for Frank Tom, circa 1875-1949, ferryman
at Rockport, WA, crossing, circa 1915-1945
Stout and strong, a man of few words,
he waves a log truck on, holds another back.
He knows when the ferry is loaded
for a river running high, a river running low.
Hand-over-hand, he turns a windlass,
winching bridle cable shackled to line
sweeping upward to a travelling carriage
riding a skyline between spar-trees on either shore.
He anchors the windlass, hurries to the
bankside apron arm, climbs onto its
counterbalance, grips the top rail,
forcing his weight downward, leveraging
the fulcrum lifting the apron. He kicks
a bail over the end, secures it to the deck,
scans the current for swirling debris.
In a bracing stance at the ferry’s stern,
he drives his pike into the gravelly shallows,
pushing out of the calm of a log boom lea
into the ricocheting current. Overhead,
the carriage rattles, jerking forward
with each roll of the current.
The skyline vibrates, sings
as its spar-tree guys shimmy and strain.
He unchains the windlass, stomps on
a brake pedal, slowly unspools the cable,
widening the ferry’s angle, reducing its speed.
Upper Skagit River, WA
World War II