A-Rafting on the Mississip'

By Charles Edward Russell | Go to book overview

Chapter XV
THE PILOT AND HIS WAYS

ONE trait all rivermen of my time had in common, if so be that they were not mere ruffians or roisterers. It was a great, absorbing, dominating, vital, and, to the outsiders, unexplainable passion for the river. To say that it was a fondness for the river or a liking for the river—that would mean nothing. What they felt was more like a lover rejoicing in his first love, only this was immune from satiety and did not change. I know I shall be thought extravagant, but not by those that knew the life I am writing about. The peculiar fascination that this stream exerted upon all its devotees approximated the uncanny. “Alas! they’re mad,” said my towny, the poet, who had read the classics and could quote or paraphrase with equal circumstance. It was hardly a figure of speech.

Other men had interests aside from their daily work. My pilots had none. Other men, or most other men, have a tendency to quarrel with their jobs. The Mississippi River men were on terms of intimate comradeship with theirs. I have never known a lawyer past forty that was in love with his profession nor a doctor that adored doctoring nor a carpenter that wanted to get up in the middle of the night and plane boards. But to a pilot his craft was all in all. It was not these

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