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Thursday, January 31, 2013

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI Chapter 15

Sam Was in Prison
courtesy photobucket.

Lee was quite concerned about Sam and his family and the news of Captain Jack’s death was very disturbing.  Captain Jack had been like a father to him and he owed much to him for his care.

Sam's the boat pilot’s wife, was named Claire and the daughter was called Odette. Because of the trouble they had gone through both of them were quiet almost sedate.

This was out of character for them, especially for Odette. The last time Lee had seen the girl, she was all over him, telling him when she was ready she was going to marry him.

Lee decided to find out where Sam was and if anything could be done for him. After searching for some time he finally located him in a prison at Vicksburg. It took a couple of days before he could see the Colonel in charge.  

When he was escorted in to see him he immediately recognized him as a client at Club St. Louise.  
 
Lee reminded the Colonel who he was, the young boy who liked to listen to the stories told.  After reminiscing about the club and Louise the Colonel asked how he could help him.  Lee thought over what he was going to say carefully for he didn't want to say the wrong thing.

He began by telling about his association with Sam and the events that led to him being in prison.  He told him that Sam wasn't a violent man, but had been faced with a situation where his family was threatened and had acted to protect them.  He concluded by saying any father would have done the same thing even if it meant prison for his actions.

The Colonel said I understand what you have said, and I am of the same mind, but I can't just release him for a military court must decide that.  Lee agreed it should be handled properly.

Then asked, “Don't prisoners escape all the time?  If someone was careless and he escaped then you wouldn't have failed in your duty.”

Lee continued saying, “If something like that should happen, I have a job on a small ferry that is going up river in two days, and if he had passage on it - - when we arrived in St. Louis we would leave on a train going West never to be heard of again.”

The Colonel said, “If someone was careless - - say tomorrow night, would he be able to get to the ferry without being seen?”

Lee assured him that would be the case. The Colonel said, “Perhaps it would be well for you to come by here about nine o'clock tonight.”

Lee went straight to the ferry and told the captain, we had better leave at first light tomorrow. The captain said he would be ready to go for he was nearly loaded.  Lee went to Sam's house and told the women to pack everything they could carry including some things for Sam. They didn't ask many questions but sensed an urgency of the situation.

It was dark when they reached the ferry and Lee put the women in a cabin.

Afterward he told them to go to the kitchen and fix some food for Sam as he would be hungry providing they made it.

Lee got some clothes for Sam to change into that which a river pilot might wear. He wanted him to look like a pilot in case he was seen by someone that might turn him in.

That night about nine o'clock Lee was near the prison, watching when he saw someone come out the officers quarters door. There were no guards on duty, so Sam had no trouble escaping.  He simply walked out and was met by Lee.

While Sam dressed in his pilot's garb Lee quickly explained what they were going to do. When they arrived at the ferry Sam greeted his wife and daughter and then sat down to eat like a starving man.

It was going to be a long few hours before it was light enough to tackle the river, so all they could do was wait.

To be Continued 

 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI Chapter 14

Steam Engine
courtesy photobucket.com

The war was getting into full swing and Lee kept out of sight for he didn't want to be conscripted into the army.

He was still too young for that, but they didn't worry about your age.  If you could march and shoot you were qualified for service.

The railroad had started building toward the west, and needed men who were experienced with machinery.

Lee caught up with the section boss a few miles outside of St. Louis and told him he could run Locomotive for he was an engineer.  The section foreman looked at him with skepticism, but he needed help so he told him to put his stuff in the caboose, and he would have the engineer check him out on the trip to the end of the line.

Lee climbed up into the cab of the engine and looked around. He had never been in a train cab before but thought if it moves by steam he could master it in no time.  They got up steam and were off.  

Immediately the engineer realized that Lee didn't know how to run the engine so he asked what actual experience he had.  Lee told him about his engine room experience on the ferry, and said this can't be any more difficult than that.  
 
After about 30 minutes instruction Lee knew all he needed to know to run the engine.
 
By the time they got to the end of the line he had everything down for he understood all about steam engines.

Lee thought to himself, “This isn't as interesting as piloting the ferry but is a lot of fun anyhow.”

