RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 2 . . Orphan . . Part 5
RAILCAR GOLD is a historically accurate multi-generational fictional tale of hidden treasure, primarily set in York County, Pennsylvania during the latter half of the Nineteenth Century. This is Part 5 of Chapter 2 . . . Orphan. A new part will be posted every Thursday. New readers may want to start at the beginning.
CHAPTER 2 . . . ORPHAN . . . Part 5
Dan ambled into the village. Upon spotting a general store, he proceeded to purchase a bag of candy. He led Buck down the main street and then on a path down along the Delaware River. Boats of all types were going up and down the river. At the village dock, some kids were fishing and some were playing in the river. Dan tied up Buck, sat down in the grass under the shade of a tree; enjoyed his candy, relaxed and took it all in.
Upon returning to the ferry, Dan saw that the fancy table was no longer in their wagon. In its place was the table that had been on the burly guy’s wagon. Rufus was in a heated discussion with some other guy.
Dan discovered they were haggling over a horse that Rufus was trying to sell to this guy. Soon, with a handshake, they had one less horse to take care of on their journey.
Rufus boasted, “No more fancy table! I traded straight up for that solid table! Now that’s a mans table!” His uncle continued, “Let’s make sure no one gets ahead of us for the ferry. I’ll drive the wagon for a while. Take the leads for the six horses and follow me down to the ferry anchorage.”
Rufus led the way along a narrow roadway that snaked between a maze of holding corrals; then down to the ferry anchorage. While sitting under the tree in the village, Dan wondered why the ferry dock was not located at the village. He had his answer; the smells and flies from an assortment of animals in the holding pens were much greater than the typical horse corral. Upon reaching the anchorage, Dan could see the ferry slowly moving on the Pennsylvania side of the river.
As they waited there, Rufus was quieter than normal; he just sat in the wagon, looking straight ahead towards the ferry. Dan also kept his eye on the ferry; he did not see any smoke. Every ferry that he had ever been on during travels to Philadelphia had been steam powered.
Dan wondered what kind of new-fangled power source was used on this ferry. As the ferry got closer and closer, Dan got his answer. Four draft horses powered the ferry. There were two, two-horse treadmills on the ferry immediately behind the side mounted paddlewheels.
These horse treadmills were used by a few of the farmers in the Blackwood area to power an assortment of stationary farm machinery. Dan never realized that they were also used to power ferries. He thought this was clever, it was as if the horses were walking on water; pulling the ferry across the river.
The ferry tied-up to the anchor posts. A herd of cattle was quickly offloaded. The captain motioned Rufus onto the ferry. Rufus slowly guided the wagon onto the ferry; there was no room for error. Dan was glad that Rufus had taken over driving the wagon.
Rufus hopped off the wagon and tied the horses to the rail on the ferry. One by one Rufus led each horse onto the ferry; tying them to a rail. Dan led Buck on the ferry last. The wagon and their nine horses made a full load for the ferry.
The ferry captain poled the ferry back into the river a short distance before returning to his station behind the steering wheel. The captain issued the command, “G-up,” as he pushed a large lever forward. The four draft horses immediately commenced a steady walk and the paddlewheels flailed away at the river water.
The ferry swiftly glided through the water. The captain tolerated a barrage of questions by Dan and even let him take the wheel. He instructed Dan on keeping a fixed bearing on a landmark and how to gradually steer to make course corrections.
Time flew by for Dan; they reached the Pennsylvania side of the river before he knew it. The captain drove directly into the anchor spot. The ferry was tied up. One-by-one, seven horses were offloaded by Rufus. Dan held the horses on shore.
Rufus backed the wagon down off the ferry. Dan could back a wagon, however he knew that he was not up to that task of backing it so precisely. Rufus looked at Dan as if reading his thoughts, remarking, “ Don’t worry, soon you’ll learn how to do this.”
Rufus got off the wagon and saddled his horse, while telling Dan, “You’ll be driving the wagon the rest of the way.” Dan took the saddle off Buck and put it on the wagon. Dan noticed that the ferry had polled out and backed into the anchorage so that the four draft horses could be exchanged for four fresh horses.
Dan asked Rufus, “How many horses are required to run a ferry using horse treadmills?” Rufus responded, “This ferry rotates sixteen draft horses.” Upon answering that question, they were immediately off through the Pennsylvania county-side of Delaware and Chester Counties, with only brief stops before reaching their first nights destination.
Go to Part 6