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267 Captain Bill 2010-08-13

Captain Bill

Captain Bill was a river man. Born in Cairo, IL he grew up on the river and like all the other boys he wanted to work on the river. Bill wanted to be a captain.

Bill's nickname was Boogie. He loved music and loved to dance. His first boat was an old stern wheel vessel that had been converted to screws (propellers). Upbound on the Mississippi the boat sank. The conversion to screws was ill designed and she literally shook her stern off. Captain Poe always joked wondering, if Boggie was dancing in the Pilot House when she sank! No wonder she shook her stern off!

Later, Bill and his partner Stanley, bought a tow boat and went into business for themselves. Bill would be the Captain and Stanley, the engineer. Captain Harry, who was friends with Bill and Stanley, told a story of visiting their boat while it was being overhauled. Stanley was head to toe in grease and oil, meanwhile Boogie comes walking to the dock wearing stylish clothes and new white shoes. Bill was not a mechanic; but he could steer a boat, white shoes or not.

Captain Bill worked on the General Jackson for over ten years. I was proud to have the opportunity to work with him. As I was learning how to steer the big paddlewheeler, I was always eager for more steering time and finding ways to get him out of the chair. I would tell Captain about some pretty girls I saw boarding. If my ploy worked, he would soon be looking out the back window of the Pilot House and I would be steering. If I could not tempt him with passenger watching, I had a backup plan, an ace up my sleeve that almost always worked. He loved the shows on the boat and could watch the performance every night, weather and conditions permitting. I would remind him that it was close to showtime, he would go below to watch, and I would take his seat between the sticks (the steering levers). Those were some good times.

Last Friday, Bill passed away. The rivers will continue to flow without Bill; but the song of the river will be missing some of its best notes.

To Captain Bill - cheers.

Happy river trails.


A story about Bill and I - Chronometer


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