Lee stayed with the railroad until it ran from coast to coast, although he never managed to get all the way to Oakland.
 
The civil war was finally over and Lee wanted to see how the ferries fared.

Lee got a job with one of the rafting companies. They would fasten huge log rafts several hundred feet long together and construct a shelter on it for times when the weather was inclement. It was strange at first just floating along with the river current steering the raft around the bends of the river.
 
This was a slow trip and hard work trying to control something as big as the rafts. They were the largest thing on the river by far. They arrived at the lumber mill and their journey was over.

Lee still had several miles to go and he caught a ride on a small ferry that managed to survive the war down to New Orleans.

When he arrived he went to the docks and looked for the ferry he served on, but it was nowhere to be seen. After enquiring about her no one had ever heard of it.   

After some time Lee finally located Sam's family deep into Cajun country.

They went there after Sam was put into a Yankee prison camp, because he had knifed a Yankee soldier who was trying to rape his wife and daughter.  Sam never had a trial which was a good thing, for they would have shot him after finding him guilty.  He remained with thousands of other prisoners who were scattered throughout the south in the same circumstances.

When Lee found Sam's family they greeted him suspiciously for they had not seen him for several years.  They ended up spending most of the night talking about all that had happened.

The Mississippi River Lady had been sunk by a southern gun boat after the Yankees had confiscated it for their use.  

Captain Jack had been killed in the skirmish as well as part of the crew.  Sam and a few others were able to swim to shore and hide out until they were able to escape into the swamp. 

Sam made it home but soon after, he had been taken prisoner for cutting the Yankee.

By now Sam's two older daughters had married some Yankee officers and had moved back East, much to the consternation of the Yankee's parents but the soldiers were quite pleased with their Cajun wives.  
 
To be Continued
 
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LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI chapter 13


Yankee Soldiers Taking Over
courtesy photobucket.com
 
The rumors increased about both the Union army and the Southern army taking the ferries and using them to haul soldiers and equipment.

Captain Jack knew that Sam Huston had done that during the war with Mexico and he had then burned some of the ferries to keep the Mexicans from using them.  This knowledge gave him concern that the same thing could happen on the Mississippi.

Captain had no choice but to keep running his boat, for he couldn't just leave it at a dock because he had too many expenses.

They loaded at New Orleans with cotton, coffee and a full load of passengers many of which were planning to head west away from the conflict.

They were just about to St. Louis when they came upon the first ferry that was on fire. The further they went the more they saw burning.  There were people on shore waving and wanting to board Captain Jack's boat but there wasn't any more room.

As they rounded a bend and approached the wider part of the river and were met with gun boats which signaled then to pull over to the river bank.  One of the gun boats pull along side the ferry and they instructed everyone to disembark.  They gave the passengers one hour to gather their things and leave the boat.  The captain and crew were to remain on board.

Captain Jack told Lee to take off his cap and coat, and put on some old clothes.  

He gave Lee some money and said, “I want you to leave with the passengers.  Dressed like that they won't know you belong to the ferry and you can get away.”   Then Captain Jack said, “I don't know what they have planned for us or when we will be turned loose if ever.”

The deck passengers had very little to pack so they were the first ones to wade ashore.
 
They let down the narrow gang plank and the cabin passengers were using that to get off the boat.

Then the one hour warning time was up passengers were told that those who didn't get off immediately would go to prison.  Hearing that message they started jumping in the river and wading ashore.  The ferry was then boarded by the Yankee troops and the pilot was instructed to head down river.

It was soon out of sight leaving on the river bank all the passengers who were left to walk to St. Louis or wherever they were going.

Lee did what he could to settle the passengers down and said if we don't want to sleep out in the open tonight we had better get moving.

It wasn't long before they were tired of all the baggage they were trying to carry and began to only take what was really valuable.  Lee and some of the more fit men were soon way ahead of the slower passengers and the lights of St. Louis came into view.

Lee headed to Louise's hotel for he was pretty tired himself. He thought a warm bath and some food would perk him up. When he got there, the place was closed so he knocked on the door loudly.  After awhile Louise came and let him.  She was glad to see him and gave him a big hug and took him into her apartment.  

