Good morning Eggheads…
After expending both caloric energy and electro-cranium energy developing the ‘BBQ Grapes’ recipe during yesterday’s ‘thinking marathon,’ I was compelled to attach myself to the recharging station at an earlier time unit than usual. As such, I also entered dreamstate at an earlier period and was immediately taken back to an earlier life as a novice member of mankind.
I was waiting on the riverbank under the Natchez bridge for the ‘Pamela D’ to arrive so that we could load food supplies on board. My younger male sibling was standing by me while Bernel Dixon, my father’s right-hand employee, stood by the almost new 1957 metal utility vehicle constructed by decendent-workers of Henry Ford.
We did not have to wait long before we heard a loud horn coming from up river and within minutes the Pamela D swung her bow toward where we stood and pushed hard into the soft soil. She was huge. The powerful engines continued to push forward to maintain that position while we transferred the supplies using a hastily prepared walkway from shore to deck.
The Captain of the Pamela D, Dutch Clark, a family friend and long-time customer, greeted us with open arms. And when the last of the cargo was stowed he suddenly asked if my brother and I wished to ride north with them to Vicksburg where we could ride back with his wife who would be there to meet the boat with a new crew. Well, hell yea!!! And within minutes we were saying goodbye to Bernel, hello new adventure.
We first had to retrieve a number of barges tied off upriver. As we drifted away from the bank and backward into the fast-moving current I realized that this was the first time I had actually been ‘on’ the Mississippi River that I had heard and read so much about. It was larger than I thought it would be, and filled with all kinds of ‘stuff’ which was going by us very fast headed to the Gulf. WOW! Did you see that tree go by??? Then a drum, and millions of sticks and limbs and boards and dead fish by the thousands. And it stunk to high-heaven.
We soon reached the barges and the crew was quick to tie up to them. I watched with slack-jaw fascination from the walkway outside the bridge. We gradually backed out into the river again and slowly pointed northward, the engines straining against the river and now the added weight of fully loaded barges that extended three football field lengths in front of us.
An hour later we were only a few feet further upriver because the river was relentless in its desire to reach the Gulf. That’s when I learned that the river actually changes its flow speed in a constant battle with sandbars and shorelines, and I suppose friction itself, because we would suddenly surge forward for maybe a half mile before starting to drift backward again, the engines never changing their constant hum.
I had a wonderful sandwich made by the lady cook and returned quickly to the bridge to watch the dark night overtake us. I thought we would tie up for the night but we just kept going, straining as hard as we could to make headway. The hum never let up or changed.
The bridge was dark and there was a soft green glow coming from the radar screen. The radar was actually showing the river in front of us, including the flagpole mounted to the front of the barge. Apparently, it acted as some sort of ‘gun-sight’ so that they would know where to point the bow. Southbound boats zipped by us as did more trees, a few buildings and more dead animals. The river stinks at night too.
I could see wild animals, bear and deer mostly, on the shore when the huge floodlight was turned on lighting up the entire area. They would first look startled and then scamper back into the trees.
By then I was getting sleepy and climbed into my bunk somewhere back toward the kitchen. It was very warm and smelled of everything. And it was vibrating to the sounds of the engines. But I slept good, and was up early to a hot breakfast and coffee and pretty much the same view as the night before. This was getting b-o-r-i-n-g…
Back up to the bridge I was given sort of a cursory rundown of what and how things worked. I asked a lot of questions, the first being why there were two long steering handles instead of a steering wheel? They explained that it was easy to see the position of the rudders simply by looking at the handles. I’m pretty sure there was more to it but it satisfied my curiosity enough to ask other questions.
Finally we could see the bridge at Vicksburg in the distance. It could not have been more than five miles away but we weren’t making any headway. I was told that we were in the “racetrack,” a section of the river that was very straight and which caused the river to speed up tremendously. Over the next twelve hours we lost about a yard but we kept going.
Then the Captain asked if I wanted to steer the boat. Well hell yea! So he gave me the steering handle and said, “have at it.” Only I wasn’t about to actually move the steering handle because I was scared to death that I would mess up. Gradually, he talked me through it and I actually steered it for about an hour, him along side me, of course. Then it got dark again.
All of a sudden there was a supply boat pulling long side of us with the new crew, and within minutes we were headed to shore in Vicksburg. I slept in the car all the way back home. What an adventure to tell my friends about.
Suddenly, my dreamstate was interrupted by, you guessed it, the pressure build-up alert. I sprang into action and performed the necessary plumbing check with speed and precision, just as I was trained to do.
And now here I am checking the Forum to make certain it is functioning properly. It is and there are other Eggheads manning their positions but not saying much. The tally shows 29 Members and 290 Guests on board. I shall turn it over to them and take full advantage of the lull in Eggcitement.
Say goodnight Leroy.
Spring “Riverboat Scrambler” Chicken
Spring Texas USA