Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #112

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #112

…This has been a day for the ages…

Day for the Ages-001

The crew of the River Queen lowers a rope ladder.

“Hurry now,” urges Captain Longfellow to his remaining passengers.

“Aren’t you coming?” they ask their newfound friend, forged by strife. You learn a lot about people in times like this.

“My job is the safety of my passengers.” Phileas Longfellow lives up to his name, as does Catfish Albert Wright: “And everybody knows a captain must stay with his ship!”

Freighter

The Conquistador

So, as in the style of Noah, two by two the remaining couple dozen passengers of the River Queen are ferried to the foreign vessel. Speaking in a combination of three or four tongues, Catfish Al convinces the Conquistador, a colorful, aromatic freighter, loaded with coffee beans and rum, to drop its anchor and ride out the pending storm, pointing out the hail of lightning and accompanying roar of thunder.

Funnel clouds Fierce winds and torrential rains pummel the Delta once again. Barely a week has passed since the hurricane, now a squall of a different breed attacks from the northwest. Though sparing the immediate vicinity, a pair of funnel clouds can be seen, traveling in tandem to the east. For the privilege of escaping the worst, pecan sized hail rains down on them, accumulating by the inch before they begin to melt.

    Upon seeing welcome sunlight to the west, Catfish Albert Wright doffs a new Sombrero Catite, a spanish hat obtained in a fair game of chance during the storm. He bids adieu.

“If you ever come Tallahassee way, please grace us with a visit,” insists John Ferrell.

“You know, I might just do that. I have been around Old Man River for too many years now.” Al reflects on his life. “Do you have any lakes or rivers for my boat?”

“More than you can count, though I must say that you would raise a few eyebrows and spook all the livestock with that contraption.”

“Wait ‘til they see my motorized bicycle.”

riverboat    About the time the hugs and handshakes have been exchanged, a peek of the setting sun shines on the shifting silhouette of the River Queen. Considerable rainfall, collect by all the tributaries upstream, has swelled the great river above the silt line.

“Look! She’s moving!” James noticed. Cheers and applause overspread the freighter. Phileas Longfellow waves out the window of his bridge, having built up enough steam to set the huge paddle-wheeler to motion.

“What a triumphant moment!” John Ferrell embraces his children.

This has been a day for the ages.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Legends-001

Episode #112


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #111

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #111

…I have family in Dayton, Ohio and a couple of cousins  messing around down in North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur…

The Wright's-001

They make their way over, not around endless fingers of lowland, occasionally gaining open water, finally expansive open water, with grassy land a hundred or more yards to the starboard.

For no apparent reason, they suddenly knife inland, down a narrow path of water and a gauntlet of tall marsh grasses. Just as suddenly, up pops the Mighty, Mighty Mississippi.

“Pilot Town!” Catfish Al points and yells to a pile of twisted wood that used to be a village.River Queen-001

“The River Queen!” John Ferrell blurts.

They also spy the listing boat, longing to be freed from the soggy silt, washed into the river from farmland upstream. Shipping has resumed on the river, but they can only get so close, without risking going aground themselves.

Without a word, Catfish Al circles around to the higher port side of the vessel, then navigating to the starboard. They are greeted by the crew.

”Who are you? What is that craft? Where did you come from?” Each has their own query.

“Me, Albert Wright – and he, the father of the newly marrieds.”

“My name is John Ferrell and I am here for James and Abigail. There may be another bad storm coming in from the north.”

“At least it won’t be a typhoon.” Captain Longfellow is thankful for that. “We were wondering why the balloons stopped coming.”

“We can ferry you to one those ships sailing upstream.” He points to an example, a ship flying the flag of Brazil or Argentina or some South American country.

Freighter

”We’ve been helplessly watching those boats for hours, didn’t imagine a nifty skiff like this to come along.” He looks sideways at Al’s invention.

John is anxious to see the kids, but cannot help quizzing the inventor of the clever craft, “Albert Wright… Wright… Your name sounds familiar.”

  “I have family in Dayton, Ohio and a couple of cousins messing around down in North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur.

“No, I was thinking of the Wrights over there in Mobile.”

 “Nope, no relatives in Alabama that I know of.”

  “How did you get the nickname, Catfish?”

  “I guess I don’t look like an Albert…?”

“Father!” James and Abbey look down the side of the River Queen.

The crew lowers a rope ladder.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #111


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #110

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #110

…”I told those balloon guys I would help, but I think they think I am peculiar, so they put me off, the fools…

While everyone else fearfully looks for possible shelter, John Ferrell asks anyone who will listen, “Do you know anyone who will go into the Delta?” Not many even seem to listen. Those who do, shake their head no.

He is reduced to entreating a person who looks like a bum/hobo looking sluggard, feeding pigeons on a bench along Bayou St. John. He asks him the same desperate question.

“Catfish Al,” he spits out.

John is taken aback by a response that is a possible answer.

The ragged man simply points to a rickety pier, with a strange craft lashed to its warped gray wood. An interesting chap tends to what looks like a flatboat… with what looks like a motorcar engine and fan blade mounted at the rear.

