As the hourly chiming of the grandfather clock marked time, an old man settled into his worn, leather chair.
Often on cold, late winter’s evenings – blanketed and cushioned in the comfortable confines of the crinkled leather – he’d read himself to sleep with stories about adventure.
One night he read about Captain Henry Keilett and the sailors who in 1854 had served aboard the HMS Resolute. Outfitted to search for the ships of an earlier attempt by Sir John Franklin of the Royal Navy which had set sail to find the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic, Keilett’s ship had become inextricably trapped in the ice.
The Resolute’s sailors worked hard to free the ship, but to no avail. As their food supplies dwindled, they made the decision in April of that year to abandon ship.
The old man shuddered, pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders and sank deeper into the chair as he turned the pages.
A year later in September 1885 the abandoned Resolute was found adrift by James Buddington, captain of the American whaler Henry George, some 1200 miles from where it had been abandoned.
Buddington and 12 of his crew sailed then the Resolute to New London, Connecticut where it made land on Christmas Eve, 1855.
The American government restored and refitted the British ship, and in late 1856 presented it as a gift to Queen Victoria.
For the next 22 years the Resolute served in home waters; however, in 1897 it was decommissioned and broken up.
Its timbers, however, were then used to make three desks – and at the Queen’s request – one of which was sent in 1880 to President Rutherford B. Hayes.
Since then all of the nation’s presidents – except Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford – have used the Resolute’s old timbers shaped into a desk to steer the country.
The old man in the old leather chair smiled as he closed the book.
As he arose from the chair he quietly said to himself, “There’s use in these old timbers yet.”
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.