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Dogwood Ghost: Part Two of Three

October 26, 2016
BY CHUCK CLEGG - Columnist , Wetzel Chronicle

While waiting for the cargo to be unloaded, the Captain decided to stretch his legs with a stroll up the town's Main Street. At the corner of Main and North Street, the Captain noticed a beautiful young lady trying to walk around several broken boards in the wooden sidewalk. He was so busy watching her trying to navigate the broken wooden slat, he failed to notice the missing board in his own path. With a thud and harshly mumbled words he fell onto the dusty wooden sidewalk that ran along the Main Street.

Elizabeth was her name, and she had taken notice of him watching her as she approached where he was walking. As he stood up, brushing the dirt and dust from his dark jacket, he could hear her giggling as she turned her head, hoping he would not hear her muse at his misfortune.

The anger he first felt as he brushed himself off, soon turned to a smile as he openly started to laugh out loud. The spectacle of him in official coat and hat falling like a great oaf was now easy to laugh about.

He was 6'3", a full foot and two inches taller than the smiling young lady looking up at him as he finished brushing the last of the dust from his coat.

The captain had 45 years of living on the river. It was the only life he had really ever known. Often he thought the green waters of the Ohio and Mississippi were the only real home he would ever know.

He had worked his way up from deckhand to be pilot at a very young age, on small packet boats in the lower river. The river had been his only constant company for almost all of his life. But at this moment, on the corner of Main and North Street, he did not realize that was about to change.

Elizabeth had turned 23 as the dogwood tree bloomed that spring along the Ohio River.

The tree that stood near the end of North Street was in full bloom, as it overlooked the river's edge. Elizabeth had been on her way to watch for the occasional passing riverboat when she first saw the captain stumbling on the missing boards.

Each year on her birthday she would sit under the tree, with its hundreds of white blooms, and dream of places the boats on the river would travel. Now, before her, was a man who had been to those places she knew were just out of sight around the rivers bend.

Through out the warm afternoon they sat, protected from the sun, as they talked beneath the shade of the dogwood tree. They had become lost in the short moment of time as their two worlds met. Then, without warning, the deep bellowing sound of the boat's horn pierced the quiet afternoon air. That sound the captain had always loved to hear - one long and two short blasts from the boats horn - it was time to return to the world of the river. This time the call back to the river brought no great joy. Elizabeth, who was hearing of places she only dreamed about, did not understand - why as quickly as it had begun - it must now end.

Except for the sounds of horse-pulling cargo wagons over the rough street and men's voices in the distance, the late afternoon on the Ohio River under the tree had been quiet. Then, once more, the long sound of the horn followed by two short blasts were as if the boat itself beckoned impatiently for the Captain to return one more time.

The wonder in her face had turned to sadness as she now realized he must return to his first love - The Rose of Virginia and the river.

As they walked toward the waiting boat, the captain made a promise that on his return down the river, he would stop in New Martinsville for a few days. It would give the local blacksmith shop and machine works some time to make needed repairs to the boat aged boilers.

But, for now, he must go on to Wheeling to deliver bails of tobacco leaves to the stogie manufacturer there. After that a load of steel rail must be picked up at the mill and moved north to Pittsburgh.

As the Captain said his final goodbyes, he turned and walked toward his waiting boat, making read to leave. The sound of the steam venting out of the boilers' safety valves told him the Rose had her steam up and was ready to move north.

As Elizabeth stood and watched him go, she remembered something in her dress pocket. She removed a small gold frame from out of her pocket, and opened it to look inside. The three small frames, held together by the smallest of hinges, held within a picture of her mother, one of her father, and the third was of Elizabeth. The small tintype pictures were a gift to her from her father on her last Christmas. She called to the Captain as he walked up the heavy wooden gangplank. "Wait, Please Wait." She removed the small picture of herself and ran down to the end of the walkway sitting in the dry mud along the river. The captain walked back to her and smiled as she placed, in his large callous hand, the tiny picture of herself.

"I will wait for your return under the dogwood tree. I will hang a coal oil lantern with a scarlet ribbon along the glass so if it be night when you return you will not miss our town in the dark."

The captain smiled and looked at the picture she had given him. "I will look for the white blooms of the Dogwood if it is day and the light of the lantern if darkness has fallen, no matter what I will come back to you." He tucked the small picture into his vest pocket and patted it for good luck.

