Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Workers on the Mississippi

Even when the temperatures pass the century mark, there is still a pull of the outdoors.

Martha Ingram

That pull is especially strong when the Mississippi River is just outside our front door at the Tom Sawyer RV Park in West Memphis, Arkansas.

Lonnie M. Bell

While staying at the park, we had the opportunity to respond to the call of the outdoors to catch glimpses of the traffic on the Mississippi.

Dewey R

The "traffic" consists of the workers of the River--the tugboats--and their cargo--the barges.

Lydia Marie

There is something about the determined effort with which these Movers go about their business.

Ron Shankin

Whenever possible, we have recorded their names below the photograph, but there is another characteristic that is difficult to identify.

To us, each has a personality. Whether it's the size, shape, or color; some have the barest of living conditions on board, others seem to have sizable accommodations.

Some, like the American Pillar, seem to take pride in pushing the limits on the number of barges it can move along the River whose depth has been reduced by the present drought.

American Pillar,

(Maybe it was the heat, but this activity of anthropomorphizing while watching these tugs was entertaining--at least, to us.)

Anne Davis and an unidentified partner

Other tugs, like the two above, seemed to enjoy the "social" aspects of the job, here joining forces to complete the move.

Michael Luhr

But to bring in a bit of factual information to accompany the photos, I found this information at

Dan Cochran

"Tugs engaged in pushing barges on U.S. inland waterways are almost universally referred to a towboats rather than tugs. A towboat is a river vessel designed primarily to push barges and the like; actually she is a 'pushboat' but is never called so.

Preston N. Shuford

"A tow is one or more barges or other floating vessels in charge of a self-propelled vessel which has undertaken to transport such responsibility elsewhere. A tow is made up when it has been hitched together and made ready for moving.

"A barge moored to the front of a towing vessel is the towbarge and the ones out front are the lead barges."

Lydia Brent

The factual information scores high on accuracy, but "towboats" instead of "tugboats," for example, is a bit short on the romance of the work on the river.

Ricky Robinson (foreground) and Darin Adrian

The captain, or master, brought the Ricky Robinson so close to the shore that I could have easily boarded it. And with that possibility in mind, I was imagining myself on a raft floating down the Mississippi in the mid-1840s. The Adventures of Chuckleberry Finn.

Then along came the modern day adventurers.

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