A very peculiar event occurred last week during opening ceremony; an event so strange, so unusual that you may even have trouble believing. It started out just as any other Tuesday would. We set up opening ceremony down by the Everett Rd covered bridge, we played instruments as the students arrived, and we sang All the Rivers Run just like we always do. Ranger Heather quizzed the students about National Parks just like we do every week. The students knew there were 397 sites, they are set aside to preserve and protect, all US citizens are partial owners, etc. Everything was going great. We got to the point where we introduce the teaching staff for the week, AND THEN… we realized the Book of History had been left open.
I know what you’re thinking, “so what if the Book of History was left open, people read about history all the time”. Well, that’s what we all thought too until a woman dressed in a bizarre outfit came walking through the covered bridge.
At first, we thought maybe it was one of the students’ teachers playing a practical joke. But, by the look on the students’ faces, they didn’t know who this woman was either. We called the woman over hoping at least to get an explanation of her wardrobe; what we found out was far stranger than any of us could have imagined.
Our mystery woman hurried over and immediately launched into a story about her missing daughter, Emily. One minute Emily was tied to the back of the canal boat and the next, she was gone! She wanted to know if we had seen Emily, or how to get back to the Silver Bell. Apparently, the boat was scheduled to depart from Akron with oats from the Schumacher mill and deliver them to Cleveland by the end of the week. Looking for Emily was putting the whole voyage behind schedule. The woman went on and on about the canal as if it was still functioning. Then it hit us. The CVEEC staff all stared at one another for a minute, mouths dropped, and eyes wide. We’d all suddenly come to the conclusion that our mystery woman had fallen out of the Book of History!
It was Laura (a 1st year intern) who stepped up to sort out the problem. With a few questions, we figured out the woman’s name was Bridie O’Brian. She was a hairpin on the canal boat (meaning she does the cooking and cleaning) and she was convinced that the year was 1852. Through further investigation, we found a page in the Book of History depicting the canal era in the 1800s. Beaming up at us through the glossy page was a picture of Bridie with her canal boat and her daughter Emily tied to the back.
Regardless of how exactly Bridie had fallen out of the book, our new mission was to get her back. She had to find her missing daughter, and her husband surely couldn’t cook for himself! Laura and Zack (another 1st year intern) decided to take on the task of building a time machine; neither had prior experience doing so, but we all felt semi-confident in their abilities. And really, what other choice did we have?
It was an exciting week for Bridie here in the year 2012. Highlights included riding in a car (or horseless carriage as Bridie referred to it), learning about sustainability, and women wearing men’s trousers! She learned about how we polluted the Cuyahoga River, how it caught on fire, and how we have since cleaned it up a bit. She learned that the canal no longer functions, but that we have new and exciting forms of transportation like cars, trains, and airplanes! She made friends with students and staff alike, but continued to express her concern for her family back in 1852.
Luckily, by the end of the week, Laura and Zack had finished the time machine. Bridie’s picture was slowly fading away from history! We had to act fast and figured closing ceremony would be a good time to say our goodbyes. After singing one last chorus of All the Rivers Run, Laura and Zack dressed Bridie with her time traveling accessories. She had a poncho for protection, a few wires to hook her into the machine, a magnifying glass to look for her portal, and some goldfish crackers in case she got hungry along the way. The students waved goodbye as Bridie walked into the forest to find the time machine. That was the last we ever saw of Bridie O’Brian.
Bridie’s picture reappeared in the Book of History shortly after she vanished, so we think all is well. Everything has been returned to its rightful place. And, it should stay that way, that is, unless the Book of History is left open again…