Poem for the first of August

 

It is always August.

If time would stop, it would stand still

Under the dog star.

Winter lingers, but all of that season is labor

Boots, gloves, scarves and coats

Off and on, on and off

Snow shovels and firewood

What shivering creature stops to contemplate a grey sky?

We spend March and April longing for June

And in May we are ecstatic and the days pass

Almost without our knowing

July is full swing

Long-planned travel, hours in the car

Hurry up and rest, hurry up and enjoy

.

Spring is bursting birth

and fall, dramatic death

But August is stasis

and we sit in the warm evening

by the still-warm water

and think it will always be this way,

it should always be this way.

There is no rush into August

Nothing is planned there

We sleep late

And sit outside all night

Who works or worries then?

There is no rush away from August

No one wants to hear that first bell.

Stop time.

Stay here.

Breathe.

 

copyright 2014

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Poem for the first of August

 

It is always August.

If time would stop, it would stand still

Under the dog star.

Winter lingers, but all of that season is labor

Boots, gloves, scarves and coats

Off and on, on and off

Snow shovels and firewood

What shivering creature stops to contemplate a grey sky?

We spend March and April longing for June

And in May we are ecstatic and the days pass

Almost without our knowing

July is full swing

Long-planned travel, hours in the car

Hurry up and rest, hurry up and enjoy

.

Spring is bursting birth

and fall, dramatic death

But August is stasis

and we sit in the warm evening

by the still-warm water

and think it will always be this way,

it should always be this way.

There is no rush into August

Nothing is planned there

We sleep late

And sit outside all night

Who works or worries then?

There is no rush away from August

No one wants to hear that first bell.

Stop time.

Stay here.

Breathe.

 

copyright 2018

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Afternoon Poem, August 1, 2018

 

As this rain ebbs grey birds appear again

As from nowhere, they roost in high branches

And flick their tails and shake their heads, quicker than sparks

.

The long, compound leaves of the walnuts

Bow under the dripping wet weight, as if praying

As if giving thanks for this long and gentle blessing

.

The branches of the young black oak

Lift so slightly, like fingers tapping

In the slow breeze that whispers “All things are made new”

.

Quiet:  a male cardinal makes a red dot

In the green canopy of vines

And the interlocking arms of the maples

.

Now look at that odd and unrecognized species, two of them

Lighting in the very top, arguing with each other

Telling of joy and mystery and wisdom long forgotten

 

 

copyright 2018

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Facing David Dunn

Readers;  Here is a little more from the novel in progress.  To give you some context, “Rachel” below is Rachel Thompson, the main character in the book.  She is contemplating buying an old mansion in the little town where she lives in an effort to breathe some life back into the community.  In this scene she is forced into a conversation with an old acquaintance with whom she parted on bad terms.  Thanks for reading.  Ed.

 

Rachel stood by the tall windows and looked out onto the river in the late twilight.  On this winter evening the river would remain grey as the sky until nightfall when it would shine blacklike the wet pelt of a muskrat.  Tonight the river would hold no streaking reflections from the red and blue lights of pleasure boats that lit the water on summer nights and no flickering orange and gold from fishermans’ campfires that dotted the banks in spring and autumn.  The river was alone and silent now and its flow, though constant and perceptible, seemed pointless – an escape from darkness into darkness.

She stared at the river longing for its solitude.  She had come here tonight, to this last of the restaurants and clubs that once lined the riverbank in the town of Walhonde, at the invitation of Rhonda Pauley, a friend who had not informed her that David Dunn would be in attendance at this gathering.  She had not confronted the friend about that. It was possible but not likely that this friend may not have known that he would be there. But if she did know, it was certainly wrong of her not to tell Rachel. This friend, of all friends, knew the story between David and Rachel in every detail and knew of Rachel’s continuing resolve to stay clear of the man forever.

