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Carrie Nation

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Every one of the seventy or so saloonkeepers in Rock Island must have relaxed their vigil a bit when they read the headlines in the Rock Island Argus on February 12th, 1901. "Leaves her hatchet at home," the paper said. Carrie Nation was scheduled for no more than a couple hours' stopover in Rock Island on her way to Chicago, but she and her famous hatchet had already chopped up several saloons back in Kansas, and it was well to be prepared. Especially when she got off at the Rock Island Depot and explained why she hadn't brought her hatchet. "I figure a town named Rock Island ought to have plenty of rocks," she told the crowd.A group of students from nearby Augustana College, who should have known better, gave her the college yell, which, reported the Argus, "went straight to the Kansas woman's heart." She stood up on a chair and explained her objection to saloons. Men are not able to care for themselves, she explained, so women have to make an effort on their behalf. "You men are such babies," she said, looking straight at a man who had been identified as a drinker, "and we are going to care for you no matter how big you get."

Four blocks away in the Harper House, the manager hoped she would keep talking until it was time to board the train. The Harper House had the finest bar in town, with a beveled glass mirror running the length of the polished mahogany bar.

But just then, a woman whom the Harper House clerk recognized as Carrie Nation came into the lobby, made a few pleasantries, and then walked out. The clerk and the bellmen and the houseboys were paralyzed. Someone should stop her.

Suddenly, there was a loud crash and a tinkling of glass. The hotel personnel and many of the guests rushed instinctively toward the bar to view the damage. But it was only an icicle that had broken off the roof and fallen through a skylight.

But Carrie Nation was right. Men are such babies, a woman with a reputation doesn't even need a hatchet to keep them in place.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.