October 28, 2021 — When a group of Italians rolled an apple barrel down the tracks to Charlie Porter today in 1913, and asked to have it shipped to Chicago, the last thing Charlie expected was for the barrel to talk. But, when Charlie moved the barrel down the platform at Wolford and tipped it on end, he heard the barrel groan. “With visions of the ‘black hand’” in mind, Charlie took an axe to the barrel. A plea for caution came from the barrel, and Charlie tore the end off to find the upside-down Italian.

It turns out, the man was homesick for Chicago and his friends assured him the cheapest way to get back to Chicago was to be shipped as freight. The man concealed himself in the apple barrel with a bottle of water and a couple loaves of bread, and had his friends roll him to the platform. When Charlie moved the barrel, however, he failed to see the words “This end up” on the barrel and tipped the man on his head. This elicited a groan from the man, which lead to his discovery.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast, or buy the Dakota Datebook book at shopprairiepublic.org.

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