A lifetime has passed since I began probing my great-grandfather’s, the things that happened, the things he accomplished after his release from Jefferson Barracks. I’ve asked questions until there was no one left alive to ask. So, after numerous runs at the tale I decided to draw from the shreds of truth I have gleaned and tell it how I think it might have unfolded.
Below are a couple of paragraph from the third chapter of my yet nameless story. The year is 1868, the setting is on a stern wheeler steaming up the Missouri River.
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It isn’t large, as river boats go, nor is it fancy. But it is big enough for the crew and the livestock, feed, pots and pans, mail, and farming implements bound for distant trading posts. In addition, there are a few hardy passengers. Captain Thorpe, a frail-looking man with a prominent nose, sits in the wheelhouse shouting orders and cursing. As a rule the boats are loaded with freight and livestock. Only then are the passengers allowed to board. However, Dave keeps watch on the Captain. He knows sooner or later the old man will have to relieve himself and when he disappears to do so, Dave slips aboard and hides behind a stack of bagged cattle feed. The boat is a smelly place laden with cows, goats, and hogs free to roam the deck. A cabin could have been had for twice the cost of the boarding fare the army paid, but Dave chose to sleep on the deck.
The sun is low by the time the captain pulls the chain on the steam whistle and the crewmen begin hauling in the gang-plank. Moments later the captain backs away from the levee and gets underway.
“What’s your job here?” Dave asked the ragged man who settled down beside him after they are in mid stream.
“Well, sir, loadin’ and unloadin’ , mainly. That’s what I does. They calls me Curly,”he adds, whipping off his ragged hat, exposing a head as bald as a billiard ball. “Yer a Yanky, ain’t cha? What does ya answer to?” he adds.
“Yes, I am Yanky and my name’s Dave. You think the captain’s going to run all night?”
“Well sir, I cain’t say for sure, but he probly will since we got us a full moon. Cain’t always see good, ya know. One night just about two-year ago the Cap’n, he hit a big snag agoin’ the tother way. That snag, it punched a hole big ‘nuf to push a cow through an ‘ol May Belle started asinkin’ right off.”
“What did you do?” Dave asked.
“The only thin’ we cud do. We swimmed fer it, us and ’bout fifty cows and pigs and chickens. Yes sir, that night started out bad and it got a damn sight worse pretty damn quick.”
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