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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI chapter 6


Russian Sailors
courtesy photobucket.com
 
Lee had become the proudest young man there ever was.

He had been raised by women all his life, and now he was among real men, men who had experienced life at its rawest, and yet were kind and gentle when necessary.

While Captain Jack was his main man, his new (quickly becoming) friends were Morgan and Sam the ship's pilots.  Lee felt ten feet tall when they would let him put his hands on the wheel and feel the boats vibrations.

After a couple days Jack allowed Lee to venture down into the passenger part of the vessel and there he met many fancy people. They dressed in their finery and walked with aplomb.

The ladies at the club where Lee was raised could also speak similarly when with clients but when alone they reverted back to a much more course language.

Lee thought they were doing what he had heard called "Putting on airs'." Nevertheless he would go around mocking them just for fun.

Lee found the boat to be larger than he at first thought it was, and wondered what the cabins were like.  He figured they were a lot different then the chart room he lived in.  
 
In due time, he reckoned he would find out.

He asked Morgan if he had always been on the river for he spoke like a native with a little bit of Cajun mixed in.  He told him, “No I'm Russian,” to which Lee asked, “What is that?”

Morgan replied, “I'm from a country called Russia which is far away.”

He told Lee there was a book of maps on board that could show him where Russia was.
 
Lee found the book and Morgan showed him where he came from and about where the town he lived in was.

Lee said, “It looks like you lived on a river, was it as big as the Mississippi?”

Morgan said, “Yes, Just about as big, and it is called the Volga River. To us Russians it is Volga-Matushka for it is the heart of our country.”

Lee asked, “But you are not a Russian now are you?”  Morgan replied, “Once a Russian always a Russian in the heart.”

Curious as he was, Lee continued with the questions, “Are all the Russians named Morgan?”  To which his friend answered, “No, Morgan is a name I took after getting to America because no on could pronounce my Russian name.”

Lee asked him how he got to America, and Morgan related his story.

“It took my father and me eights months to make the trip.  My mother refused to go with us so we came alone. We left when the ice on Volga melted in the spring and did what was necessary to make the journey down the Volga to a point where we went overland to the Black Sea and the on to America.

We suffered many hardships on the trip for I was only a boy about your age.

At one time we had to join the Volga river men pulling the barges for safety and for food.  Once we had landed in America we had to learn the language which was difficult but we managed.

My father and I both got job on the river doing whatever was necessary to survive until we learned some skills that were needed by the merchant men.

Eventually I got a job on the first steamers going up and down the Mississippi and here I am.”
 
To be Continued

Volga boatmen painting and song!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQmF31pn_fk

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