Wednesday, April 18, 2012

T. E. Story #4

The young messenger arrived back at the survey tent with a bottle and a sack full of glasses, just before the raft-crew, climbed up the embankment.  The foreman brought four men to the survey tent and introduced them to Ian.

"Sir , he said quietly," these four men are the ones who brought the log-raft down river."  He indicated a tall thin man of perhaps some thirty years," this is Pete Shakey the bow man on the raft.  These two  gents here is John Bogger, and Norm East."  Both men seemed about the same age as Pete, and all were in worn and patched but clean heavy working clothes.  The foreman continued, " They is the flankers on the raft.  Hezzy here is the Stern man and raft boss."

Ian stepped forward and shook each man's horny hand, and when he got to "Hezzy" he grinned widely and hugged the old man tightly, patting him on the back the while.  "It is really good to see you again, and who would have thought that you would be on the river?  Of course" , Ian said,  tapping the side of his head, "the log raft, you were brought up doing that weren't you?"

Hezzie grinned widely, and answered, "Yer durned right, Ian.  I heard that you was put in charge of this river crew, and I decided that I better come down and give you a hand!"

Ian gestured toward the table with its bottle and glasses, "Well, gents lets sit down and have a shot of juice, and talk things over.  Did you have any trouble on the way down?"

Hezzie replied, "Well, no, since a log raft is a hard thing to hijack, but there were some mean looking hombres along the river that we passed."

Pete, John and Norm raised their hands and said, "We can back that up for fair."  Then they held their glasses out for another shot.

Ian rubbed his forehead, and said quietly," I am glad that nothing like that took place.  Then the trip down was uneventful?"  The raft crew simply nodded their heads.  Ian said, I 'll make up a report about the "gentlemen" that you saw, and send it with you back upriver, but I'm not sure how much the government will be able to help.  We are stretched pretty thin with the indian concerns out West and the river work here on the western rivers

Hezzie tapped the table with his forefinger " Well, it looks like the engineers did a pretty fair job of cleaning up the main channel, but the mud bar just down from "Bachelor's Bend" just opposite Old Greenville is pretty bad.  The channel narrows there and that mud bank is still loaded with snags and timber of all kinds."

Ian explained,"That was part of a contract that was never finished.  The engineer died of fever, and nobody sent any notice to the Engineer's Office in St Louis.  There is no engineer available to replace him anyway.  My Asst. has only been on the river for two months, and the foreman here is new to the job as well.  Their foreman vanished and the crew disbanded themselves.  Two of the crew said they thought the foreman drowned.  The only thing is, that he was a tough old bird and had been on the river all his life.  The story going around is that he might have had a tad of help in gittin' the drowning finished!"  Everyone at the table chuckled at the comment, and another drink was poured to all.  "A toast to the foreman wherever he may be," Ian raised his glass in a toast and all raised their glasses and repeated," to the Foreman."

As the drinks were finished and the bottle empty and laid on its side in the Dead Man style, Ian said to the young man acting as his messenger, "Take these fellows down to the bunk house and find them a bunk to sleep in.  In the morning, we will see about a wagon or horses to take you all back up river.  Hezzie, before you go, I would like to talk with you for a moment.

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