She told him the Northern commander had ordered her to close the place down and there were only a couple of girls still there because they had nowhere else to go. 
 
Louise told him to come on back to the kitchen and have something to eat.  She said, “The food isn't as good as it once was but it is what we can afford.”  

After a filling meal Lee said he wanted to take a bath. Louise said, “You will have to use the girls bathroom for that is the only one with hot water.”

While he was bathing Louise went and got him some nice clothes from one of the vacant rooms, because when they were closed down the tenants weren't allowed to take anything with them so Lee had a new wardrobe.

The girls came in while he was getting cleaned up and wanted to know what was going on, and why he had left the river.     
 
To be Continued   
 
 

Monday, January 28, 2013

BOB GURST a True Story


A Steam Shop
courtesy photobucket.com
 
It was around 1955 when I became acquainted with Bob Gurst. He was a big, strong black man who worked doing stream cleaning on automobiles.

He also detailed and polished cars. He did a lot of work for car dealers making their cars look as good as possible.  He had a lot of stories to tell especially about WW2, and his time working at the shipyard.

One story was about another black man who worked with him; this man partied and spent his money as fast as he made it all during the war.

Bob would chide him, and urge him to save his money for the future.

The man would say you never have any fun; you don't know what money is for, it is to enjoy and that is what I am doing.

Bob would say these good jobs won't last forever to which the man's answer was, "This war is going to last a long time."

Some time passed and the Atomic Bomb brought the war to an end and the shipyards laid most everybody off the next day. With the wars end guys had to scramble to get any kind of employment and Bob ended up working for himself.

Three years later Bob was washing his car when the man came walking down the side walk, and when he saw Bob he said, "I know you" we used to work together.

Bob hardly recognized him but they talked over old times in the ship yard.

The man said whose car is that you are washing and Bob said it's mine and it's paid for.
 
The man stared down for a minute he asked, where do you live. Bob answered; I live here in my house which is paid for.

The man stared down for a minute and said could you let me have a couple of dollars. Bob gave it to him and the man walked on shaking his head.

It was then Bob thought of the words the man had said to him when he was trying to get the man to save his money, "This war is going to last a long time."

Bob went back to washing his car as the man disappeared down the street.


This post is shared at: Tell Me a Story
http://letmetelluastory.blogspot.com/

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Life on the Mississippi chapter 11

Playing the Piano
courtesy photobucket.com

As a young child, Lee had learned to play the piano while he was growing up at the Club Louise.

The musician who entertained there on the boat taught him to read music and to also play by ear.

There was a small band who entertained on board of the ferry and after his last trip to the Club Louise, Lee thought he would like to take up the piano again in his spare time.

The man who played in the ferry's band knew all the latest tunes as well as the old favorites, and taught Lee how to play them.  He had lived in St. Louis and New Orleans where much of the best music was born.  

It took Lee some time to master the keyboard again. His hands were bigger than when he played as a boy at the Club Louise for then his fingers were small and wouldn't go where he wanted them to.  He was quickly maturing and things were different now.

He could still read the music, but needed a lot of practice to get the rhythms back.  
 
After a few weeks it started to come back to him, and when the band would take a break he would fill in for them.

Captain Jack was surprised at how well Lee could play, but as he thought back he remembered he had heard him play during the morning hours at Louise's place before the girls started to work.

While Lee spent most of his time on the pilot's deck playing was a good diversion and kept boredom from setting in.

He developed a new interest and that was just how the engines worked and propelled the ferry. He spent a lot of time in the engine room and worked on the engines when in port. The engineer told him all engines worked pretty much the same it was just the application of their power that was different.

The firemen were key to an uninterrupted trip. They not only had to keep the steam up but had the see to it that they had plenty of wood on board.

Paddy, the bar keep still made sure Lee exercised and practiced what he had taught him about defending himself. He always reminded Lee that you never know when you might need them skills.

Due to a full cabin passenger load, Captain Jack hired an extra cabin boy and chamber maid to make sure the passengers were well cared for.