When she had decided to walk away from Jacob Eaton, David Dunn was a convenient means of doing so.  It was David Dunn, two years her senior and then home from college, who was there at Rhonda’s party and who played the role of whisking her away that night.  Her doing. No doubt about that. In fact, she had never denied it, even to herself. What had happened that night had happened according to her plan. This was her way of sending the message to Jacob that their affair, brief and formless as it had been, was over.  What she had come to realize over the years was that her treatment of Jacob – leaving him alone at the party with only the most perfunctory of good-byes, was simply unconscionable. She was young then, but she knew better. She could have been fairer to him. She could have talked it out with him.  He deserved at least that much. Her callous course of action was based not on ignorance or naivete but on laziness, cowardice and arrogance.

What she had not planned on was what went on between Jacob and David after that.   Jacob had gotten her message, loud and clear, and had held his temper and grief like a man.  She had only one more encounter with Jacob – the senior prom. They had agreed to go there together some weeks before and that being the last and highest ritual of the world they lived in then rather than a mere date that could simply be broken, they went on together in terrible tension, neither of them speaking of the elephant in the room.

When she and Jacob left the dance that evening, they saw that the hubcaps and all of the lug nuts had been removed from the wheels of his father’s car.  And there she was, standing on the asphalt lot in formal wear and heels at midnight with rain starting. As fate would have it – so she believed in the moment – David Dunn happened to be driving by just then and offered to take her home, out of the rain.  This time she got Jacob’s okay on the matter – what else could he possibly have said – and on the way home she heard a rattle in the back of David’s car and looked around to see the twenty lug nuts from Jacob’s father’s car in the floor of the back seat.

When they came to the stop sign at the bottom of Rachel’s street, she bolted from the car and walked the remaining block, heels, formal gown and all in the now pouring rain.  David Dunn stayed beside her, creeping in the car, begging her to get back in, telling her that he could explain, but she turned her face away.

Where things otherwise might have gone between Rachel and David no one knows, but once she saw the lug nuts it was the end of the line for him.  Not only had he humiliated a young man for whom she had genuine admiration, even a kind of love, he had made her complicit in the crime. She never accepted another phone call from Dunn though he telephoned her house every night until his summer job took him back out of town.  She never spoke of the matter to Jacob. How could she have credibly parsed through what parts of the multiple injuries inflicted on Jacob were her responsibility and which were not. Her break with him, that she had before that night hoped would eventually soften and heal, was now absolute.  She never knew how much he might have learned or what he may have surmised about her own part in the scheme.

The outrage and shame she felt that night had never abated.  She had never sought forgiveness or attempted to explain. She had hoped that she would never see David Dunn again.

But there he was, across the long banquet room, standing, drink in hand, chatting and laughing with a trio of his old high-school buddies.  It had been so long now that she could not really tell whether his relaxed joy in that conversation was unfeigned or if it was, as it had so often been before, his deliberate attempt to show himself, once again,  as one at ease and comfortable in the world, one who had long forgotten old failures and mistakes, one who had no regrets and whose triumphs in life had given him complete confidence in his own strength and wisdom.

To avoid him tonight would require more effort than it was worth and she stayed there by the window, watching his reflection in the glass as he approached.

“Hey, Rachel.  Man, it’s great to see you.  You look absolutely fantastic.”

“Oh, hello David.”

You know I didn’t hear about John till just a few weeks ago.  Well, a couple of months, really. I’m never in town anymore and I don’t get the paper.  I don’t know why nobody told me before. Anyway, I am sorry. I knew John. He was good guy.  A good husband, I’m sure.”

“Thank you.  Yes, he was.”

David Dunn waited for her to say more, but she only continued to watch the river flow.

“I heard that you’re thinking about buying that old house.”

“Yes.”

“I was in that old place one time.  It a church for a while, you know.”

“Yes.”

“But I wasn’t there to go to church.”  He grinned.

He waited again.  She continued her silent stare.

“You know, I’ve got some experience with that kind of thing.  I bought an old place on Jekyll Island a couple of years ago. Right after I sold my funeral homes.  You ever been on Jekyll?”

“No.”

