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Epinetus continued with his story of the journey from Salem to Greene as best as he could remember the way his father Horace had told it to him.

 

“The brig ‘Mary Louise’ had a ramp from the wharf to the deck and a second ramp from the deck to the lower hold. My father told me that the horses balked at both ramps. Grandfather took the reigns to lead each team of the animals; first the horses and then the oxen. The horses sidestepped and whinnied at the first ramp. Only the heavy side rails kept them from the depths of the Hudson River. By the time they reached the second ramp, which sloped steeply down into the semi-darkness they were terrified. With eyes bugging out of their skulls, neck veins pulsing, noses flaring, and hooves pounding on the ramp, they begrudgingly followed Grandfather’s calm but stern voice and the meaningful tugs on the reigns until they reached their specified places. Once there Uncle Henry secured them to a wooden rail.”

 

George’s heavy dinner worked against his ability to stay awake and clear headed. Epinetus noticed this and raised his voice a little louder while trying to create a little excitement in his story.

 

“Captain Tanner spoke to Grandfather ‘Keep the ramps clean Mr. Birdsall. We do not want your oxen to slip.’ Grandfather knew what the captain meant so he assigned my father and Aunt Deborah to grab a shovel and bucket. They were to clean up the horse dung that now littered both ramps. Grandfather also informed them that they were assigned that job for the remainder of the trip. Father and Aunt Deborah were not too pleased with that news.”

 

Horses below deck

 

George sat a little straighter in his chair as Epinetus finished the story regarding the loading of livestock into the ship.

 

“Thanks to the superb training that Grandfather had given the oxen they behaved much better than the horses. In fact, father told me that they were almost meek. Everything was to remain loaded and harnessed for the full trip. The Birdsall women herded their livestock down the ramp.”

 

“Uncle Henry was helping Grandfather by feeding and watering the animals. My father and the aunts were on the top deck inspecting the cabin. It was made of rough-sawn wooden slabs and had wooden slab seats all around the outside walls. There were two cast iron stoves placed at equal distances from the ends of the cabin. The windows had no glass but there were wooden doors that, when loosened, swung down to keep out the rain and river mist. The area outside the cabin was flat except for the ramp down into the hold and the few stairs up to a small captain’s deck. Slab boards also formed a bench row around the perimeter of this outside deck. Anyone using these benches could use the wooden deck rails as a backrest.”

 

“Father always remembered Captain Tanner.” Epinetus related to George, who had lit another cigarette.

 

Preston Manor in the mid-afternoon always got hot and stuffy. A few of the older patients had bladder problems and the odor of ammonia had permeated the building.

 

Epinetus then told George his father’s favorite story.

 

 

© wtomosky

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