Letters to the editor week of 2/8/07


The second of four installments

By Josiah Leatherbury

Moon opened the front door, the three half starved dogs of the Mayfield family tried to come through the barely opened door. The dogs looked exactly alike. They were sisters, half hound and half some kind of terrier, with large flop ears and mangy short yellow hair. Their skin hung over their protruding ribs and hip bones like the canvas of covered wagons. “Shut that door! Don’t let those dogs in! Where you going?” Moon heard his mother yell from her large over stuffed chair which she hardly ever left. From its strategic location in the loving room, just next to the kitchen door and at the foot of the stairs, she instantly knew and questioned everyone’s slightest independent move in the house. “The library,” Moon answered. Then, using his legs to push the desperate dogs back and pulling the door quickly closed behind him, Moon stepped out of the house.

It was 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning and 24 degrees. A dedicated west wind marched up Market Street. This was an arctic wind, and it had its beginnings in the great Russian steppe that swept across the frozen waters of the Beaufort Sea, then plummeted southeast across the northwest territories of Canada. It gained intensity in the firepan range of the Rockies of Alberta. From Moose Jaw to Waterloo it made the farmers of corn and cattle stoke up their nightly fires and talk of the cold as they met around the great red hot pot bellied stoves of the local general stores. It came up the Ohio River Valley and snatched any warmth that huddled and hid around the tightly closed doors and windows of Vevay. To the east the sung tinged diamonds of the misty cold hung and danced in the cold morning sun. The western sky was darkening. It was starting to snow.

At the west end of Market Street and just over the city limit line and where the Swiss Villa Nursing & Rehab nursing home now stands, a gasoline donkey engine running loud and with no muffler, turned the big Caterpillar stationary diesel engine of old George’s saw mill. Great plumes of white uncombusted diesel fuel was being pumped skyward as the little engine tried to start the large one. Moon liked old George’s saw mill. Moon would spend hours there in the summer watching as large rough logs were carried down the rails to meet the giant seven foot steel circular saw. The logs howled with a terrible noise as the great saw turned and screamed as it bit deep into the heart of the wood. Moon, watching in horror and wonder, would sometimes think that every law of man and nature was surely being broken and soon officials would rush up and arrest old George and forcibly stop him from his tortuous task. But no one ever came except to buy lumber and sell logs.

The cold wind added oxygen to the fire that burned night and day at the town dump that is now Jennings Park. It banged the lose shingles and boards of the little office that stood off to one side of the mountain of coal beneath the railroad trestle that carried the coal from barges on the river, up the bank to the Benedict Coal and Oil Company of Market Street. Mrs. Benedict in her seventies, her grey hair dyed auburn, attended to the morning order while hard flakes of snow hit her office window, peeked in, then melted, slid away then froze again.

When Moon, in his worn out canvas gym shoes, thin blue jeans, cotton shirt, and a coat that was not really a coat at all but a light wind breaker two sizes too small, felt that arctic wind he pushed his shoulders up against his neck and walked even faster to the remembered warmth or the library.

To be continued . . .