by Guest Columnist Ed Sasser
What kind of name is that for a boat? folks ask me. So, even though I'm
only just laying the keel, I've prepared this piece to frame and put in the galley.
Makes me think naming boats after traits of ancestors might be the way
an honest noodler ought to go.
M/V Coal Kicker.
Shortly after the stock market crash of 1929, the young family was forced to move to
a more meager but more frugal household along the railroad tracks north of town.
This meant the father had further to go to work for even less money and many of the
"man-of-the-house" chores fell to the eldest son who was seven at the time.
The Minnesota winter was overdue and the family had scarcely a cord of wood put by-stacked
against the drafty shack. Each day the seven year old would take his two younger brothers
out and look for kindling to supplement the supply.
As it happened, the daily train that ran past the house was full of coal offloaded
in Duluth and some of it would occasionally fall off the train as it barreled through the
outside turn past the residence. One of the brakemen noticed the young trio
scrambling for the nuggets as they rolled down the right-of-way toward the pond.
From that day forward there seemed to be increasing amounts of coal sliding off the
top of the gondola cars on that turn.
"Usually ain't no real shortages of anything in the world," my dad would
say years later. "Just sometimes stuff's not in the right spot." He
spent his life "kicking coal" of one sort or another-re-routing resources to the
kind of folks who needed it the most and usually didn't ask for anything. He thought that
was the best way he could pay back the stranger on the train-the Coal Kicker he remembers
though the eyes of a seven year old during that long, cold Minnesota winter in 1930.
Every day we have the opportunity to be coal kickers and have a positive impact on someone
that can last for generations.