The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge


By W. Bruce Wright © 1987

Issue: May, 1987

Those of you who read The Mountain Laurel regularly, may recall the story about Uncle Sam who in his eighties was becoming quicker with age because when he slipped it did not take him so long to fall. Well, Uncle Sam had a son, Carl, who was about my mother's age and he also was a farmer in the hill country south of Wheeling, West Virginia. As a lad of about age 10, we visited Cousin Carl.

The trip to his home was made by river steamboat, down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to the small town of Clarington about 30 miles down the river from Wheeling. As the Eagle, (Eagle, not crow because I live on Eagle Lake Drive) flies, Clarington is about 60 miles from Pittsburgh, but by river it is about 100 miles. At the time my mother, her sister, my sister, brother, and I made the trip, side or stern wheeler river boats carried not only the majority of the freight but also passengers. Counting the many stops to discharge and take on the above cargo, it was an overnight trip. We stopped at every town of any size; Sewickley, Ambridge, Rochester, Beaver, East Liverpool, Weirton, Steubenville, Wellsburg, Martins Ferry, Bellaire, Wheeling, Glendale, Moundsville and finally Clarington.

In addition to the river boat traffic, a large volume of freight was (and still is) transported by barges, propelled by tugs. When a boat or barge traveling up the river would pass us, the swells or waves caused by the passing traffic would rock our boat.

When we made this trip, I think I was about 10 years old because I remember how thrilled I was when my Mother said that I could have a cup of coffee. When I asked at home, I was told, "No, it will stunt your growth." My, oh my, I was in hog heaven! However, when upstream traffic passed us, which was quite frequently, the rocking of the boat caused my coffee to spill out into the saucer. When the Steward saw my problem, he cut about a three quarter inch square of what Southerners call "Light bread" and floated it on the coffee in my cup. His admonition was to not disturb the piece of bread. I could gently stir the coffee and have refills and the bread would stay intact. Believe it or not, the coffee no longer sloshed over into the saucer.

Another of my fond memories!

PS: In later years, I used this idea many times by placing about a three quarter inch square piece of wood in my minnow bucket to keep the water from sloshing out onto the floor of the car when on fishing trips.