Sunday, September 11, 2011

It is true that I do not possess anything but what is near and at my disposal; it is quite a lot. I have the comfort of home at my disposal. I have this 3/4 acre to take care of at my disposal. Yes I do share it with my wife ( we go back to 1968 (43 years )).
I have taken photos of most that are old and the new is just waiting for the camera.

That was very nice. I realize that we should not forget but I am a bit overwhelmed at all the emotion pushed into my brain.
When I worked out on the dam, we had only one thing on our mind and that was to stay alive in a dangerous situation. When I walked near the raging river at Smithland I made it a point (if I happened to fall) to fall ten feet and land on hard giant boulders so that mom could identify me.
 I remember asking our assistant lock master at Lock and Dam 50  if I really needed to wear the life jacket and he said, "No  but if you want your wife to get some insurance money then wear it (find me floating). That made sense; I hear the sad songs of mourning in the other room.
During icy winters this wall was covered with ice and if you fell make sure that you fell into the freezing water at right and not churning turbulence and weight of barges at left. It was best not to fall.

I worked ten years on a maneuver boat like this below. It is steam powered. These men are putting the dam down. You see one wicket falling to the bottom. These wickets are hinged to the bottom of the river. When they are down they will lay flat on the river bottom. You can see the water current sweeping around the edge of the boat. There is a long steel cable attached to the far bank and a steel drum on the back of the boat.

The Coots Would Go Around the Work Boat Above and Down the River

Walking on the water, little footprints like puffs of smoke trailing behind. Up to speed and into the air.  The little black feathers beat first at the water and then into the air. I watched as others glide down and around the boat unaware of any danger, the ride on the water is their pleasure. They dive down into the boils and pop up somewhere down stream. When their ride is done, they run on the water and fly upstream to repeat their joyous ride. We stop and watch amazed, knowing the dangers of so swift a current. We marvel at the little black ducks as they perform their dives, glides and flights.
In one moment, I walk out the door and look up at the dark sky.  I see the northwestern sky light up. Thunder, lightning is off in the distance, no sound is heard. I look at the same skyline and see a planet or star now in the darkness. I look down and see the river still and dark. I hear a flop and turn around and see a large splash of water. Some great creature from below the water has surfaced. As I walk away rings, ripple the water in the still of the morning night. This was only a moment in this life, not more than ten-seconds in time.
This river is rich in organic matter, in late summer it turns green. The water has a smell to it, a green smell, a mossy woods smell, a turned compost smell.
Flooding on the Ohio River
The river is moving south, great trees are carried swiftly around the concrete walkway  of
dam. The speed of the chocolate current is mesmerizing and menacing. I avoid looking in
that direction until I am safely above it on the towering portion of the dam, where I can
safely look at it in leisure. I keep my eyes focused on the concrete path, the current is swift
by my side. Sometimes the power of the water is overwhelming.
January 2, 2001, 3:00 – 11:30 P.M. Dam # 78:
Last night when I crossed the bridge into Illinois from Paducah I could see ice floating in the river below the bridge. It was winding down the Illinois shore like a white snake. When I got to work I saw the river above the lock covered with ice as far as I could see. Apparently the Wabash River overflowed and sent its ice into the Ohio River. The ice looked old and worn, muddy and broken. It slowed down the locking of towboats and barges, as we had to clear the ice with air before we could swing the gates open. If ice is allowed to be pressed to the lock walls or gates it hardens and becomes impossible to move the gates back flush against the recessed walls out of the way. We also have to make ice lockings. We ask a towboat with barges to shove into the chamber as far as he can go without smashing the ice into the lower gates. As he moves into the lock chamber the ice compacts in front of his barges. Then we ask him to back up above the lock chamber and tie up. We close the gates and lock the ice that has been pushed to the far end of the lock. Last night we lock about five hundreds feet of compacted ice before we could come back and lock the towboat on the upper wall.
Winter 1977-1978, Dam # 50:
My struggle is no different than any other man. Man has labored from dusk to dawn to survive.
Some have struggled as slaves and some as wage laborers. They have all toiled in salt stinging sweat and some have toiled in cold shivering icy weather.
I have come to work and walked from one end of these lock walls to the other ends of these walls for eight hours. I have walked up a cold icy wall to relieve another lockman, turned and faced and icy blizzard while holding a lock line for a towboat. The deckhand will stand on ice that has splashed over the front of the barges the towboat is pushing. The ice looks like chocolate milk that has dropped from a baby's high chair and flown back up and froze in place. The deckhand works the heavy line while standing on the cold steel deck of the coal barge. It is slow moving and cold, I walk and place a line on a mooring pin on the lock wall, and I walk swiftly away as the line tightens, narrows and sings. Then the line slacks and I move forward and retrieve the line and walk another fifty feet and repeat the process. The line tightens, narrows and sings again, I have moved away swiftly knowing that the line will kill if it breaks and flies threw the air like a rubber band. The icy blowing snow and air still stings my face and numbs my feet. The line is taught the cumbersome mass of cold steel and coal slowly, slowly, very slowly moves closer to the wall. I stomp my feet and the cold pain move slowly up my legs. We all wait, we are cold but we all wait for the mass to be aliened with the wall. The water current tugs toward the middle of the river pulling the heavy weight away from the wall. There is a constant battle between the line and the water current. The coal-sooted line is so hot that it smokes with friction as it moves around the timberheads. We are moving closer to the lock. Fifty feet at a time we move the line and repeat the process. We are numb, we are paid to be numb and cold and to catch and walk the lines. The lock is getting closer and as soon as the front of the barge is inside the protective walls our numbing chore ends. Once he is inside I can walk to the center of the lock and log what time he entered the lock. My hands shake as I remove my gloves and grab a pencil. The log is supposed to be neat but shaking hands and drops of melting snow make it impossible. The small guard type shack is small; the floor is covered with wet melting snow, it is a painted gray wood. The paint is worn white by the constant movement of heavy boots. I shake my hands and try to warm them in this confined area. My nose and cheeks are red and wet. In a minute or two I'll continue on to the other end of the lock and help the deckhand secure the barges.
Sometimes the weather is balmy and nice, at other times the temperature is ninety degrees and the humidity is eighty, water and sweat run until your clothes are wet, sopping wet. The steel barges retain the heat and cook the bottom of your soles. The salt cakes around your eyes and burns you.

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