Captain Jack's boat,"The Mississippi Lady" wasn't the newest boat on the river and the competition for upper class passengers was lively, so he wanted to make sure the passengers had little to complain about.

The new cabin boy was from St. Louis where Lee was partly raised.  

One day when he and Lee were sitting with the crew the cabin boy said, "I hear you were raised by whores and your mother was a whore."

This embarrassed Lee greatly for the crew was now staring blankly at him.

Lee just quietly answered, "My mother was not a whore," and walked away.

The crew expected more from Lee and were surprised that he let it go.  The cabin boy was having fun, and kept ranting about it but the crew also just walked away and didn't speak to him.

The next morning Captain Jack came down to the crew's quarters and asked if anyone had seen the new cabin boy, for he didn't show up for duty. They all looked questionly at each other, and finally said they hadn't see him after bedtime.

Later one of the crew said, "I went up on deck for some air around four o'clock because it was hot in the crew's quarters, and I thought I heard a yell, and then a splash but when I looked I didn't see any thing, and besides the engines were loudly firing up and making a lot of noise."

The crew looked at each other, and then at Lee who walked over to the piano, and started to play a sad song.

No one ever mentioned the event again, not even among themselves.

To be Continued

 

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI Chapter 12


Man Overboard
courtesy photobucket.com
 
Days came and went and Lee was becoming better acquainted with the river.

He began to know what was around the next bend and where the channel was.

His time was divided among being down in the engine room, playing or practicing the piano, watching for card sharks and acting as pilot on the ship.

He only slept about six hours a night but on occasion he would grab a cat nap.

There was a card player who was known to be questionable about how he handled the cards.  He had boarded at Vicksburg, and had taken a cabin first class.  In the evening hours was when most of the card activity took place.

Lee was appointed to watch this player and see if he played the game honestly and as the evening began as far as Lee could tell he played the game straight.

As the evening wore on the card player began to win the bigger pots and Lee began to suspect the player was executing some dishonest moves but he couldn't spot exactly what was going on.  Lee went and talked to Mac the gaming room boss and told him of his suspicions. Mac began to watch the man who when he realized he was under the gaze of Mac began to play on the square and started to lose.

Mac had seen enough to know what the man was doing, and told Lee to watch him and let him know when he went back to cheating. It didn't take long after Mac had returned to his office for him to start winning again.

Once again the man began to win and this time Lee spotted him cheating. He went and told Mac that the man was cheating again.  Mac eased around the back of the cheater and verified what Lee had told him.

Mac knew the man carried at least two derringers so in order to protect the other players he had a security team to come up behind the cheater and press a shot gun to his back and at the same time two huge black men flanked him.

Mac told the card shark to slowly place his guns on the table, all of them and then to gradually stand up. When the man stood the black guards striped him down to the waist and removed his shoes.

They took all of his money, and then the two guards took him out to the rail and told him to jump.  He hesitated, so they picked him up, and while he was screaming, they tossed him overboard.  When they returned to the gaming room they divided the man's money between the other players.

As they looked back the man was almost made it to the shore though he might be cold for awhile.
 
Mac gave the derringers to Lee and said, “Here is something to remember that swindler by.

That bit of action convinced everyone to be honest, and to rely on their skills instead of cheating.

After that excitement the rest of the trip was mostly routine except a couple of tap dancers had talked the Captain into letting them travel the rest of the way to St. Louis for free. They were to perform tap dances to entertain the passengers but were restricted to the passenger deck except when performing and to eat with the crew.

A feeling of uncertainty was beginning to spread over the country as the War Between the States escalated and no one knew what the future held for the river folks.

To be Continued   

Saturday, January 26, 2013

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI Chapter 10



A Real Captains Hat
courtesy free clip art

The next day after Lee was pummeled by the hooligans, the Captain came in to where Lee was still recuperating, and had a surprise for him.

His Pilot’s cap had been torn up by the young thugs, and Captain Jack gave Lee one of his new caps.  He kept several in his cabin, for he always wanted to look good when he was entertaining his guests aboard the ferry.  

Lee couldn't have been more pleased for his new cap was so much nicer than the one that was destroyed.  This helped his recovery to speed up for he wanted to show off his new cap.

