Wednesday, April 18, 2012

T. E. Story #1

Sergeant Morrison came riding down the embankment  carefully, the horse picking it's way over the new rock fill in the river.  The banging of hammers and the scraping of shovels in the background gave notice that the rock crib was going up slowly and being filled with rock even more slowly.  "Dispatch from St Louis." called the sergeant riding up to Captain McKay on his red roan .  His saddle was shiny and black from so much riding and his leather leggings worn from the thorny brush that was heavy and thick just back from the river bank, showed the wear of a dispatch rider who spent most of his time in the saddle.  The sergeant handed a folded piece of white paper to the Captain which had a small sealing wafer holding the sheet together.

Ian McKay thanked the man and took the message in hand.  It was folded twice and wrinkled from its time in the dispatch pouch.  He turned and sat down on the rustic log bench under the sheet of canvas called the Survey Tent.  On the table were several instrument and a couple of drawings of the rock crib and levee set that he was currently working on.  This canvas was strung over his table to keep the worst of the sun off.  Ian broke the seal and read:

U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers
Corps Headquarters
Washington D.C.
June 17, 1860

To:  Captain Ian McKay, Chief Engineer
       Mid-Mississippi River Clearance Project
       Contract - Miss-794


You are requested and required by the Colonel Commanding to turn over the current project on which you are involved to your Asst. Engineer.  You are further ordered to make your way to Washington D.C. at the earliest possible date in order to receive new orders.  Travel Orders and Funds will be provided from the Topographical Offices in St Louis.

Your Servant;

Captain Joseph Donaldson
Adjutant To
Sent by dispatch -- delivering NCO , Sgt. Leland Morrison
Ian read and reread the short message.  What the hell was going on?  Just last week he had received an inspection from the St. Louis Office ordering him to increase the work force and cut two weeks off the projected completion date of the  rock crib diversion set that he was in charge of, and now they were ordering him to leave the project and go to Washington.  He quickly ran over in his mind what he might be going to Washington for:  hopefully it was not the barge sinking last week.  He had made a full report on that, and the barge had been rotten to begin with.  Oh well, whatever it is, the Commandant should not be kept waiting.  "Sergeant!" he called to the dispatch rider who was standing by," get yourself something to eat in the cook shack, and a few hours sleep.  Please ask Lt. George to report to me at the survey tent."

Lt. George and Capt. McKay sat together under the survey tent fly. "Do you know anything about this," asked Ian referring to the recent message received from St.  Morrison"

"No, but if it requests your presence in Washington I wouldn't hesitate," said Lt. George.

Lt. Christopher George was a young man, eager for the adventure on the river, and full of ideas which on some occasions did not match the required time and consideration necessary in dealing with the great river.  Ian was fond of the young man, but he hesitated to leave him in complete charge of the project.  What he needed was someone who understood the river, and who also could follow a set of plans while dealing with the tough group of rivermen that was the project's crew.

"Well, there are some things that need to be done here before I can leave," said Ian looking again at the message in his hand.  "please get Mr. Thomas, the head riverman, up here and we'll go over the plans in advance once more."

"I am ready to take over any time, that you are ready to leave," Chris said eagerly.

"i know," said Ian gently," but I want to go over a couple of things with you and Mr. Thomas, since these items might be a little tricky.  So go get him will you please?

"Sure boss," said Chris with a grin, getting up from his bench, " one Mr. Thomas comin' up!"  He hurried out of the fly and made his way down to the wharf where the new barge was tied up.  Ian watched him go, smiling after his junior and then turned to the diagrams for the diversion piers.

"Log Raft a-comin!!!  Log raft a'comin dowm river," came a shout from one of the men working the end of the pier.  "Two men on the raft!"

Ian jumped up from his wooden bench and grabbed the pair of binoculars that hung from the corner fly pole.  He focused the glasses on the log raft which was then just peeking around the far bend.  He focused the glasses on the man at the head of the raft, coiling his line to get a heaving line over to the shoreline.  This looked like the log raft that he had suggested would be needed to begin the tri-pole structures marking the end of the diversion piers.  It certainly looked like -- Well, I'll be damned, he thought, it's young Goff!!  Hezekiah B. Goff!!!  Were in hell did he drop from?  This should be interesting and I wonder if he can be pursuaded to - - - -?

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