Chris Markham: Mississippi Odyssey, excerpt 5

With our tow reassembled, we began to ease out of the lock. Larry Beale, a deckhand a long way from his home state of Maine, came into the pilothouse, shook the rain from his coat, and with a towel wiped his face and rain-soaked hair.

"I don't know what those people find so interesting about towboats that they'll stand out in the rain to watch us," he said, nodding toward the tourists. Tourists had been waving and shooting pictures of us at most of the locks we'd made during daylight hours. Today there was only one family, along with their dog, braving the rain to watch us make the lockage.

"With them watching us, and taking our pictures and all, I feel just like a monkey in a cage sometimes," Larry complained. "I'd sure like to get a camera and take their picture sometime -- see how they like it," he wished out loud. I immediately sought the protection of the radar platform and began snapping pictures of the tourists. The men still on the barges began to cheer, whoop and hollar when a woman, one of the tourists who had caught me taking pictures of them, must have felt somewhat embarrassed and tried to hide behind a lifesaver station.

Inside the pilothouse, Captain Hanks was wearing a broad grin. "You just brought the morale up two hundred points." he said. "I've thought about doing that myself sometime, but I just never bothered bringing a camera from home." He laughed and looked toward the smiling deckhand from Maine. "Larry, fix this honorary riverman a cup of coffee," he said.

Copyright 2004 Chris Markham, All rights reserved.

excerpt 6