The Anne Gladders

- 1977, it was about 8 or 9 in the morning, I was standing on an on ramp in Tulsa Oklahoma, my thumb out. A car stops and I get in the back seat. In the front seat is a young couple, in back is another couple and a single girl. I sit next to the girl. This is a perfect situation! I had been drinking the night before, so I was still a little under that influence. It seems they were skipping school or at least some of them. I was getting along really well with the girl, she seemed to like me, laughing at my wit-isms. I mentioned "why don't we get some beer?!"  Which they did. 
They just kept driving, I don't remember much of anything except one time I was warned to stop talking like I was, don't remember what I was saying but I'm sure with the drinking and my already inability of knowing what and  when to say the right thing, mixed with my sarcasm, I'm sure was inappropriate, even in a crowd like that! My mouth always getting me in trouble. If I had any idea that people were laughing at what I was saying, I would always go way over the boundaries, not knowing that I should stop.
Well, I remember nothing until, I was laying in the dirt on the side of the road, it was late in the afternoon, my head was pounding, my glasses were broken, my eyes were swollen, I had been beaten!   Next thing I remember was, standing there yelling at them to "come back! I'll not say that anymore!" I have no idea how long I had been there or if they were anywhere around, I had no idea where I was!
 I discovered that I was in Kansas northbound near Kansas City. Well they never came back...
So for the rest of that day and into the night I got my way through KC, to interstate 70 eastbound, (I somehow need to get these glasses fixed.)
It was about 2 or 3 in the morning and a guy picked me up as I walked along the highway. We stopped and got something to eat, he then asked, "how did you get your eyes dotted?" I said " I don't know, but it was probly my mouth got me there!" He asked if I wanted a job? I said yes, sure. We were in Missouri, after a long time he gets off the interstate to a narrow dirt road that led down next to the Mississippi River. 
We waited awhile there...then a small boat came to shore with 2 guys on it. One guy with his stuff got off and I got on. We went to a tow boat stopped out in the middle of the river, that pushed 3 barges, the other guy who was "1st mate" he said " you will be a "deck hand" "this is your new abode for the next 45 days!" 
After we got on the boat he showed me where I would be sleeping, and I laid down till sunrise. 
I was introduced to the old lady who did the cooking, then up top to the "Pilot Station" where I met the pilot, a older heavy set man controlling and steering the Tow Boat "Ann Gladders".
At New Madrid Missouri, we would load the three barges, attaching this huge shoot from a grain elevator like thing to an opening into a compartment with powdered cement  and do that all day till all compartments were full on all the barges. Then we'd go to all the connections of the barges and make sure all the cables were tight with ratchets that tied the barges together. The Pilot would steer out into the channel on the Mississippi River south to Natchez Mississippi, where we would unload, reversing the process. 
We would go down river a ways to Louisiana and load up grain that they would use for alcohol, take back up to Cairo, Illinois...Then back to New Madrid.
The Pilots would do 12 hour shifts, so would us deck hands, the first mate told the deck hands what to do. The Anne Gladders was a small operation, most of those boats pushed 30 plus barges up and down the river going thru the difficult locks and levees, we had none of that stuff!
My shift was 12 midnight to 12 noon.
So I would start my shift at midnight walking completely around all the barges into the back of the boat making
sure all the green and the red lights were working right ratcheting down on all the connections of the barges making sure everything was secure safe. There was a very narrow cat walk that I walked on, the first mate put the fear in me knowing that if I fell I would never be found again because the undertow of the Mississippi River would pull me under so fast. He would tell me about how dangerous it was to go through those locks and how important it was for those cables to stay the right tension, many a man on "FreakStreet" Cincinnati, Louisville, or Cairo missing limbs being hit by those cables.
The Mississippi Delta is one of the hottest places that I've ever been, Hot humid sultry no breeze and bugs unbelievable! 
So I would have to do that every couple hours, but while not doing that I would go and clean up and maybe mop the floors in the kitchen dining room but mostly drink coffee and listen to the sea hag talk. That old woman worked on those riverboats as a cook for like 50 years.
After daylight I would swab the deck, clean windows... stuff like that, I would also clean the pilots quarters that was on duty at the time. Sometimes I would go up top and sit in the pilot room, it was nice and air-conditioned. The pilot would just be steering staying within the buoys and watching everything, while watching soap operas on TV. At my shift would be over I go back to my sleeping quarters do whatever sleep wake up go down hang around the kitchen. Then start my shift all over again at midnight. 
That first stint I don't remember having much to do with the other deckhands. 
So after 45 days wherever we were at the time, first mate would put me on a little boat and take me back to shore, someone would be there to take me to the Greyhound Station and pay for my ticket. I had my paycheck sent to my dads house in Champaign because I had no other place to have them sent. 
I would hitch from downtown Champaign to my Dads house in West side of town. He let me sleep on an air mattress in a room in the basement of his house until I got those paychecks and then I would disappear and make my way back to the same place I was dropped off by the river, and that john boat would come and pick me up again 15 days later. 
So I did the 45 days on and 15 days off a couple more times, One of these times off while and Champaign, I met up with a girl my sisters friend, Judy,
 It was wonderful now I have a girl to come back to. My sister didn't like it very
much though. 
I did another stint and came back, but this time I couldn't find her anywhere couldn't contact her in anyway she just disappeared!
Well not many days after I got back on the boat, I had already decided that this might be what I do for the rest of my life, both the pilots and the cook seem to like me, and I decided it might not be a bad thing to learn how to do!
 I had found out what the rest of the crew is doing during their off hours just like everybody else was doing back in those days smoking pot. The first mate offered me to come in smoke some pot with them. Not that I was some "goody two shoes" but I refused because I really didn't smoke much pot! So I didn't think anything of it after that.
But not long after that the first mate started mentioning these little ideas..."you know? other people don't have to do what I have to do and they're just taking advantage of you and nobody really likes the way I do things around there", then I got thinking about it more and more, and he kept bringing things like that up. I started to agree with everything he said Then I started complaining about everything. You know, he's right! "they are not treating me that right, my rights are being violated! Grrr! 
Pretty soon I decided I didn't want to be there anymore then finally, one night we were in nearing Cairo Illinois,
I told him "I'm not going to put up with this anymore! you need to get me off this boat now! He said "okay, I'll tell the pilot". The boat stopped, I got my stuff and we took that little boat to shore where I got off and the little boat went back. ... there I stood in a clearing, pitch black dark watching the john boat go back to the Anne Gladders....Hmmmpf! I showed them!:-/

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