Wednesday, April 18, 2012

T. E, Story #48

We are well on our way now and even this close to land with the sun coming up, we are close to the main dredged channel which has been dredged out to an average depth of about 30 feet. Just ahead the piece of land that is jutting out is Geisborough Point. Once past that we will be in the main stream for fair. From now on, until our destination, we will probably find some local fishermen in everything from a punt boat to a Grand Banks Schooner. The fishing along this area of the river is very popular and there are two fisheries along the river bank on this side of the river. It might be prudent to get out pole and drop a line over the side. I asked Hezzie, “Did you bring any fishing gear? Now is the time to get it out and play the game to its maximum. Nobody ever thinks badly of two innocent fishing partners in an open boat, particularly in the early morning when the fishing is at its best.

We had passed under the Uniontown Bridge and as we went by, I took a careful look at the superstructure underneath the roadway. Everything looked very good and the lumber which supported the bridge was built like a strong railroad trestle. The brace platform n the near bank was stone with mortar, what looked like eight x eights for the main support timbers. All looked well oiled and maintained and there were no flood lines indicating that someone was taking good care of the bridge. It would support anything that a wagon could haul.

Next along the bank were two small streams each one bubbling across a short sandy beach, and making no noise. These streams cut their way through small canyons between the bluffs ahead. The streams were not long based on the amount of water they carried.

On a bluff just above the water, as we passed by in the early dawn light we could make out a large building still dark but large an somewhat forbidding. I called Hezzie’s attention to it, “That’s the U.S. Lunatic Asylum,” I said pointing to the peak of the roof that we could see as we went by.

As we eased around the Gieshborough Point, we could see C. W. Young’s white house perched on the bluff overlooking the river. I told Hezzie, ”He had been a another of those who had captained several ships, sailing clippers and steamers in his day, and was now retired. I understand that he has models of every ship he ever sailed in around his day room overlooking the river. From this point we have about six and one-half miles to go before we get to the inlet and the Oxen Run, then just over one mile upstream on the run to the bridge. Forts Carrol and Greble can be seen from here on top of the high ground about a mile from the beach, and Messrs. J.F. Young, W. Berry, and W. Berry’s mill is along this stretch about one-half mile from the beach. As we enter the inlet for Oxen Run, just to the left, as we come around the corner, there is a small stream. About a mile up that little stream Mr. Berry has his mill. It is an up and down sawmill, and shingle maker. He has a pretty big mill pond behind the mill and can take in about a hundred trees or so for sawing during the rainy season when the water in the pond is high enough to operate the horizontal water wheel the operates the saw. He calls it a “turbine” and it’s the damnedest rig you ever saw!” I chuckled a bit at the thought of a waterwheel lying down. “I have to admit, though, it does a fair job and he has made a good career supplying lumber for houses and boats along the Potomac.

The little inlet that hides the mouth of Oxen Run is just a head now, about a quarter of a mile.  As we round the small sand bar there is the mouth of the run, wider than one would think.  I will get out the polling stick and help Hezzie move the boat along.  The current is not bad here but up by the bridge it will run faster and shallower.  Here it is about five feet deep according to the pole and now it has gotten almost dark as steep banks rise up on either side of the run, about 20 feet high or so, and the trees are growing next to the steep bank and provide a cover overhead.  It would very difficult to climb out of the boat and up these steep banks.  The maps indicate that to woodlands end about an eighth of a mile from the bridge, but the map is an old one and the old bridge was rebuilt so I am not sure what we will find as we close on the river road.

We move ahead slowy, Hezzie at the oars and I on the poling staff.  As we move through the shaded gloom the run slowly begins to turn shallow, finally with only two feet of water under the boat we take a slight turn and break out of the tree cover.  The banks are not quite so high or as steep and they are covered with tall grass that moves with the wind.  I sit down abruptly as I spotted a figure on the bridge.  I whisper to Hezzie and we pull to one side of the stream now hidden in the tall grass each of us grabbing a handful and holding the boat in position.   I ease over to one side to see if we had been seen.  Nobody is on the bridge and a hat was disappearing in the tall grass on the opposite bank.  We both release the holds on the grass and move quickly under the bridge.  Here the stream has pooled to some degree and the gravel beach receives the keel of the boat.  We have made the first part of our journey with no problem.  Now the next thing to do is to make contact with the rest of our party.

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