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Saturday, January 19, 2013


Loading the Ship with Cargo
Lee felt on top of the world.  Here he was almost a Captain or at least a captain's boy.

The chart room where he slept was connected to the Pilot house, and where all the controls were.  The charts were all spread out on a table and were necessary for safe traveling up and down the river. They had to be updated each trip because the river was always changing.

There were two men beside the Captain who worked the helm so they could travel when ever the light would allow.  It was too dangerous to travel at night due to the changing river bed and snags washed down by the occasional rain.

Lee soon got acquainted with the riverboat pilots, and encouraged their endless stories.  
Morgan was the oldest and had been on the river most of his life. He went back to the time when they used keel boats to navigate the river.  It was easy going down stream, but going upstream was all hard work.  

In those days there were pirates to deal with. These bootleggers would come from small creeks in canoes armed to the teeth. They would come at you when you were having a struggle just to move your boat.

After such an encounter some pirates would be dead and wounded and the keelboat would also pay a price.  

Lee wanted to know if there would be any pirates trying to rob their boat.

Morgan told him that he didn't think so because there were too many guns on board. The crew had access to weapons, and most of the passengers carried a gun; and all of the gamblers had one or more hidden away.

Lee was just mesmerized by these tales.  He was almost too short to see out the windows of the wheel house so he found a box to stand on and see where they were going.

Captain Jack’s boat carried both cargo and passengers and oh yes; they also carried some animals. When Lee and Captain Jack first arrived at the boat they were just starting to load cargo.

Following that the animals would be placed aboard. Then those that were left - - called deck passengers would try to find a place between the cargo and live stock. 

Lastly would board the cabin passengers. They were the ones who could afford the luxuries the boat afforded.  The cabin passengers were assigned a stateroom, and could eat their meals in the dining saloon. The stateroom passage with berth and meals was included in their fare.

The deck passengers had to remain on the lower deck lest they find themselves having to swim to shore.

The loading started before dawn for they needed to leave as soon as possible for they only traveled during the light of day.

With the boat loaded, the gang plank raised and the boiler with steam up, they left the port of St. Louis bound for New Orleans.

At this point Lee could hardly contain himself. As of yet he was not allowed to go any farther than the toilet unless accompanied by Captain Jack.

The vibration of the ship added to the sensation of moving down the river.

Pilot's Wheel
courtesy free clip art
Morgan, the pilot let Lee put his hands on the wheel just to feel how to steer the boat in the river.

Thus the adventure begins for this eight year old boy and life on the Mississippi.

To be Continued


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