After four days he was getting around very well, and Captain Jack said come on down into the saloon/card room and meet someone.

When they got down there Captain said, “I want you to meet the former middleweight champ of the world.”  Lee looked and saw the bartender he knew as Paddy.  

No one had ever said anything about him being a great boxer.  He wasn't an overly large man but he was a compact, strong, looking fellow.  Captain Jack said Paddy has agreed to teach you a little about defending yourself, some things you didn't learn while living with all those women at the club.

For the next two years Paddy taught Lee the finer points of protecting himself.  A lot of it was conditioning and daily exercise, and learning to read people.  

Knowing when to back off and withdraw can save a lot of confrontation which was unnecessary.  Paddy's reasoning was, “Why fight for no reason other than trying to prove you are better than the other man.”  He told Lee there are many men that are no longer here by making that mistake.

Paddy taught him not to expect other men to follow rules someone has made up, for in the heat of battle one fights for their life whether that is the case or not.
 
If possible avoid getting in a fight where someone has a knife. Those fights are always dirty and the unexpected can happen.


Image courtesy Free Clip art
When stopping over where there was a gym, Paddy would take him to watch the boxers spar and train. The boxers would try to get Lee into the ring but Paddy wouldn't allow it.  Some of the new guys who thought they were really good they would taunt Paddy, calling him names such as, “an old man and a has been” but he would just ignore them.

Lee overheard the owner of the gym tell one of the smart alecks, “If he got in the ring with you, he would beat you to a pulp even though he has gotten a little older so shut your mouth.”

After three weeks they made it to St. Louis and as promised they went to Club Louise to visit his old friends. It had been a long time since he saw them.  Things had changed quite a bit.  Several of the girls were no longer there and the place was getting run down.

His friend Moses the piano player had been let go because Louise couldn't afford him any longer. There were a couple of new women that he didn't know and they were older.  

Louise was just as nice as ever but her cliental had fallen off, and she wasn't doing well financially. In fact she shared with Captain Jack if things didn't get better she would have to sell the hotel. They spent the night and talked about Lee's early years, but come the morning they left for the boat.

Lee hoped that this was not the last time he would see Club Louise or Louise herself, but he realized that things happen and the world can quickly change around you.

To be Continued 
Time Marches on -
courtesy free clip art


  

Friday, January 25, 2013

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI Chapter 9


Cajun meal
courtesy photobucket.com
Sam's wife called everyone in for dinner and they all went in and sat down to a good Cajun meal with crayfish and lots of okra.

All during dinner, Lee could feel the three girls’ eyes probing him and he wanted to hurry up and finish eating so he could leave.

Sam tried to get Lee to stay overnight but he was having none of that.

As soon as they finished Lee thanked Sam's wife for the lovely meal, and he said he would see Sam in a couple of days when he got back to the boat.

As he left the shock of being there began to wear off and he thought that Sam's wife was a fine looking woman, and come to think of it so were the girls; but they had him so shook up that he didn't think about that.
 
When he arrived back to the boat they were just about finished unloading the cargo. 
 
The passengers had long since been gone and tomorrow loading the cargo for the trip north would begin.

When they arrived back to St. Louis, the Captain said they would stay at the Club Louise for a night, and Lee could see his old friends.  He was excited about that for it had been about two months since he had seen them.

The next couple of days went well and they shoved off and headed north.

About three days out Lee was headed for the dining area having to go through the cabins to get there. Two boys who were older than Lee blocked the way and wanted his cap.  He said no and tried to pass them. They both piled on him and beat him up pretty good and ended up taking his cap.

One of the food servers saw what was happening and yelled for them to stop which they did, and disappeared into their cabin taking Lee's cap with them.

The server helped Lee to his feet and steadied him until he could walk well enough to head straight to the wheel house and into his room.

The server found Captain Jack and told him what had happened and the Captain rushed up to Lee's room and inspected his injuries.  

Jack closed the door and went to the bully's cabin, opened the door and grabbed the young punks that beat Lee.  He slammed their heads against the wall until they went limp.  He then knocked their father down and told them they had five minutes to pack for they were getting off.

