Sunday, January 12, 2014

Three boats, no sewer nostalgia

Today I found myself down by the river watching boats.

First was the M/V A.B.York, which I saw at South Point, Ohio, yesterday.

I don't know what was in the barge it was pushing, but the barge looked really new. I thought I saw the number "2013" on it, which would explain a lot.

I saw another boat coming upriver. I was going to ignore it, but as it got closer I noticed it looked awful funny on the front.

 So I watched it from the bridge, and this was what was on the front of the lead barge.

There was a similar structure on the next barge back. The barges were carrying anhydrous ammonia. I assume these structures had something to do with that.

And I saw this gentleman carrying a mop.

And here's the boat -- the Lydia Brent -- heading upriver past Huntington WV.

Off in the distance, I saw another boat, but I figured why wait. So I drove down the river and crossed the next bridge. I noticed this boat was one I hadn't seen before, so I went back to my previous spot and waited. It, too, was a Kirby boat, and it, too, was pushing two barges of anhydrous ammonia. At least that's what the barges said.

This boat was the Archie Wilson. I followed it up the West Virginia side to the next shooting spot. This guy was moving fast. As someone I know would say, he wasn't letting any moss grow on his barges.

I crossed the river to get one more set of pictures. I figured the sun was at an angle to light the boats up -- perhaps too much, given all that white paint -- so I might as well see how they look in this light. And this is what we got.

And that, friends, was my river excitement for the day.

A boat at South Point

I was in South Point, Ohio, yesterday. It's across from the Big Sandy River, and if you look on the left side of this picture, you can see a boat entering the Big Sandy from the Ohio. That's Catlettsburg, Ky., in the background.

The A.B. York is tied up at one of several places in this area where Marathon Petroleum parks its barges. Marathon has a refinery a mile up two up the Big Sandy.

I shot this from my car while on a street that had no other traffic. There was no place to park, and this was about the best angle I was going to get anyway. The boat is the M/V A.B.York of what I think is Florida Transportation.

For various reasons, I'm careful in small towns in Ohio where I don't know anybody. A few years ago, I knew the mayor and a councilman or two in South Point, but they have passed away, so there would be no use namedropping if a village policeman stopped me for anything. While musing on that, I got to thinking about how I once covered South Point and other communities in Ohio for the Huntington WV newspaper. And from that, I realized it was 25 years ago this spring that I last attended a meeting of the South Point Village Council.

South Point at the time was a community of about 4,500 people. It was one of several I covered. My MO was simple: The council met twice a month, on Tuesday evenings. That day or the day before, I would call up the mayor (I still remember his home phone number) or the village administrator (I remember the office number) to check the agenda. If there was something interesting, I attended the meeting. If not, I found something else to do.

The 1980s were interesting in South Point. As with other communities, South Point was under pressure to upgrade its sewage, er, wastewater treatment plant. And its water system needed a new storage tank. Utilities are a topic of interest for readers, but a lot of newspaper reporters would rather cover something else. I wrote so many stories about sewers and sewage treatment in the mid-1980s that I claimed the unofficial title of World Sewer Writing Champion for both 1984 and 1985.

My daily newspaper days included a lot of stories about water systems, too, but young reporters don't find them near as dull as wastewater treatment. Yet I got a lot of good stories, built a decent reputation and learned a lot by throwing myself into covering mundane stuff that led to better things.