“There are no two rivers that are
alike. The piloting is unique to each, as is the scenery and the
history. This is purely the Mississippi River. It doesn’t compare
in any way to any other river.
people living ashore are so interesting. They love their river,
their boats, the fish, the recreation. They feel so much ownership
of the river and its valleys. Those of us who work on the river
feel this appreciation, too; a strong sense that this river
belongs to all of us. We have to make room for one another and all
our varied interests. It’s vital to protect this river, its
I think it’s hard for people to even imagine the vast importance
of the river in the lives of millions of people in this great
nation, and all those foreign countries that depend on our foreign
trade. Electric plants, drinking water, fuel, and grain are
supplied by or moved upon this river.
Mark Twain would be astonished at the power, the scope of river
traffic today when compared to the paddlewheelers that ran the
river in his day; the sheer power of the diesel towboats, the
steel hulls that have replaced the wooden hulls. The steamboat
pilots really were the pioneers of river transportation as we know
I’ve seen the Locks on the upper river put in place. I’ve seen the
corn business explode because of the navigational technology that
allows us to move the corn. Improvements in agriculture and
shipping have developed hand-in-hand. One barge with a nine-foot
draft can move 1500 tons of corn. The freight pushed by a single
towboat and its crew of eleven
men is worth many millions of dollars and moves as much grain as a
twenty train engineers, twenty firemen and twenty brakemen, etc.
If something should happen to the lock system, it would cripple
the American economy. Trucks and trains or airplanes could not
possibly make up the difference.
The main thing a Midwestern farmer thinks about is getting his
harvest of grain to the elevator. But that’s just the beginning.
There is more corn produced in the upper Midwest than anywhere
else in the world. More grain is moved on the Mississippi River
than on any other river system in the world. The sight of
ocean-going barges from around the world picking up Midwestern
grain in New Orleans is sobering. Few farmers begin to realize the
number of people around the world that are fed by Midwestern corn.
The Indians called this the “Father of Waters” and that’s exactly
what it is today. I’m a long run pilot. I just know what I see on
the river. “
One Man and the Mighty Mississippi
by Capt. Norman Hillman
Captain Norman Hillman recounts his 60-year adventure as a professional riverboat pilot on America's Great Rivers.
"This book belongs in every research library in the country. Capt. Hillman's
memory for specific names and incidents is remarkably accurate. ONE
MAN is an excellent history of the modern towboat era."
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