A Brief Visit to Harper’s Ferry and a Mysterious Man

So now a little history:

On October 16, 1859, the radical abolitionist John Brown led a group of 21 men in a raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Five of the men were African American: three free African Americans, one a freed slave and one a fugitive slave. During this time assisting fugitive slaves was illegal under the Fugitive Slave Act. Brown attacked and captured several buildings; he hoped to use the captured weapons to initiate a slave uprising throughout the South. (Wikipedia)

Important history, though that’s not the Harpers Ferry we visited. That one is in West Virginia. Harpers Ferry, Iowa is a little town along the out-of-the-way side of the Mississippi River with a few hundred souls. It has a marina, a gas station, a pizza place, a dinner club, a boat repair place, and a teeny tiny bank.

When we got off the boat and walked to the road a man on a golf cart stopped in the road in front of us, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” he said right off. “Uh,” we said confused. “I thought you guys were trying to tell me you were fishing. Where are you going?” The fella was easily in his 80s, and though perhaps in a delirium, was spry and energetic. We told him we were heading downtown, if there was such a thing. “Hop on!” he insisted. And after a little jostling, Me, Mikey, and Hazel all joined him on the little golfcart.


I introduced myself and the man mumbled a greeting. I didn’t think he’d told me his name. “Yep, and that’s the way it’s going to stay,” he said. Okay. So we toured town, such at it was, at 15 mph with an anonymous mystery man waving at neighbors like we were the grand marshals in an abbreviated parade. It was kind of madcap.

He wanted to tour us around more, but we had him drop us off at the gas station, as far as we could tell, the more or less center of the one block business district.

When we asked a question of the woman who was running the gas station, she said, “Well, I wouldn’t know. I’m not from around here. I’ve only lived here ten years.” It made me wonder how many decades she’d have to live here before any of the people who grew up in town considered her a local. Ever?


Hazel was happy for the chance to pee, run around a bit, and pose for a photo. We got cream for White Russians and were off.


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