might wash out the bridge.  The ridge itself is a timber bridge supported from each bank with heavy timber s and also supported in midstream by upright loge bolted to the bridge mainframe.  The bridge has at least three layers that make up the roadway across the bridge, logs planks or chesses, and a layer of brush held down with a layer of gravel.  Like the road way I will give the bridge a "4" for strength and utility.  Across the bridge the road winds up out of the shallow valley .  The hillsides are covered with wild blackberries, and n the background the tall pines hold in the last shadows of night as the sun just peeks over the horizon.  The inclination is close to 4 degrees and in three places as the road clears around the shoulder of the canyon there are three places where the corduroy roads have strengthened  the curves by deep cuts and half bridges where the road crossed deep cuts in the hillside.
At the top of the hill the forest receded and the fields spread ahead of the wagon track, and  and both sides of the road  have split rail fences.  These fences are apparently or the purpose of corralling the few cattle that we see grazing on the tall grass wet with a morning dew.  The road here is straight  and it's heading down a long shallow hill into the the blue haze which covered the distant hills.    Somewhere out there was the village of Aquia, and we would be there probably well after  10:00 A. M.   The road ahead dips just a bit  and the split rail fences both turn sharply away from the road and in the distance the housetops signaling our approach to the village of Aquia.