The puffing steamboat backed away from the shoreline and slowly turned north on it run up the river. Elizabeth stood and watched as the boat with the Captain steamed away out of sight. It was just before the last of the boat could be seen going around the far bend in the river she realized the only name she knew of this man was what she had called him, Captain.While waiting for the cargo to be unloaded, the Captain decided to stretch his legs with a stroll up the town's Main Street. At the corner of Main and North Street, the Captain noticed a beautiful young lady trying to walk around several broken boards in the wooden sidewalk. He was so busy watching her trying to navigate the broken wooden slat, he failed to notice the missing board in his own path. With a thud and harshly mumbled words he fell onto the dusty wooden sidewalk that ran along the Main Street.

Elizabeth was her name, and she had taken notice of him watching her as she approached where he was walking. As he stood up, brushing the dirt and dust from his dark jacket, he could hear her giggling as she turned her head, hoping he would not hear her muse at his misfortune.

The anger he first felt as he brushed himself off, soon turned to a smile as he openly started to laugh out loud. The spectacle of him in official coat and hat falling like a great oaf was now easy to laugh about.

He was 6'3", a full foot and two inches taller than the smiling young lady looking up at him as he finished brushing the last of the dust from his coat.

The captain had 45 years of living on the river. It was the only life he had really ever known. Often he thought the green waters of the Ohio and Mississippi were the only real home he would ever know.

He had worked his way up from deckhand to be pilot at a very young age, on small packet boats in the lower river. The river had been his only constant company for almost all of his life. But at this moment, on the corner of Main and North Street, he did not realize that was about to change.

Elizabeth had turned 23 as the dogwood tree bloomed that spring along the Ohio River.

The tree that stood near the end of North Street was in full bloom, as it overlooked the river's edge. Elizabeth had been on her way to watch for the occasional passing riverboat when she first saw the captain stumbling on the missing boards.

Each year on her birthday she would sit under the tree, with its hundreds of white blooms, and dream of places the boats on the river would travel. Now, before her, was a man who had been to those places she knew were just out of sight around the rivers bend.

Through out the warm afternoon they sat, protected from the sun, as they talked beneath the shade of the dogwood tree. They had become lost in the short moment of time as their two worlds met. Then, without warning, the deep bellowing sound of the boat's horn pierced the quiet afternoon air. That sound the captain had always loved to hear - one long and two short blasts from the boats horn - it was time to return to the world of the river. This time the call back to the river brought no great joy. Elizabeth, who was hearing of places she only dreamed about, did not understand - why as quickly as it had begun - it must now end.

Except for the sounds of horse-pulling cargo wagons over the rough street and men's voices in the distance, the late afternoon on the Ohio River under the tree had been quiet. Then, once more, the long sound of the horn followed by two short blasts were as if the boat itself beckoned impatiently for the Captain to return one more time.

The wonder in her face had turned to sadness as she now realized he must return to his first love - The Rose of Virginia and the river.

As they walked toward the waiting boat, the captain made a promise that on his return down the river, he would stop in New Martinsville for a few days. It would give the local blacksmith shop and machine works some time to make needed repairs to the boat aged boilers.

But, for now, he must go on to Wheeling to deliver bails of tobacco leaves to the stogie manufacturer there. After that a load of steel rail must be picked up at the mill and moved north to Pittsburgh.

As the Captain said his final goodbyes, he turned and walked toward his waiting boat, making read to leave. The sound of the steam venting out of the boilers' safety valves told him the Rose had her steam up and was ready to move north.

As Elizabeth stood and watched him go, she remembered something in her dress pocket. She removed a small gold frame from out of her pocket, and opened it to look inside. The three small frames, held together by the smallest of hinges, held within a picture of her mother, one of her father, and the third was of Elizabeth. The small tintype pictures were a gift to her from her father on her last Christmas. She called to the Captain as he walked up the heavy wooden gangplank. "Wait, Please Wait." She removed the small picture of herself and ran down to the end of the walkway sitting in the dry mud along the river. The captain walked back to her and smiled as she placed, in his large callous hand, the tiny picture of herself.

"I will wait for your return under the dogwood tree. I will hang a coal oil lantern with a scarlet ribbon along the glass so if it be night when you return you will not miss our town in the dark."

The captain smiled and looked at the picture she had given him. "I will look for the white blooms of the Dogwood if it is day and the light of the lantern if darkness has fallen, no matter what I will come back to you." He tucked the small picture into his vest pocket and patted it for good luck.

The puffing steamboat backed away from the shoreline and slowly turned north on it run up the river. Elizabeth stood and watched as the boat with the Captain steamed away out of sight. It was just before the last of the boat could be seen going around the far bend in the river she realized the only name she knew of this man was what she had called him, Captain.

 
 
 

 

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