Meeting with Benjamin Franklin: a Carbons Creek Ghost Town Story
Sarah and the ghost town
At times I wonder if the ghost town near Carbons Creek really exists, but my husband John had been out there with me a number of times. The thing is, it isn’t always where I expect it to be. If John hadn’t been with me there at times I’d think I dreamed I had been in a ghost town and actually ran across some ghosts and other things. Like a good reporter I asked people around Carbons Creek what they knew about the ghost town but nobody seemed aware a ghost town even existed. Let alone any odd happenings. I asked Doc about it and he thought I was joshing. Even when I mentioned stories that we had published that involved unusual meetings in the ghost town folks seemed to think we made them up. It’s true journalists are not beyond a practical joke or a hoax on occasion. The popular writer, Mark Twain, has told about some he pulled as a young reporter. Even one of the countries founding fathers, Mr. Benjamin Franklin, enjoyed pulling the wool over the reader’s eyes.
Back at the office of the Sentinel I opened my desk drawer and took out the recording thing I had slipped into my pocket the last time I visited the ghost town. I hadn’t met a ghost then but I met Gale who turned out to be from the future and was, in fact, a future offspring of mine. When she disappeared to where ever she went, she left behind a machine that she said could record voices during an interview. I couldn’t resist slipping it into my pocket when I left. It was small and light made of some bright colored hard material and smooth to the touch It had a little lid that I could pop-up and some buttons underneath. I surmised the buttons were for operating it, but how and what? I knew that there are inventors like Bell and Edison working on such things.
I experimented with pressing buttons and suddenly heard a voice. It startled me more so when I realized it was my own voice. When I heard John come in through the shop, I hit another button and the voice stopped. I put the device in my pocket.
John was a typesetter for the paper when I came to Carbons Creek. My uncle, who owned the paper, had gone to fight in the Civil War and John pretty much ran the paper while he was gone. Unfortunately my uncle was killed and I came from Chicago to settle his affairs. I decided to stay and run the paper. John and I shared a loyalty to my uncle and a dedication to the success of the Carbons Creek Sentinel.
Ride in the country
On this particular day I felt an urge to take a ride in the country and visit the ghost town, if I could find it. I had hopes I could return the recorder. A long shot, I know, to find the town and Gale as well. I led the horse out to the buggy and hitched it up. John would do it for me but I often like to do it myself. That way the horse gets to know me better. I think they are easier to handle if they know you a bit. My little dog Buddy joined me in the buggy. The original Buddy was left to me along with the newspaper by my Uncle Jake who also left me the newspaper and my house. When the old Buddy died I found a dog that was a lot like him. Both of them are mutts, kind of small, have square faces, curly off white hair, and very loyal personalities. Buddy would fight to the death for me, but it might be more good intentions than effectiveness. My real protection is a shotgun in the buggy and a small pistol in my pocket.
I set off to visit the ghost town, if it is still there. I swear the place must move around because I have driven there sometimes and don’t see a trace of it. Other times I’ll run across it when I don’t think I am anywhere near it. Needless to say, I always bring along some food and water.
I spotted the old saloon. Not far from it was the old newspaper shop nothing had been printed since the Civil War. Buddy jumped out of the buggy and ran to the newspaper building. As I said Buddy is loyal, but I don’t always trust his judgment. If there is anyone or anything in that shop it could be a friend, or foe. If someone were in there I didn’t want to walk in on a friendly person with a shotgun. Some folks disapprove of a lady with a gun. Especially, a lady reporter. It sort of inhibits an interview, so to speak. I did check my pocket for the little pistol, a lady like weapon, I call it.
A New Friend
When I got into the old newspaper print shop I found a somewhat middle age man, a bit stout and sporting a coonskin cap like the fur traders used to wear. He was preoccupied with examining the old printing press. Aside from the cap, his clothing was the rather formal dress of a century ago.
He stopped to pet Buddy and then noticed me. Smiling, he doffed his hat revealing a somewhat balding head, although his hair was worn long in back. “Good morning miss.’
“Good morning to you sir,” I answered.
“My name is Franklin. I seemingly wandered into your town. I am getting forgetful because I don’t remember how I got here.”
I acknowledged him with a slight curtsy and introduced myself as Mrs. Sarah Neilson. I then explained that we were in a town that had been deserted since sometime in the Civil War.
“Civil War, madam? You mean the war for American independence??
“Please call me Ben. I dislike formalities so.”
I do think he is flirting with me, I thought. He is rather charming.
“Ben. You can call me Sarah. I publish a newspaper in a nearby town.”
“A woman publisher. Wonderful.”
“I’m glad you approve, Ben. Not everyone does. For now I have something to tell you that may be a bigger shock than meeting a woman newspaper publisher. Maybe you better sit down.”
“Pardon?” He picked up a chair that still seemed sturdy and held it for me. I obligingly sat down. He picked up a compositors stool and sat himself down. “Alright, Sarah. What is the shocking news?”
“Well, Ben, the war I refer to is the war between the slave states and the free states. The Confederacy against the Union. It was a very bloody war, making it worse was the fact that we were fighting fellow countrymen. I’m told that more men were killed than in any war in history..”
Ben’s face turned pale. Buddy went up to him and whined. Ben leaned ddown and petted him. Buddy loves attention and wagged his stubby tail.
“Where are we, Sarah?”
“We are in what you probably know as the Louisiana Territory. The Civil War took place in the middle of the 19th Century.”
I had hoped to find Gail Neilson today and about this time she walked in dressed in what she calls jeans with a plaid blouse Her long hair hung down to her shoulders.
“Grandma Sarah, it’s nice to see you again.”She knelt down to pet Buddy who licked her face.
Ben looked more confused than shocked.
“Ben, this is Gale who seems to be a descendent of mine. She is a news reporter from what I would call the future.”
Ben gave an elaborate bow and looked truly delighted after he overcame his confusion. “My goodness, I get lost and find two delightfully beautiful women who could be twins, but are of different generations.”
Knowing that Gail had come for her recording device I passed it to her. Ben was curious and Gail tried to explain what it was. She demonstrated how it worked and Ben had a look of a child who found a new toy. She mentioned sound waves, magnetism and electricity. Ben was spell bound.
“Fascinating. As you might know, I did some modest experiments with electricity. But how does this device get the electricity to run on?”
Gail showed him some round cylinders which she called batteries and said that the electric power was stored in them.
I shared my lunch with them and we spent some time explaining the history of the Civil War and the issues involved. Although I had more emotion and feelings about the war, Gail was well informed about the history, issues and outcomes. It was sad to learn that even in her day; many issues were not yet settled. Some instinct told me that we would soon part. I told my companions that it was a great adventure and hoped to see them again.
"Anything interesting happen today?" John asked when I got home.
“Not much, really." I said.
© 2013 Don A. Hoglund