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The broken cane pole was floating on the surface of the muddy waters of Lake Sinclair as Mom pulled back on the throttle of our white and brown,15’ Chaparral motorboat. My brother had spotted the pole as we approached the bridge near Little River Campground where our tricked out “Cool Bus” was set up for a week of camping while Dad was working nearby in Eatonton.

The Cool Bus was well-known back in those days in our part of the country. It had a semi-psychedelic custom paint job done by family and friends. On the front above the windshield in giant ice-block design letters appeared the words “COOL BUS,” and the inside was a marvel of ingenious design that maximized space. Bunk beds converted into couches, even other beds transformed into a dining room table complete with bench seating. A full kitchen and bathroom and a huge water tank of fresh water on top, and another tank underneath for wastewater, were included. A four-burner gas stove, heater, and gas water heater completed the ensemble. We had all the conveniences of home, and this entire setup was designed and built by my dad, Hugh, and his brother, Ned.

We were always somewhere in that Cool Bus when I was a kid. We were lucky to have a self-employed dad. He worked all over and believed in taking the family with him when the situation allowed for it. It is hard to imagine having grown up any other way. Life on the road was always an adventure. The memories of those days are etched into my mind forever. I can always go back to them when I seek refuge from my troubles.

While its name was The Cool Bus, life inside was warm and inviting. Outside on the door, which swung open via a hand lever next to the steering wheel, was a hand-painted sign. The sign featured an arrow pointing ahead that read “HOME 2 MILES” and underneath another arrow pointing from where we had just come, which also read “HOME 2 MILES.” That’s how it was, too. We were home no matter where we were, and we always had new friends to meet and adventures along the way.

Well, I will return to that cane pole for a little while, but don’t get too comfortable with the continuity of the present tale because I will provide more insight into our childhood as I go along. So when we approached the floating, broken cane pole, it began to quiver. Ripples cascaded away from its length, slowly spreading outward. Suddenly I took an interest in the thing as it began to jerk and dart away from the boat.

Mom slowly pushed the throttle forward and advanced toward the pole, which seemed determined to keep its distance from the vessel. My attention became entirely focused on that swimming cane pole. I had previously been lost in a fantasy involving the long bridge in the distance where countless pirates were attacking the ship, which drifted just beyond.

Now is the appropriate time to add a little more background information to enhance the story. Please keep that jerking, bobbing, and now diving torpedo-like pole in your mind. Knowing a little more about my dad and his brother will hopefully clarify the reader as to why the memory of this, not so monumental occurrence, was permanently etched into the memory bank of a 6-year-old little boy.

Dad and Uncle Ned had created a unique business out of necessity, growing up in hard times when there was not much opportunity in the Deep South. They developed the business as well as designed and built all of the specialized equipment required to perform the work. The company they founded ended up supporting both their families and the families of many others from Swainsboro who would work for Braswell Brother’s House Movers over the next six decades.

They moved their first building with their dad, Donald Braswell. It was a small building on their own property. They powered the move with an old draft horse and used a converted cane mill as a winch to advance the building toward its destination. As the horse circled the mill, hitched to the wooden pole that drove the mill, the chain wrapped around the device’s body and pulled the building forward ever so slowly. They would have to move the contraption back and re-anchor it every few feet, then start the process over. From this simple yet brilliantly improvised device, an entire industry was to blossom.

Braswell Brothers would become widely known in later years, and it was often heard that “they could move anything,” and over the years, they proved this to be true. They moved houses, commercial buildings, entire warehouses, ships, locomotives, colossal industrial machines, and any number of other things. I watched, as did a crowd of others as they moved an entire restaurant from the banks of Lake Sinclair. They moved over land and over water. They met challenges on every move. The pair devised and fabricated new devices to overcome these challenges. The brothers reshaped the infrastructure of cities like Savannah and Milledgeville, where they saved many historic buildings from destruction. These men exemplified the spirit of the American entrepreneur, the men who built this great nation through sweat and determination with little else to draw from except their own intellect. They were rockstars to me at 6-years-old.

Alas, though, this story is about three kids and their mom in a boat on a huge man-made lake that served at the time to cool the turbines of a great coal-powered electric plant. In those days, the enormous smokestacks of the power plant gave it the appearance of being a seafaring vessel. This sparked the imagination of the 6-year-old me and led to many fantasies. In later years, those smokestacks would be dwarfed by a colossus of a chimney that reached high into the clouds, and the illusion of a vessel was replaced by just plain awe.