February 19, 2006

tugs in a row


15:18 Hours:
A call comes in on the marine radio at the Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard Station. The freighter, Lake Trader, was spotted by fishermen from shore listing to the port side in high winds and six foot waves up near the treacherous Porte Des Morts passage. All hands on duty are alerted and the station UTB is dispatched to investigate.

The waters surrounding Door County, Wisconsin in winter can be very hazardous especially the passage way between Washington Island and the peninsula. But Second Class Boatswain's Mate Sally Bluestone has navigated these waters for three winters now and knows where the dangers are hidden. The boat is safe with the helm in her hands.

The late January daylight is quickly fading by the time the UTB reaches the passageway. The Captain, Lt. Jg Carl Ferguson, orders Bluestone to come around to the port side. The freighter looks dark and no navigation lights are operating. Hanging down the side from the top side deck about mid ships is a cargo net.

16:47 Hours:
The Captain orders Bluestone and Seaman Terrance Hanson to take the skiff and board the ship. They take only their side arms and bullet proof vests for protection.

After boarding the damaged vessel, Bluestone and Hanson head straight for the Captain’s Quarters. It is dark and the two have only their flashlights to guide them.

“Look in the Captain’s desk draw, Terry, and see if you can find the ship’s log. I will see if I can find anything under the Captain’s bunk”, Sally says as she lights an emergency candle and places it on the desk. She moves over and stands next to the bed.

Terry follows her and slips his big Irish hands around her waist from behind. He kisses her neck as Sally arches her head back onto his shoulder.

“You know they are going to talk if we take to long”, Sally says.

“Don’t worry, we won’t.”

In one motion, Terry pivots around and falls backwards on top of the bunk taking Sally with him. Sally tightens up her fist and swings her elbow back into Terry’s stomach.

“Oooohhhh shit! You playing a little rough aren’t you?”, asks Terry.

“You know I don’t go for this when I am working. We don’t need anybody finding out about us. Now get your ass up and let’s finish looking around. There will be plenty of time for this later.”

17:45 Hours:
Petty Officer Bluestone and Seaman Hanson report back to the Captain on the UTB.

“We found no one on the ship sir. It appears to be deserted. But we did find the ship’s log,” says Bluestone.

“Very curious - a freighter deserted and damaged and no reports filed by anybody?”, replied the Captain. He reads the last entry in the log. “Weather turning bad, engines stopped, ship taking on water. We will have to abandon ship soon. Nothing but bad luck. I hope they find us.”

Posted by roadapples at 08:04 AM

December 03, 2005

A Christmas Story


I am a man of science. Tales of ghosts and super natural beings hold not one ounce of credibility with me. But there are many of the liberal minded sort who believe in such foolishness. It is to them that I tell this story relayed to me by one of my students many years ago. She swore this tale is true and really happened to her.

Early June, 1982:

“Morning mommy. Pancake time yet?”, Trudy asked. She fiddled with her backpack checking for the picture frame with the colored macaroni and shells she had made for Ms. Gunderson. School was almost out for the year and she wanted to give her first grade teacher something special.

“Breakfast is ready sweetie. Guess what we are going to do this summer?” said her mom, Sally.

“What mommy?”, said Trudy, shoving a fork of pancake dripping with syrup in to her mouth.

“We are going to visit your grandfather Ben in Alaska.”

“I have a grandfather Ben? Where is Alaska? When are we going? How are we going....”

“Wait, wait, slow down Trudy. One question at a time. I know you have never met your grandpa and I have never told you about him but he is my father and he lives in a place far away. It will take us about a week and a half just to get there by car but we can take all summer for the visit. Your grandfather sent us enough money for the trip and more. So I don’t have to go work at the temp service until we get back in August. I haven’t seen him since I left home 13 years ago and he wants to meet you Trudy.”

“When are we leaving? Can we go right away mommy, please, please, please!”

“We can’t leave until early July when the highway to Alaska becomes dry and passable. I don’t want to get stuck on that Godforsaken road.”

Five weeks later:

The trip was long; much longer than Sally remembered. She thought she would never see this lonely place again when she shook the dust of the old homestead from her shoes. Sally had set off for the lower forty eight with Terrance after she graduated from high school. There had to be more to life than feeding slobbering, yelping sled dogs all winter. But life with her high school sweet heart wasn't all peaches and cream either. Sally grew up when Trudy was born; Terrance didn’t. Well Terry boy could go to blazes for all she cared.

A quick check around the cabin did not take long. It only had two rooms. Ben was not there and it looked as if no one had been there for some time.

“Let’s go into Trapper Creek and check at Charlie’s Bar. Maybe some one in town knows what’s become of your grandpa. Maybe he went to check his traps.”

Sally and Trudy was in for some bad news. Ben had died two weeks before. Some hunters had found him about two miles from his cabin. He had been cutting wood for winter and apparently died of a heart attack. It was not a pretty sight. Wild animals had gnawed on his limbs and into his torso to get at his liver and the maggots were starting their job. Some critter must have swallowed his wedding band by accident because it was gone and so was his left ring finger.

11 years later:

Einstein was right; about time, I mean. It is relative. The older one is the faster it goes. Trudy forgot about her trip to Alaska and the grandpa she never new. She had grown into a young woman and it was time for the annual Christmas Formal Dance at the high school. IT was all the senior girls could talk about for weeks and there was a boy she liked.

But money was still tight. Her mom finally got a steady job at the candle factory but it only paid minimum wage. If it wasn’t for the part time job clerking at the gas station, things would be really desperate. The rent got paid, and there was always food on the table. But there would not be any money for the dress Trudy and her friends found in the mall at American Eagle.

“I can cut down one of my old cocktail dresses for you Trudy. No one will ever know.”, said Sally.

“No mom, they will and besides I don’t really want to go to that stupid dance.”, replied Trudy.

Two days before the big dance, a mysterious package arrived by UPS at Sally’s apartment door. The return address simply read P.O. Box 745, Palmer, Alaska. It was addressed to Ms. Trudy Hanson.

Sally could not remember ever knowing anyone from Palmer. She had only been there in the summer time when her dad would take her to the state fair every August. Feeling a little uneasy, Sally placed the package on Trudy’s bed for her to open when she got home from school.

The package contained two items. There was a beautiful light blue chiffon party dress just the right size for Trudy and a tightly wrapped piece of tissue paper.

“Mom, do you know an Elsie?”

“My mom’s name was Elsie.My father told me she died when I was only three. I have no memory of her. Why?”

"I found this wedding band in the bottom of the box. It has an inscription inside", To Ben from Elsie 1949.

Posted by roadapples at 09:54 AM | Comments (4)