“Well, it’s a beautiful place. Absolutely beautiful.  They’ve got building codes there. The whole island. There’s not a place on it under a million bucks.  All of it plantation or Victorian. The Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers built the place up a hundred and fifty years ago and it’s been maintained and restored beautifully.  I sold my house there, but I’m still a member of the Island Club. Here, let me show you the house after I fixed it up.”

He pulled his phone from his pocket of his sport jacket and thumbed the screen till he found the photo and then held the phone in front of her.

She nodded.  “Oh. That’s very nice.”

“Well, it is nice.  The whole island is nice.  And you’ve got to come there and take a look around.  There are some of us – all the old crowd – we’re going to spend a week there in February.   I think Rhonda and Bill may be coming. Weather is great then. I’ve got a whole floor of the club reserved for us.  Might change your mind about that old Phillips place.”

“No.  It wouldn’t.”

“Rachel, you could be making a mistake.  I wouldn’t want to see you do that. When I did that house on Jekyll I sold it for twice what I had in it.  You couldn’t do that here. You’d never get back half of what you’ll have to put into it. You couldn’t sell the Taj Mahal in this town.  Anybody with any money is looking to leave.”

“I know that.  You ever think about why everybody wants to leave?  How much of the disintegration here might be our fault?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’m sure you don’t.  You should, but you don’t.”

 

copyright 2018

 

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life above the common

Joseph E Bird

Mohler1911 Mohler House, St. Albans, WV, 1911

Life above the common.

I really like that phrase.  I stole it from Larry Ellis.  It’s the theme of his novel-in-progress about Rachel, a young woman, who, upon the death of her husband, faces a choice.  She can either take her life insurance proceeds and live the good life sipping margaritas on the beach, or do something far more risky in the hope of building a life with meaning and purpose, one whose legacy will endure long after she is gone.   For Rachel, there is no choice.

She’ll buy the house – the house that once was a symbol of everything that was right and good about her town – and sink her savings into its restoration.  Not for her own vain pleasure, and not for the sake of an unrealistic nostalgic vision, but for the people of Walhonde, who may see in its restoration…

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More From The Book

Here’s a little more on the background of Rachel Thompson, the main character of the book.  Ed.

Rachel stood by the tall windows looking out onto the river in the late twilight.

On this winter evening the river would remain dull grey until nightfall when it would shine black like the wet pelt of a muskrat.  Tonight there would be no reflections from the red and blue lights of pleasure boats or from fishermans’ campfires along the banks that lit the summer nights.  The river was alone and silent now and its flow, though constant and perceptible, seemed pointless – an escape from darkness into darkness.

She stared at the river longing for its solitude.  She had come here tonight, to this last of the restaurants and clubs that once lined the riverbank in the town of Walhonde, at the invitation of Rhonda Pauley, a friend who had not informed her that David Dunn would be in attendance at this gathering.  She had not confronted the friend about that. It was possible but not likely that she may not have known that he would be there. But if she did know, it was certainly wrong of her not to tell Rachel. Rhonda Pauley, of all people, knew the story between David and Rachel in every detail and knew of Rachel’s continuing resolve to stay clear of the man forever.

When she had decided to walk away from Jacob Eaton, David Dunn was a convenient means of doing so.  It was David Dunn, two years her senior and then home from college, who was there at Rhonda’s party and who played the role of whisking her away that night.  Her doing. No doubt about that. In fact, she had never denied it, even to herself. What had happened that night had happened according to her plan. This was her way of sending the message to Jacob that their affair, brief and formless as it had been, was over.  What she had come to realize over the years was that her treatment of Jacob – leaving him alone at the party with only the most perfunctory of good-byes, was simply unconscionable. She was young then, but she knew better. She could have been fairer to him. She could have talked it out with him.  He deserved at least that much. Her callous course of action was based not on ignorance or naivete but on laziness, cowardice and arrogance.

What she had not planned on was what went on between Jacob and David after that.   Jacob had gotten the message, loud and clear, and had held his temper and grief like a man.  She had only one more encounter with Jacob – the senior prom. They had agreed to go there together some weeks before and that being the last and highest ritual of the world they lived in then rather than a mere date that could simply be broken, they went on together in terrible tension, neither of them speaking of the elephant in the room.