Captain Jack told the pilot to slow and get as close to the bank as it was safe. He then forced the offenders to the edge of the boat, and shoved them off into not too deep water. He then signaled for the pilot to back away from the river bank and to head downstream.

As the boat went downstream the offenders stood on the bank of the river soaking wet. 
 
Their suitcases had been floating in the water, and were full of muddy water which they were trying to drain out.

The last thing Captain Jack said to them was, “There are plenty of river people you can beat up on your way back downstream, but they are clannish and might not like it, so much so that you may not make it.”
 
courtesy free
clip art
Captain had a couple of the cabin maids look in on Lee and clean him up, but it didn’t bother him as he was used to having women care for him at the club where he had been raised.

After a couple of hours Jack went in and talked to Lee about what happened.

He said this happens to about everyone, in fact I got whomped several times and survived.  Sam the pilot said, “Do you think those people will survive?  It will take them a week to get to the nearest town.”

Captain Jack answered, “I don't know nor do I care but I saved their life at least for now.”  Lee has too many friends on board who would kill them for what they did.  Sam asked, “What if they complain to the police?”

Jack said, “It will be hard to prove they were ever on the boat for I have all their papers and their money which I will give to Lee.

To be Continued 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI chapter 8


Cajun Woman
Courtesy free Cajun photos
 
As the days went by Lee thought there was more to Sam's story than he had told him.  

He continued to question him until Sam finally said. “If you will shut up and leave me be then I will tell you what you want to know, although there isn't much to tell. But first you must promise to go home with me and visit my family when we get to New Orleans.

What I'm going to tell you would be better in Cajun but you wouldn't understand but a few words so I will speak it in English.  

My folks came from Martinique and settled in the bayous and made their living off the land. By the time I was born they had moved near to what is now New Orleans. Still they lived among the Cajuns.  
 
I grew up on the docks and wanted to steer the boat one day.  A job was offered to me on the boat doing the dirty work first and then later I got to steer the boat when the captain got drunk.  I learned quickly and got to run the boat most of the time.

Afterwards I got my license to operate a river boat, and Captain Jack hired me and I have been with him ever since.”

That still didn't satisfy Lee so he asked Sam about the women in his life.  

Sam sighed and said, “Ah yes; dem Cajun women drive you crazy. They drive you crazy before you marry them, and after you marry them, they drive you more crazy.

You look at them, and they got you hooked, it's like they put a curse on you and you become helpless.”

Lee asked, “Did one ever hook you?”  Sam sighed again and replied, “Yes, she did, I took one look at her, and I melted under her spell.  She is much woman, so much it is like being married to two women. It is a good thing I don't get home but once a month.”

This excited Lee and he had to ask, “But what about children? Do you have children?”

Sam replied, “Yes I have three girls. They are all just like their mother. Too pretty to look at and every one of them boss me around. You can't imagine what its like to be bossed by three women.”

Lee had one final question for Sam at least for now and that was, “How old are your girls?”

Sam said, “The oldest is ready to marry now, she is sixteen. The next one is too old for you she is thirteen,” Lee interrupted and said. “I'm thirteen, the same age as her.”

Sam said, “You are not old enough for her cause Cajun girls are much older than their years.  Now the youngest is just right for you.  She is the prettiest one of the bunch, and by the time you are ready for the marrying she will be ready.”

Lee asked, “How old is she?”  Sam replied, “She is ten but tries to act as if she was going on fifteen.”

All the sudden it dawned on Lee what they were talking about.  He wasn't ready to talk about marriage, but he had been led into that conversation without realizing it.

The next day they docked in New Orleans, and after Sam finished his duties he grabbed Lee and said, “Let's go.”   Lee said, “Go where?”  Sam said, “You know where, you gave your word so let's go.”

Off they went, it took about an hour to get to Sam's house, and as soon as the girls saw him they came out and hugged him. The last one out was his wife and she gave him a big, long kiss that embarrassed Lee.

The oldest daughter ambled over to lee and started jabbing him with her finger. Lee wanted her to stop poking him for it was hurting.  Finally she quit, flipped her hair, and went back to the house without saying a word.