John Ferrell approaches with caution, not knowing what to make of it. He musters the courage to ask, “Mr. Catfish?”

pilot town“Close enough,” Al responds. “What do you want and why aren’t you runnin’ for the hills like the others?”

“I need to find a way to, I think they said, Pilot Town?”

“Yes, Pilot Town, a delta settlement, down the Great River Road. Hear tell the hurricane wiped it out.”

River Queen-001   More news than John really wanted to know. “I guess… I don’t know… but I do know my son and his wife are stranded on the River Queen.”

“Yea, I heard she’s mucked up.” Catfish Al is nonchalant in his account of what he knows. “I told those balloon guys I would help, but I think they think I am peculiar, so they put me off, the fools.”

“The balloons are grounded and I need to find a way to get to Pilot Town. Can you get me there?” he asks, now cautiously optimistic.

“Let’s go……….” he extends his hand begging for a name.

 “John. John Ferrell.”

  “Come on stranger John, sit yourself at my feet and grab those handles on either side.” Al pulls goggles over his eyes. “I wanted to outrace that northwester anyway.”

Al spins a blade, attached by an axis to a now noisy motor. After casting off tethers, he leaps to a high seat, increases power and away they go, skipping across the water like a skillfully tossed flat stone. They whiz up the bayou, meeting the waters of Lake Pontchartrain at a speed rarely achieved on land or sea.

“Keep your mouth shut!” Al shouts over the roar of the exposed engine and the whir of the blade.

No sooner than John turns to ask, “Why?” a swamp bug splats against his cheek. “Oh.” He scrapes the remains away.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Pilot Town-001

Episode #110


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #108

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #108

…Tossed onto the sprawling mud like a toy, fully three hundred yards from permanent water, at a staggering 20 degree angle, the River Queen boasts many survivors…

Aftermath-001

Father Ferrell had thought he would be on his own in his search for James and Abbey, alone in a strange city renowned for its crime and disease.

At least he will not be alone.

At least they are still alive.

Tossed onto the mud like a toy, fully three hundred yards from permanent water, at a staggering 20 degree angle, the River Queen boasts many survivors. But it is horribly out of place at its present semi-dry dock. It may take the spring flood waters to naturally return it to sufficient buoyancy.

Until then, James and Abigail wonder, how on earth rescuers will negotiate the swampy wild, especially considering the pockets of quasi-satisfied alligators; scavenging the dead fish and distressed wildlife. Those who chose a lifeboat that did not stay upright, meet the same repulsive fate. So distasteful is the scene, not even the biggest, toughest, manly man is able to stomach it. In fact, the crew has closed all exterior deck to passengers. They have food and water. A radio will be their contact with the outside world.

80 Days

“I know this isn’t how you expected your cruise on the Queen to end, but things may have turned out much worse,” relates Captain Phileas Longfellow. His foreknowledge of a spectacular rescue effort has him choosing his words carefully. He asks of already shaken cruisers, “How many of you have read the book, Around the World in Eighty Days?” About one-half of the seventy-five hands are raised. “Jules Verne is my mother’s favorite author, the inspiration for my first name. I do not consider myself an equal of Phileas Fogg, but we will soon have something in common with the fictional balloonist of globetrotting fame..”

They are given a firm clue of what is in store. For folks who have never been higher than the fourth floor of a big city building, the thought of ballooning is more than a stretch.

“I can see that some of you may be afraid of heights, but I have been told that it is the only way we are going to get out of here. Those of you who know you have a problem with heights, please come forward and we will match you with people who are not. Remember it is the only way we can get back to New Orleans.”

James and Abigail look at each other. Newly wed, they have much to learn about each other. This topic is one that has eluded those celebrating their golden anniversary.

“I have jumped from the loft in our biggest barn,” Abbey says proudly, speaking of her short term role as a tomboy.

 “I have a tree fort in the tallest oak on Hillside Estate.” James describes his prowess as a boys-boy.

Captain Longfellow describes the operation further. “The Army Air Corps, stationed at Fort Pickens… that is at Pensacola… are sailing twelve balloons from their aerial observation unit. They will begin arriving here in when wind conditions allow, needing a southeast quartering direction for optimum flying. Beside the balloonist, they hold six people. The flights will be spaced fifteen minutes apart. The crew will stay with the River Queen.

Age before beauty“The only bad news is that your baggage will have to wait for salvage operations. So make sure it is labeled and at the staging area at the rear of the ballroom.

“Lastly, as close as we can do it, we are going to evacuate according to the age of the individual or the average age of a family grouping. This is at my discretion–so ladies, please refrain from exaggerating your age–opposite to what you are used to.”

‘Well I never’, is the consensus common comment of women truly over 35, secretly hoping to pass for 45 or 50.

“That would place us on the last balloon,” laments the undeniably youthful Abigail. In the meantime, they have a ringside view of one of the most amazing rescues in the history of this low-lying country.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Phileas Fogg & Passepartout

Episode #108


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