In The Last Ferryman, Buck Shyrock finds himself wedged between the only life he’s ever known, and unstoppable progress—a bridge across his beloved river.
In 1939—and for several decades preceding that year—the only way to cross the river at Millerville, Illinois, was by ferry. It seemed there always was a ferry in Millerville. Buck Shyrock, the local ferryman, knew that better than most. Being a ferryman was in Buck’s blood—his grandfather and father both had ferried folks across the Wabash, from the Illinois side to the Indiana side and back again. To Buck’s way of thinking, Millerville was a “ferry town … and it’ll keep on bein’ a ferry town.” Even though in recent years there was talk of building a bridge across the river, that’s all it was—just talk. Buck was sure of it.
Buck’s certainty is shaken, however, by the appearance of Floyd Bailey, a roll of blueprints tucked firmly under his arm, and by the growing awareness that Bailey is to act as project engineer on the erection of a suspension bridge—a bridge that will mean the end of Buck’s way of life.
In The Last Ferryman, author Gregory Randle has created a compelling saga that masterfully intertwines the transition from ferry to bridge with the changes that take place within the community and within Buck’s family. Buck’s son, August, is perplexed by Buck’s steely determination to hold on to what August considers a “bygone era,” even as the bridge-building begins. But August’s wife, Belle, compassionate and gently supportive, tries to help the old man accept the unstoppable progress and his place in it.
Randle has a keen eye for detail, drawing evocative images of both the situation and the people involved, as well as offering spot-on character dialogue. The Last Ferryman isn’t simply the story of progress supplanting obsolescence. The mood, the community, and the time all come alive in this rich and beautifully presented tale.