Sunday, September 4, 2011

A couple of opinion pieces on a Sunday

Just because two cities lie near each other on opposite sides of the Ohio River doesn't mean they always get along, of course. Here's an old story about Evansville, Ind., and Henderson, Ky. It makes  me want to do down there again. And it reminds me of how in my part of the river, common folk don't care as much about the border as the politicians, the "business leaders" and other members of the movers-and-shakers class do.

Although I will say that some people in Huntington seem to think you need a passport to cross over into Ohio. After heavy downpours, Huntington's storm sewers are overwhelmed and the main streets and underpasses flood. Many people fret that they can't get from one part of town to another. It never occurs to them to cross the Ohio River on one bridge and back on another.


Here's how one writer at the Wheeling newspapers views the Ohio River.

Adam Ross, sternwheeler pilot

About a month ago, Adam met Jack Fowler, the director of the Point Pleasant River Museum. Friday evening, we ran into Jack at the Point Pleasant Tribute to the River festival. He offered to see if an owner of one of the sternwheelers at the festival would let Adam steer for a little while during the parade on Saturday. Seeing as how Adam was almost brokenhearted that no towboats were available for open house on Friday, that made his day.

Saturday afternoon, Adam and I rode the sternwheeler Port Explorer as the guest of its owner, Steve Hutchison.  I had met Mr. Hutchison after the flood of 1997 when I did a newspaper article for my then-employer about how his neighborhood at Miller, Ohio, had fared. In recent months, I had noticed the sternwheeler docked at his house.

Before the parade, Mr. Hutchison pulled the Port Explorer out of the dock at Point Pleasant, but he let Adam steer it up past the railroad bridge, turn around and go back downriver past the Silver Memorial Bridge, back up the to railroad bridge, turn it around again, bring it down, turn it around and bring it close to the dock. We were the second boat in the annual sternwheeler parade at Point Pleasant. If my calculations are correct, Adam steered it close to three miles total.

Mr. Hutchison controlled the throttles mainly while Adam steered. He gave Adam pointers about when to turn the wheel and how far, and what kind of lag time Adam could expect. I’ll admit I was nervous a few times when I thought Adam was getting too close to things, but Adam and Mr. Hutchison knew enough to ignore my oncoming panic.

Years ago, I had heard that if you rode a true sternwheeler – not  a fakewheeler, with a rotating paddlewheel for show but with propellers really doing the pushing – you could feel the vibration as each bucketboard hit the water and pushed you forward a little. And yes, we felt it on the Port Explorer.

(Sometimes, you get stuck in hurry up and wait mode).

One interesting moment came when an upbound towboat appeared at our turnaround point. But we let the Anne B pass, circled behind it and followed it upriver.

So Adam had a great day, and now he has to write thank-you notes to Mssrs. Hutchison and Fowler this week. I’ll write a couple myself and send each of them a CD with a few photos in case they would like to see them.

Despite the heat and lack of shade, it was a glorious day.

Coming soon: Adam and I tour one of our Top 15 towboats, the M/V Charleston. But first I have to go through maybe 250 photos to pick out maybe the dozen best ones. And, Adam gets his first lesson in being a deckhand from a champion line tosser.