When she and Jacob left the dance that evening, they saw that the hubcaps and all of the lug nuts had been removed from the wheels of his father’s car.  And there she was, standing on the asphalt lot in formal wear and heels at midnight with rain starting. As fate would have it – so she believed in the moment – David Dunn happened to be driving by just then and offered to take her home, out of the rain.  This time she got Jacob’s okay on the matter – what else could he possibly have said – and on the way home she heard a rattle in the back of David’s car and looked around to see the twenty lug nuts from Jacob’s father’s car in the floor of the back seat.

Where things otherwise might have gone between Rachel and David no one knows, but once she saw the lug nuts it was the end of the line for him.  Not only had he humiliated a young man for whom she had genuine admiration, even a kind of love, he had made her complicit in the crime. She never accepted another phone call from Dunn though he telephoned her house every night until his summer job took him back out of town.  She never spoke of the matter to Jacob. How could she have credibly parsed through what parts of the multiple injuries were her responsibility and which were not. Her break with him, that she had before that night hoped would eventually soften and heal, was now absolute. She never knew how much he might have learned or what he may have surmised about her own part in the scheme.

The outrage and shame she felt that night had never abated.  She had never sought forgiveness or attempted to explain. She had hoped that she would never see David Dunn again.

But there he was, across the long dining room, standing, drink in hand, chatting and laughing with a trio of his old high-school buddies.  It had been so long now that she could not really tell whether his comfort and joy in that conversation was unfeigned or if it was, as it had so often been before, his deliberate attempt to show himself, once again,  as one at ease and comfortable in the world, one who had long forgotten old failures and mistakes, one who had no regrets and whose triumphs in life had given him complete confidence in his own strength and wisdom.

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More From The Book

Here’s a little more on the background of Rachel Thompson, the main character of the book.  Ed.

Rachel stood by the tall windows looking out onto the river in the late twilight.  

On this winter evening the river would remain dull grey until nightfall when it would shine black like the wet pelt of a muskrat.  Tonight there would be no reflections from the red and blue lights of pleasure boats or from fishermans’ campfires along the banks that lit the summer nights.  The river was alone and silent now and its flow, though constant and perceptible, seemed pointless – an escape from darkness into darkness.

She stared at the river,  longing for its solitude.  She had come here tonight, to this last of the restaurants and clubs that once lined the riverbank in the town of Walhonde, at the invitation of Rhonda Pauley, a friend who had not informed her that David Dunn would be in attendance at this gathering.  She had not confronted the friend about that. It was possible but not likely that she may not have known that he would be there. But if she did know, it was certainly wrong of her not to tell Rachel. Rhonda Pauley, of all people, knew the story between David and Rachel in every detail and knew of Rachel’s continuing resolve to stay clear of the man forever.

When she had decided to walk away from Jacob Eaton, David Dunn was a convenient means of doing so.  It was David Dunn, two years her senior and then home from college, who was there at Rhonda’s party and who played the role of whisking her away that night.  Her doing. No doubt about that. In fact, she had never denied it, even to herself. What had happened that night had happened according to her plan. This was her way of sending the message to Jacob that their affair, brief and formless as it had been, was over.  What she had come to realize over the years was that her treatment of Jacob – leaving him alone at the party with only the most perfunctory of good-byes, was simply unconscionable. She was young then, but she knew better. She could have been fairer to him. She could have talked it out with him.  He deserved at least that much. Her callous course of action was based not on ignorance or naivete but on laziness, cowardice and arrogance.

What she had not planned on was what went on between Jacob and David after that.   Jacob had gotten the message, loud and clear, and had held his temper and grief like a man.  She had only one more encounter with Jacob – the senior prom. They had agreed to go there together some weeks before and that being the last and highest ritual of the world they lived in then rather than a mere date that could simply be broken, they went on together in terrible tension, neither of them speaking of the elephant in the room.

