“Five cent to cross” the Float Master stated.
It must have been a standard response as he repeated it in a matter of fact manner – – “Five cent to cross.”
“Yes, brother” Grandfather replied as he simultaneously waved in a positive agreement.
Mr. Aiken helped Grandfather and his horse board the float. Planks were placed from the shore to the float. The Float Master pulled the upper rope tight to hold the float against the river bank that Grandfather was on.
Grandfather gingerly jumped aboard. The horse, with a little jitteriness, side stepping and a few balks, finally boarded the float. Mr. Aiken pulled the planks back to shore and up the river bank.
The Float Master dug his heels in and put his weight against the lower end of the rope. As the float slowly departed the eastern shore the debris laden high water took the float downstream a few feet. The Float Master hollered “Lay into her, Mr. Aiken.” And lay into her the little man did. Grabbing the upper side of the rope Mr. Aiken took the same stance as the Float Master; heels planted firmly in the earth. Ever so slowly the float was moving across the river.
Grandfather saw it first; a large uprooted tree swiftly being carried downstream by the flood current. “TREE!” Grandfather yelled while pointing upstream.
“Heave to Mr. Aiken” directed the Float Master to his helper.
With all their might both men pulled on their respective ends of the rope. The float moved somewhat faster but the uprooted tree won the race. It slammed into the side of the float almost knocking Grandfather and the horse off, but they maintained their footing.
Mr. Aiken and the Float Master could not move the raft another inch toward shore. Ever so slowly the force of the river current against the tree took the float, inch by inch, downstream. With each inch the rope became tauter and tauter. It was like a giant pulling on a bowstring.