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Trip To School, Riverboat Explosion:A Carbons Creek on line story
Sarah continues her uncles newspaper
- A New Newspaper Publisher: A Short-Short Story of the Old West
newspaper publisher in a small town in the old west is dead. His neice comes to settle the mystery.
Sarah and Sandy
Since my uncle Jake died I’ve been publishing the Carbons Creek Sentinel. I came here from Chicago to settle the estate and stayed to solve his murder. It had been determined that his death was accidental. The fire was considered an accident and he got trapped in the print shop when it burned. I was convinced he was murdered and I determined to stay and continue his crusade to expose all the corruption in the area. John, my uncle’s typesetter, stayed on and Sandy, the deaf boy who I hired part time help to keep me going.
“Sandy,” I said.” How would you like to take a trip to Wisconsin?”
“What for, Miss Sarah.”
“There’s a special school there for young people who have hearing problems.” I talked in sign language. “You won’t have to go to the school if you don’t want to, but I thought you should see what they got.”
The problem, as I see it, is Sandy’s about fifteen years old now and I don’t think he has had much schooling. He is smart and picked up a lot along the way. I mean, he can read fairly well, he writes a good hand, knows sign language and can work with horses.
I heard about the school that teaches the deaf up in Wisconsin and wrote a letter to them. I got a reply telling me that his case sounds very interesting. They are not sure if he would fit into their program but would like to interview him. If we could find a way to make the trip, that is. The railroads were trying to establish service in the area but progress was uncertain. The trip would be over two hundred miles. I figured we could go horseback to the river and go by steamboat to where a new railroad was being built.Sandy had doubts about the school but he was always ready for adventure and we set out. We packed enough supplies for a couple of nights camping, along with my rifle. Since we might have to hunt some food, I borrowed another rifle for Sandy.
We camped out for two nights and it was early next evening when we found someone with a skiff to take us on the river to meet the steamboat. Sandy had been on the steamboats before on a trip with the rancher and horse trader he worked for, so he knew what they were like. For a while the weather was sunny and pleasant. Soon, though, it began to change and a storm erupted. Lightning flashed. It seemed to be attracted to the high smokestacks on our boat. Thunder boomed, then more lightening. Sandy’s dog is usually very calm, was becoming very agitated. A crewmember advised us to get to a lower deck where it was more sheltered. We could still see the lightening flashes lighting up the sky and a strong wind started blowing. I tried to stay calm so as not to alarm Sandy but I was getting nervous. Then it seemed like we were headed into a wall of water, which would swallow, up our steamboat.
Sandy signaled to me that we should go below and get our horses. I hesitated but Sandy always had good instincts and so did his dog. When we got to the area where the horses were kept and they were in panic. They calmed down some when they saw Spot. That dog and his kin have a calming effect on horses. Sandy wanted to take the horses and abandon the steamboat. As I said, he has good instincts but the thought of jumping into the river currents during a storm didn’t seem very promising.
A lightening bolt hit one of the smokestacks and toppled it. “Let’s do it,” I said. We grabbed what we could of our belongings, saddled the horses and found a low guardrail and jumped them over. Fortunately, we were on the side opposite the wheel were running fairly close to shore. If we’d been in the middle of the river we probably would have drowned. Spot led the horses and we made it to shore. The water ruined our food supplies. We had the rifles and by luck I had secured the ammunition in a watertight container. We’d have to hunt for food.
I was about to see if there was any dry wood anywhere when I heard the explosion. The steamboat’s boiler had exploded. We watched in horror as we saw the boat burst into flames and we readied ourselves to help any survivors, but didn’t see any come our way. I said a prayer and Sandy bowed his head. Now we had to find some shelter. My instinct was to get away from the river and hope to get away from the storm as well. We were all soaking wet.
We led the horses past many broken and uprooted trees. We could see many lightening strikes. After an hour or so we came to a little farm and approached the house.
“My goodness, whar did you folks come from?” a thin, middle-aged woman opened the door to greet us. We were more than glad to take her invitation to come in and sit by her fireplace. She called in a boy about Sandy’s age who she introduced as her son Joseph. “Help these folk with their horses,” she told him. Joseph took a look at us and said maybe we should warm ourselves and he would feed and wipe down the horses. Sandy went out with him anyhow.
Sandy and Joseph came back after taking care of the horses. Joseph asked his mother for some food for Sandy’s dog and she gave him some leftovers from her cupboard. Somehow the two boys were able to talk to each other.
I told the woman, he name was Martha, about our escape from the steamboat before it blew up. She told us about her husband having died three years ago. She and her and two sons were keeping the little farm going. It was touch and go, but they were getting by. Her other son had gone to get supplies and would be back soon. She found some clothes of her husband’s that would fit Sandy. I got by with a combination of some of her clothes and his. Now I had her underwear and her husband’s shirt. She also had an extra skirt I could wear. I took a slouch hat that belonged to her husband. That should set a new style back in Carbons Creek. At least they were dry.
She cooked up some eggs and meat. It seemed like a feast. Sandy signed his thanks. I explained to her about Sandy being deaf and how we were on our way to the school for the deaf.
“Sarah,” she said, “you two are in luck.”
“They's a new railroad line jest opened up 'bout ten mile from here. You'll have ta flag 'em down, but they’s goin’ where you folks wanta go.”
Luckily, we had a chance to get good nights sleep and a really good breakfast. I knew she would not accept any money from us. Out here hospitality is sacred. It can't be contaminated with money. I told her that I was the publisher of the Carbon's Creek paper and that if she liked I would be glad to put her on our subscription list, so she would know about what's going on in our town. She thought that would be great.
The boys guided us to the railroad and stayed with us until we got aboard. Thankfully, we got to the school without any more trouble. They were gracious and the school looked first class. The students appeared happy. After interviewing Sandy, Professor Smith, the headmaster, said he was impressed with Sandy but was not sure that he would fit into the curriculum. He did suggest that if Sandy wanted to he could stay at the school for a few weeks.
Sandy stayed on for a while and we agreed he would come back home in a few weeks.I hope Sandy’s other boss doesn’t mind.
© 2011 Don A. Hoglund