When she and Jacob left the dance that evening, they saw that the hubcaps and all of the lug nuts had been removed from the wheels of his father’s car.  And there she was, standing on the asphalt lot in formal wear and heels at midnight with rain starting. As fate would have it – so she believed in the moment – David Dunn happened to be driving by just then and offered to take her home, out of the rain.  This time she got Jacob’s okay on the matter – what else could he possibly have said – and on the way home she heard a rattle in the back of David’s car and looked around to see the twenty lug nuts from Jacob’s father’s car in the floor of the back seat.

Where things otherwise might have gone between Rachel and David no one knows, but once she saw the lug nuts it was the end of the line for him.  Not only had he humiliated a young man for whom she had genuine admiration, even a kind of love, he had made her complicit in the crime. She never accepted another phone call from Dunn though he telephoned her house every night until his summer job took him back out of town.  She never spoke of the matter to Jacob. How could she have credibly parsed through what parts of the multiple injuries were her responsibility and which were not. Her break with him, that she had before that night hoped would eventually soften and heal, was now absolute. She never knew how much he might have learned or what he may have surmised about her own part in the scheme.

The outrage and shame she felt that night had never abated.  She had never sought forgiveness or attempted to explain. She had hoped that she would never see David Dunn again.

But there he was, across the long dining room, standing, drink in hand, chatting and laughing with a trio of his old high-school buddies.  It had been so long now that she could not really tell whether his comfort and joy in that conversation was unfeigned or if it was, as it had so often been before, his deliberate attempt to show himself, once again,  as one at ease and comfortable in the world, one who had long forgotten old failures and mistakes, one who had no regrets and whose triumphs in life had given him complete confidence in his own strength and wisdom.

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Newport News 1913

Readers;  Here is the latest bit of work on the novel in progress.  I have introduced a character by the name of WK Vanderbilt.  He was a real guy and really did most of the stuff that I attribute to him in this piece.  He really was a major shareholder in the C&O Railway; he really did breed and race champoinship thoroughbred horses; and his daughter, Consuelo, really was married to the Duke of Marlborough and really did live in a palace.  I am using this real character as the means to get my major fictional character – Isaac Martin – over to Europe where he will meet the girl of his dreams.  Thanks for reading.  Ed.

Image result for newport news railyard aerial photos

 

The grand corner window of the office of W. K. Vanderbilt looked out over the wide, terminal railyard of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.  He was a principal shareholder in the flourishing C&O and his was the entire top floor of the brick headquarters that towered over the thirteen sets of rails, the long, red-tile-roofed depot and the gigantic roundhouse there in the port of Newport News, Virginia.  Here all traffic from the west – from as far away as St. Louis – came to rest before being loaded onto the great, ocean-going ships docked there in the blue James RIver that made the locomotives and freightcars look like toys.

 

On the opposite wall were his trophies: a line of some twenty-four blue ribbons for the wins of his thoroughbred horses – Maintenon, winner of the Grand Prix de St-Cloud and the Prix du Jockey Club, both in 1906; Montrose II and Petulance,both his own, who broke the finish line in a dead heat at the Prix de la Foret in Paris in 1911.  Above the ribbons hung horns and hides from his five African safaris: eland, kudu, waterbuck, wildebeest, lion and leopard. On another wall, beside the doorway, there hung a framed crest of the Duke of Marlborough, his son-in-law. W.K. Vanderbilt had spent one summer as a guest of his daughter and the Duke at Blenheim Palace. He loved the life there: the perfect symmetry and restfulness of it all; the exquisite dining, night after night; the constant flow of engaging company – he had met both Arturo Toscanini and Enrico Caruso.  But Vanderbilt’s estate and his true love was this moving world of steel and timbers over which he ruled.

 

This, after all, was the world that was being created and the potential that passed on these rails daily surely pointed to a world that would overwhelm the aristocracy and create prosperity that would cover the entire Earth, such that had never been imagined.  Men had already devised a machine that could take them flying through the air. Vanderbilt did not regard flight as a passing novelty or game as did many of his contemporaries. He saw, day by day, how commerce grew, how the shipyards continued to fill with more and better goods, made faster and with less expense than the day before.  Free men would build and invent and improve. He knew that the sky was not the limit. One day men would fly from Newport News to Blenheim Palace.

