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Angel In The Chiffarobe, Part Two of Four

By Staff | Dec 9, 2009

Wenna’s words each night may not have reached beyond the hilltops of the small valley and worried her parents, but they knew for their young daughter to ever read was unlikely. This broke their hearts and they longed for any answer. Until one day late last summer.

Will’s ability to read gave him the opportunity at the mine to become a boss. He preferred to work the mine with his crew, but the few extra dollars a month helped his family. He took some solace in the fact he still worked underground with his men.

Early last August the mine superintendent traveled beyond the valley to Morgantown to look at a new coal drilling machine. In the mine, holes for the dynamite were hand drilled in the seams of the black coal, a long and tedious task. This new piece of equipment could make the job easier and increase coal production. The mine owners were always looking for ways to increase production.

The superintendent traveled down the valley to ride the train into the city. Will had been instructed to bring the team of horses and the heavy cargo wagon over the hills to meet his boss in Morgantown. If he bought the new piece of equipment, Will could then take it back in the wagon to the mine. The owners did not want to spend money on having it delivered by the manufacturer, which would cost extra.

Will left early that August morning for the long slow trip through the mountain pass. He enjoyed the trip in the fresh air outside of the valley. The clip-clop of steel-shoed hooves made a rhythmic sound as he traveled the rough gravel road. He did not realize he was smiling as he bounced around in the wagon’s wooden seat as he enjoyed looking at the green hills. By late afternoon he could see the Monongahela River reflecting the sun like a long golden ribbon in the valley below. It seemed to show him the way down the mountain into town.

On the outskirts of the city was a small boarding house Will had stayed at when he worked as a blacksmith. He knew the man who ran the boarding house and he would stop and ask if he had a room for the night. It was late in the day and he would not like to travel the long rutted road after dark.

After a brief conversation, Will shook the man’s hand and told him he would return in a couple of hours with his load. As he left the porch he noticed an old wooden chiffarobe sitting off to one side. He turned to the man still standing on the porch and asked, “What are you going to do with that?” as he pointed to the cabinet. “Firewood,” said the man, “Just an old piece of junk I will use as kindling this winter.”

Will stood for a moment before asking, “Would you sell it?” The man walked to the edge of porch before saying, “If you’ll take that piece of junk with you tomorrow I’ll give it to you.” Will smiled and gave the man a wave before climbing back into his wagon.

Will had arrived late in the evening at the machine shop. Negotiations were still underway between the machine’s maker and Will’s boss.

Near the front door was a wooden box filled with old newspapers. He could see they were used to wrap small machine parts before shipping. He decided to pass the time until he was needed by retrieving one of the papers and sitting on the steps to wait. The paper was several months old, but that made little never mind to Will. His world was in the valley and news was always old when he heard it.

Near the last page in the bottom corner was a small advertisement. Will’s face lit up and he could barely contain his joy. About that time one of the machine shop workers stepped onto the porch and told Will that his boss wanted him to pull the wagon around back so they could load the drilling machine.

“May I have this paper?” Will asked the man. The man shook his head to okay the request.

It was dark and Will could see the yellow glow of gas lights as he returned to the old boarding house. Supper had been served but the owner kept a plate warm in the oven for his return. “In the morning I will help you load that old chiffarobe into your wagon.”

The two men talked of passed days as the evening drew late. Will excused himself, needing to get a good night’s sleep before making the long trip home.

As he laid on the bed supported by creaky springs, he held the paper over his head and kept re-reading the small advertisement. Sleep soon came to his smiling face.

The next morning, just after daylight, the two men loaded the chiffarobe onto the wagon next to the drilling machine. Will shook the man’s hand before climbing into the wagon seat and slapping the reins onto the horse’s backside to move them along.

The heavy load made the trip back even slower than before. He wanted to take no chance in damaging the new piece of equipment. It was nearly midnight when the heavy cargo wagon stopped in front of Will’s home.

Sarah had waited up for her husband’s return, sewing in the light of a burning lamp. Their home was the only one with a lamp still lit in the window at this time of night. He dusted himself before giving Sarah a hug as she greeted him. He looked at her as he lit the porch lantern and said, “Come see what I found for Wenna.”

Holding the lantern high to light the wooden cabinet Will explained how this would be a gift for their daughter. Something that was just hers. She could place her few positions in the drawers and closet, that way she would know where they were in her dark world.

The chiffarobe was old and well worn. The finish on the wood was chipped and scratched from years of rough use. The seams were slightly separated from the rain that had swelled the wood after sitting in the open on the porch.

In the corner was a small door with a mirror on it. The material on the back side that gave it a reflective finish had long ago cracked and pulled from the glass. But to Wenna this would a gift most precious.

Will looking down at his wife said, “I have something else”. From inside his shirt he pulled the yellowed newspaper page. He folded it and pointed to a small advertisement that read, Words for the blind. Learn to read by using the touch of the fingers. “Perhaps Wenna could someday read,” he said excitedly to Sarah.