The next youngest girl came over and looked at Lee who was hoping she wasn't going to poke him for he was still hurting from the first one.

Then it was the last ones turn since she was only ten years old.  Lee noticed she was just starting to develop but was still without much shape.  

She slowly walked around him, making him very nervous and then said, “I guess when I'm ready I suppose he will do.”  

After that statement all three girls came over and were giving him the eye when Sam spoke up and said,

“Alright young ladies, you have had your fun, now cut it out you are making him nervous.”   
 
To be Continued  

 

 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI Chapter 7

image courtesy photobucket.com

Lee found the story of Morgan's immigrating to America fascinating and continued to ask questions to fill in the blanks that were left out.

Now it was Sam's turn to be questioned.  Sam's story wasn't quite as interesting as Morgan's for he was born of French parents and raised among the Cajuns.  He started out as a cabin boy and spent his off hours learning about navigating the river.  After some time he was taught how to successfully pilot the vessel safely up and down the river.

Lee got acquainted with Mac the operating boss of the gambling hall on the boat.  It was his job to keep everybody honest. He could spot a crooked card player from across the room.  Lee was amazed at his dexterity handling a deck of cards and over time he taught Lee much of what he knew.  

Lee learned to shuffle a deck of cards even though his hands were still small and how to stack the deck while he was being watched.  He wasn't able to fool someone with Mac's experience but could fool most of the people.

This took him about three years but you would see him with a deck of cards in his hand quite often. 
Cheater at Cards
courtesy free clip art
Mac taught him to spot someone cheating, and sometimes there would be more than one cheater in a game taking turns fleecing the other players.  This would take Lee a moment or two longer to catch them, but when he was sure he would tell Mac, and then things would get interesting.

Usually Mac would get two or three of the black men who were big and strong to stand around the table along with one of the shotgun guards and then he would tell the cheaters that he wished to speak to them outside. Just leave your money on the table.

As they would stand up he would remove their hidden Derringers, and take them outside. After a short conversation about how well they could swim he would have the pilot swing in closer to the shore and throw them overboard.  

Everyone would have been warned about cheating before they were allowed to play. The money left on the table was divided among the players and their game continued.
 
The first time Lee caught some cheaters and the events that happened next, it made him feel very important for he was now controlling a certain aspect of the gaming.

Lee wanted to see the Caribbean but on this trip they were only going to Baton Rouge and off load there.  

Again it took about three days to unload and get loaded for the trip back to St. Louis so Captain Jack took him around the town and bought him a cap like the pilots wore.

This made Lee feel like he was an important part of the wheel house. The pilots had some time off and were warned not to get into any trouble and be back on board on time and sober.

Morgan and Sam had heard that speech many times and limited their time off to visiting their friends and a little celebrating. Even though they had been with Captain Jack for a long time they knew he wouldn't tolerate any drunkenness when getting ready to sail.

After Jack and Lee arrived back on ship, Lee ventured down to the lower deck and got acquainted with some of the deck hands.  He felt safe while they were around for they knew he meant something special to Captain Jack.

To be Continued

 

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

Monday, January 21, 2013

THINGS MY COUSINS TAUGHT ME Repost


Return tomorrow for the next chapter in my continued fictional story. 

I am adding a post to enter in Hazel's Tell me a True Story Blog Hop and this one is true!

Run for Your Life
courtesy photobucket.com
 
I had so many cousins that I didn’t know them all. At times I would meet someone with the same family name, and I would ask my uncles; are they kin to us?  Usually they would say yes, and explain how they were related.

Since my dad traveled around a lot, I wasn’t close to my kin as I would have been if I lived near them all the time.  My great aunt’s family had several kids, and I knew some of them pretty good.  I knew two of the boys (my second cousins) very well; they and my uncles sometime hung out together.

One was named Grady Parish; he was an easy going, friendly guy, and I liked him very much.  
 
Without giving you much history, let me tell you about one event. This event happen on this wise, Grady started messing around with a married woman, and the husband knew about it.  He didn’t want to face up to Grady about it, because he would have gotten whipped as well as having his wife being disloyal and end up leaving him.   But the husband had a plan.