 

Vanderbilt’s entire office, up to the nine-foot ceiling, was paneled in clear butternut hardwood, the color of creamed coffee.  He had found the wood himself by inspecting remarkable carloads of lumber that came down the C&O line from West Virginia. Here he found rare and high-grade hardwoods that were cut into boards and beams for rough construction.  With a little research he located the mill of Isaac Martin in Walhonde, West Virginia, and ordered a carload of center-cut butternut. Solid panels, four feet by nine feet, three-quarters of an inch thick.

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Newport News 1913

Readers;  Here is the latest bit of work on the novel in progress.  I have introduced a character by the name of WK Vanderbilt.  He was a real guy and really did most of the stuff that I attribute to him in this piece.  He really was a major shareholder in the C&O Railway; he really did breed and race champoinship thoroughbred horses; and his daughter, Consuelo, really was married to the Duke of Marlborough and really did live in a palace.  I am using this real character as the means to get my major fictional character – Isaac Martin – over to Europe where he will meet the girl of his dreams.  Thanks for reading.  Ed.

Image result for newport news railyard aerial photos

 

The grand corner window of the office of W. K. Vanderbilt looked out over the wide, terminal railyard of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.  He was a principal shareholder in the flourishing C&O and his was the entire top floor of the brick headquarters that towered over the thirteen sets of rails, the long, red-tile-roofed depot and the gigantic roundhouse there in the port of Newport News, Virginia.  Here all traffic from the west – from as far away as St. Louis – came to rest before being loaded onto the great, ocean-going ships docked there in the blue James RIver that made the locomotives and freightcars look like toys.

 

On the opposite wall were his trophies: a line of some twenty-four blue ribbons for the wins of his thoroughbred horses – Maintenon, winner of the Grand Prix de St-Cloud and the Prix du Jockey Club, both in 1906; Montrose II and Petulance,both his own, who broke the finish line in a dead heat at the Prix de la Foret in Paris in 1911.  Above the ribbons hung horns and hides from his five African safaris: eland, kudu, waterbuck, wildebeest, lion and leopard. On another wall, beside the doorway, there hung a framed crest of the Duke of Marlborough, his son-in-law. W.K. Vanderbilt had spent one summer as a guest of his daughter and the Duke at Blenheim Palace. He loved the life there: the perfect symmetry and restfulness of it all; the exquisite dining, night after night; the constant flow of engaging company – he had met both Arturo Toscanini and Enrico Caruso.  But Vanderbilt’s estate and his true love was this moving world of steel and timbers over which he ruled.

 

This, after all, was the world that was being created and the potential that passed on these rails daily surely pointed to a world that would overwhelm the aristocracy and create prosperity that would cover the entire Earth, such that had never been imagined.  Men had already devised a machine that could take them flying through the air. Vanderbilt did not regard flight as a passing novelty or game as did many of his contemporaries. He saw, day by day, how commerce grew, how the shipyards continued to fill with more and better goods, made faster and with less expense than the day before.  Free men would build and invent and improve. He knew that the sky was not the limit. One day men would fly from Newport News to Blenheim Palace.

 

Vanderbilt’s entire office, up to the nine-foot ceiling, was paneled in clear butternut hardwood, the color of creamed coffee.  He had found the wood himself by inspecting remarkable carloads of lumber that came down the C&O line from West Virginia. Here he found rare and high-grade hardwoods that were cut into boards and beams for rough construction.  With a little research he located the mill of Isaac Martin in Walhonde, West Virginia, and ordered a carload of center-cut butternut. Solid panels, four feet by nine feet, three-quarters of an inch thick.

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Isaac Martin Meets W. K. Vanderbilt

Readers;  Here is another bit from the novel in progress.  This is a bit of the back story that takes place in the early part of the 20th century, before WWI.

