This week, we continue to follow William Miller Boling’s column from 1946 in the Messenger offering a unique view of Meade County’s history from 75 years ago.
WILLIAM MILLER BOLING
The Old Wagon Maker Has Trekked Westward
Custom or handmade farm wagons built in Brandenburg had an enviable reputation for durability and ease of operation sixty years ago. McFarland’s shop on the river front under the skilled workmanship of Jack Winings produced many of these wagons. Ben Brentlinger, a painter at this shop, knew how to paint wagons.
A.E. Coleman’s shop at the head of Main Street, also, manufactured an equally good wagon. (The last part of this old shop was razed in 1943).
Wagon makers at the Coleman shop during my youth were Harmon Voss, Volney Price, John Wright and “Bud” Overby.
A first class wagon maker was not just a mechanic, but an artist as well.
During the day of the custom built wagon, the rough lumber was dressed to patterns by the shop workman and assembled into the complete wagon ready to be “ironed-off” by the blacksmith who worked in close cooperation with him.
Nothing but number one hickory was used in making wheels and gear and nothing save clear poplar was fit to put in the body or “bed.”
Fitting tenons into hubs and fellies, proper anchorage of ‘skeins” on axles, correct alignment of wheels to produce exact “tracking,” proper “cutting” of tires, were a few of the intricate operations performed, showing the mechanical skill of the workman.
Old time wagon makers were wont to say, -- “A new wagon must ‘cluck’ as you drive it,” meaning that the wheels should have mechanical play upon the axles.
Although many years are gone since the wagon maker sedulously pursued his craft, I suspect that some of these wagons, old and decrepit are still in existence in Meade County.
A Ball Game to
It was played June 16, 1890, in the basin east of St. George Cemetery. The Ekron Team and Brandenburg Team, each undefeated, met for the championship of Meade County. Ekron won by the score of 1 to 0.
The line up of the teams was as follows:
Ekron—McHenry Richardson, Catcher; Rod Shacklette, Pitcher; “Andy” Carrico, First Base; Dan Roberts, Second Base; “Bob” Shacklette, Third Base; Jim Wimp, Short Stop; “Bud” Burch, Left Field; “Dick” Dowell, Center Field; Ben J. Carrico, Right Field.
Brandenburg—Albert (Grassy) Richardson, Catcher; George Frymire, Pitcher; Charlie Coleman, First Base; Tom Fairleigh, Second Base; Elvis Wimp, Third Base; “Dem” Lewis, Short Stop; Wilbur Saunders, Left Field; “Dee” Pusey, Center Field; “Little Tim” McAuliffe, Right Field.
Ekron made 6 hits and 2 errors; the hits being made by Roberts 2; Richardson 1; Dowell 1; Burch 1; the errors by “Bob” Shacklette and Wimp.
Brandenburg made 3 hits and no errors; the hits being made by Saunders, Pusey and Fairleigh.
Shacklette struck out 18 and Frymire 4.
It was a thrilling game—perhaps, the best ever played in Meade County.
Of the members of the peerless Ekron Team of 54 years ago only two are living—Dan Roberts and Dick Dowell.
Of equally great Brandenburg team only one is living—Tom Fairleigh.
The “Lead Crier”
It’s a star lit midnight and the mighty Joseph B. Williams is out upon the wide, smooth bosom of the Ohio. Big, bold and confident she guides her tow of eight acres—1,500,000 bushels of coal—towards the Crescent City.
Brandenburg, long asleep is twenty miles behind her, for she has reached the “Ox Bow” of the River Beautiful—where the river almost turns back upon itself in its mighty, onward push.
George Clark, capable and alert, in the dark and quiet pilot house knows the vagaries of the slowly moving stream for he has guided river giants up and down it for a quarter of a century.
He knows the bends and guide marks, the silhouetted hills on either side of the river; knows the shoals and whims of the capricious avenue of transportation; he thinks of the palatial State of Missouri that died upon the rocks not far down stream.
The powerful wheel of the river king is slowly turning backward for he is “flanking Big Bend.”
A blast of the deep-throated whistle sounds in the river night and is echoed among the Hoosier Hills.
It’s a signal to “Cry the Lead.”
The shadowy form of a man makes its way to the head of the fleet a half-mile from the pilot house, and begins sounding the lazy, eddying water.
Up comes the lead line and the crier yells, “Mark Twain!”
Another man back of the fleet repeats the words, “Mark Twain!” to a third man near the steamer who relays the words to the pilot house and George Clark knows that the sounding lead did not touch bottom.
Again, the lead line plummets into the river and the crier announces— “Twenty-eight feet!”
The exhaust pipes of the river goliath cough violently as the big wheel churns reversely in the channel water.
George Clark knows that his fleet is drawing fourteen feet of water. He also knows that he is nearing shoal water. Again, the crier reads the lead line and announces— “Twenty-feet!”
The signal bell in the engine room jangles quickly.
Pilot Clark is asking engineer Bartley Dunn to “give her all he’s got.” The big wheel turns faster and the giant tow moves slowly on.
The dimly defined, but alert crier far out upon the fleet again scans his lead line and intones uneasily— “Sixteen Feet!”
The river giant continues in mighty toil as the momentum of the fleet gradually diminishes.
After an interval of drifting in ominous silence a cheery call rings out from the crier—“Mark Twain!”
Clark toots the whistle, a signal to put away the lead line. The powerful towboat has “flanked Big Bend” and crawled over a dangerous shoal.
The powerful wheel turns forward in increased acceleration, picking up the water on its “buckets” and letting it fall back in foamy cascades.
And so the Joseph B. Williams, victorious and regal passes on into the night, conquering other bends and shoals, on her way to New Orleans.
The “Lead Crier” out upon a coal fleet is an important person, but a “Lead Crier” on the Stream of Life is a more important one. Don’t you think?