As it so happened this man’s family ran the draft board and even though Grady had a deferment they sent him a draft notice to report to boot camp.  As soon as boot camp was over Grady was shipped out to Europe, and he wasn’t there long when he stepped on a land mine and was killed.

Grady had G.I. Insurance for $10,000.00 which was a lot of money in those days.  Farm hands only got a few dollars a day at this time.  The money went to Grady’s mother, but the baby, of the family pretty well controlled it.  His name was Paul and he was 17 years old at the time.  The first thing he bought was a 1936 Ford Roaster.  I couldn’t even buy the air in one of the tires.  He bought anything he wanted and began to make new friends.

One of these new friends was a tall, strong dude that you didn’t want to mess with.  His wife, Becky was a pretty young thing that could really dance well (or as everyone said; knock a step).  Paul got close to them and they became best friends.  In fact Paul got a little too close to Becky. The husband came home unexpectedly and found them in a compromised position.

As the husband went for my cousin, Paul leaped out the window leaving his clothes behind.  From that point on the husband looked for Paul with the intent to kill him, and he would have if he found him.  
 
Paul hid for a few days, and decided to enlist in the army.  He went straight to boot camp and was shipped to a place called Korea.  A short time later we were notified that Paul was killed in action.

You might ask what did you learn from these boys and the answer would be; “Don’t mess with another man’s woman if you don’t want trouble.”  
 
If these boys had followed this rule their lives would not have been shortened.  To be sure, your sin will find you out.

The last time I heard the two couples stayed together and were able to get by this mistake.

This post was shared at “Tell Me A Story”  http://letmetelluastory.blogspot.com/

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI Chapter 5


Courtesy free clip art
 
After getting under way from St. Louis, Captain Jack had a little time on his hands to show Lee around the boat.

There were the cabins, the main dining hall, and the saloon where the gamblers hung out most of the time, and the promenade deck he was yet to see.

Lee also wasn't allowed to go down to the lower deck as of yet.

Some of the passengers below were immigrants from the East.
 
They had got as far as the Mississippi river, and decided not to go any farther west, but to seek work along the Mississippi.

Captain Jack didn't want Lee mixing in with them until he had settled in on the boat and was more familiar with his way around. The life on the lower deck was going to be a rough trip for those beneath, and tempers were bound to get riled.

It was going to take from ten days to two weeks to make the trip to New Orleans, and being out in the weather wasn't going to be pleasant.

There were about a hundred settlements and towns along the river they would pass; but the stops would be few and far between, and only to conduct some business.

The crew had their own dining area, and the lower deck people could eat with them, but would have to pay extra.  Most of the deck people didn't have much money and couldn't pay to eat with the crew so they would buy some cheap food at each stop.

It was a mad scramble to buy things people needed or things the venders sold along the pier.  When the warning whistle blew, it was a rush to board quickly and try to find a comfortable spot.

So far Lee had been interested in seeing the people who lived along the shore, and waving to them, but his attention span was short. 

After a day on the river he wanted to get on with his education about the river and the boat itself.

The older pilot was Morgan and the other was Sam and neither was too excited about having a kid to baby-sit.  Their main focus had to be on the river and its changing moods.  

It didn't take long for anyone sailing on the river to figure out who was in charge for the river seemed to be alive, and you had to respect it or you would be in trouble.
 
Experienced pilots like Morgan and Sam could sense the changes in the river as it would respond to the changes in the weather.

Since Lee was living in the chart room it wasn't long before he was trying to understand the charts, and where they were on them.

At first he was just a nuisance to Morgan and Sam but as time went on they realized he wanted to learn and not just waste their time.  
 
Usually it was quiet in the wheel house, but every now and then it was one question after another unless they told him to be quiet because they had to watch the river.

During one of the allowable questioning periods Lee wanted to know where Morgan and Sam were from, and if they were born on the river.  

He thought that would be wonderful to be able to say "I was born on the river on a steamboat."

As they steamed down the river the thoughts of his mother and Club Louise became less and less, and he was ready for new experiences.
 
To be Continued

 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI Chapter 4


Loading the Ship with Cargo
courtesy photobucket.com
 
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