 

Related image

 

 

 

Isaac Martin’s timber was dragged out of the Walhonde River at Lock Number Two just above Lower Falls.  There it was sawed daily into posts and boards and loaded onto freight cars on the mill’s wye track that connected to the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway for destinations east to Newport News, Virginia, and west as far as St. Louis, Missouri.   In Newport News at least ten cars a day of  Martin’s fine hardwood were unloaded and  transferred to ships headed across the Atlantic Ocean.  The fantastic output of the Martin Lumber Company and the unmatched quality of the wood, most of it still first-growth cherry, walnut, oak and poplar, caught the eye of W.K. Vanderbilt, a major shareholder in the C&O, who from a mahogany-lined corner office on the top floor of the railway headquarters, overlooked and marshalled the unrelenting flow of commerce on the thirteen sets of tracks that ended in Newport News.

Vanderbilt was a good Presbyterian who knew that man entered heaven by the grace of God alone, but he was also a good industrialist who knew that the multitudes on the earth were drawn out of poverty only by those few chosen men who saw opportunity and worked like the devil to exploit it.   When he saw such men, or the evidence of such men, he sought them out.  The nation had been founded more than a hundred years before, but it was only now being built by the men who laid railroads and constructed dams and organized workers into assembly lines.  He would connect with every such man he could.  They were the new world; the world in which he hoped to secure a high place for himself and his family.  He had even heard that there were brothers in Dayton, Ohio, who were building machines in which men could fly.

And so Vanderbilt tracked down Isaac Martin and invited him to come fishing for Brook trout in Hughes Creek on the grounds of the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.  The palatial hotel had its very own railroad terminal on the C&O line and Vanderbilt sent one of his personal railcoaches west to Walhonde to carry Martin the 112 miles east to the grand resort.  They met there on a warm Monday morning in late May and after a long day in the cold stream and an outdoor dinner of grilled trout prepared by the chef Vanderbilt had brought along, Mr. Vanderbilt got to the point.

“My daughter is married to the Duke of Marlborough.  He has connections to a man by the name of Arthur Von Suttner.  He’s an Austrian nobleman and possessed of great landholdings in the Caucasus Mountains.  I take it you’ve never been there.”

“No.  I’ve never been abroad at all.  Busy, you know.”

“Yes.  I do know.  That’s why I mention Baron Von Suttner.  He’s interested in starting a timber business.  His land is much like the land here in West Virginia.  Old mountains, covered with uncut forests.  Miles and miles of ancient hardwoods.  His property is bigger than the State of Vermont.  I’ve written to him about your operation.  He’s interested.  He’d like to visit and take a look at how you do things here.”

“I’ve never entertained nobility.  I don’t know how I’d have the proper hospitality.”

“That’s where I come in.  I’ll give him the use of the coach that you came here in.  Complete with a staff.  I’ve got to do that much.  It’s a family obligation.  My son-in-law would have an interest in the Baron’s operations.  It would benefit my daughter.  Keep her secure for life.  The grandkids, too.  Is there a place there at your operation where he could park the coach?”

“Yes.  I’d be glad to accommodate him there.”

“There will be benefits for you, too, you know.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, for starters, you can expect a return of the hospitality.  That is their custom.  It would be an embarrassment to him – and his family – not to have you visit there in Bavaria.  It’s not only a beautiful place; you’ll meet some important, influential people there.  Doors will open for you.  You’ll have a chance for business all over the world.”

“I don’t mean to be flippant or dismissive, but I have about all the work that I can handle right now.”

“I’m not talking about more work.  I’m talking about more money.  Maybe even for less work.  I’ve seen the lumber you send here day by day.  All of it cut up for rough construction.   The wood you have there, virgin hardwood, first growth hardwood, is in the right markets worth ten times what you are now getting for it.  The cherry, the walnut, the poplar.  Outside this country that wood would be shaved into veneer and used in finishing the finest of furniture.  Tables and chairs and wainscoting that will sit in castles and country houses.  With the right connections over there you can multiply your income without having to hire a single extra employee.”

 

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