This is the note I sent my editor while aboard a paddle-wheeler somewhere on the Ohio River.
Bet you're wondering where your reporter is now. Well, I'm about 20 feet from the Kentucky bank of the Beautiful Ohio River, and I could probably wade most of the way ashore. The boat has, successfully or unsuccessfully – depending on your point of view – completed a pancake landing.
Yes, I could wade if I could find room for me on the riverbank. It's filled with television camera crews.
My riverboat is stuck on a sandbar.
Let me hasten to say this voyage will not end up as a reprise of the Titanic sinking. could hardly go down with the ship since we are only in about 6 feet of water.
But when the steamboat crew followed two centuries of river tradition and threw open the bar for the duration of the present crisis, in the same tradition I cried, “Women and children to the lifeboats first!” and then ran full speed to the saloon. I see it as my duty toward lightening the ship to empty Southern Comfort bottles as speedily and copiously as possible.
If necessary, I'll stay here until the river rises next year!
Yesterday, when it dawned on everyone that the biggest boat ever to cruise the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers was indeed moving no faster than the Hotel Peabody in Memphis, a crewman grabbed a 12-foot pole and, bypassing all the computer-generated depth finders and satellite navigation equipment, stuck his measuring stick in the river. Well, I can vouch that after his sounding he did not yell “Mark Twain!” What he did yell would not have been suitable for a pen name even in this day and age, although it might sell a lot of books.
Then a sociable captain of the tug Beaver Island – the passengers nicknamed it hopefully the “Little Tug That Could,” but as things turned out, it couldn't – came alongside with a cheerful hail.
“Hell of a place to plant a hotel,” he remarked looking up at the six decks of our boat.
After Beaver Island, a succession of tugs arrived: the Ram, the Steel Courier, the Neil N. Diehl. At one time I heard there was 14,000 horsepower of river might, which included our boat’s own 3,000, huffing and puffing. At the end of the day all they had to show for it was a pile of broken hawsers.
The show must go on, however, so right on schedule in the evening our entertainment troupe came onstage with “Broadway on Parade.” There were a few missed steps here and there and a constant sway from the chandeliers as the tugs worked on the outside while the hoofers tapped to “There's no business like showboat business.” I definitely would rate the atmosphere more rollicking than when the band on the Titanic struck up “Nearer My God to Thee.”
Everybody had changed their watches and clocks in anticipation of a new time zone last night but, alas, the boat remained in a time warp an hour earlier. So here we sit.
And this morning everybody got to fulfill a fantasy by playing the steam calliope. I'm sure the residents of Troy, Ind., across the river loved that, plus the invasion of their town by news flocks.
So I guess I'll be seeing you when the creeks rise or the level of Southern Comfort drops, whichever comes first.
Your seaborne reporter, now chairborne in the boat saloon, George Ridge
Our boat had pulled away from the river channel for a promotional aerial photo at dawn. Unaware of this, the Corps of Engineers had lowered the river level during the night.