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Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/159

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NAVIGATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI.

foot of the Falls near Louisville in Kentucky. But, reader, follow their movements, and judge for yourself of the fatigues, troubles and risks of the men employed in that navigation. A keel-boat was generally manned by ten hands, principally Canadian French, and a patroon or master. These boats seldom carried more than from twenty to thirty tons. The barges frequently had forty or fifty men, with a patroon, and carried fifty or sixty tons. Both these kinds of vessels were provided with a mast, a square-sail, and coils of cordage, known by the name of cordelles. Each boat or barge carried its own provisions. We shall suppose one of these boats under way, and, having passed Natchez, entering upon what were called the difficulties of their ascent. Wherever a point projected, so as to render the course or bend below it of some magnitude, there was an eddy, the returning current of which was sometimes as strong as that of the middle of the great stream. The bargemen therefore rowed up pretty close under the bank, and had merely to keep watch in the bow, lest the boat should run against a planter or sawyer. But the boat has reached the point, and there the current is to all appearance of double strength, and right against it. The men, who have all rested a few minutes, are ordered to take their stations, and lay hold of their oars, for the river must be crossed, it being seldom possible to double such a point and proceed along the same shore. The boat is crossing, its head slanting to the current, which is however too strong for the rowers, and when the other side of the river has been reached, it has drifted perhaps a quarter of a mile. The men are by this time exhausted, and, as we shall suppose it to be twelve o'clock, fasten the boat to the shore or to a tree. A small glass of whisky is given to each, when they cook and eat their dinner, and after repairing their fatigue by an hour's repose, recommence their labours. The boat is again seen slowly advancing against the stream. It has reached the lower end of a large sand-bar, along the edge of which it is propelled by means of long poles, if the bottom be hard. Two men called bowsmen remain at the prow, to assist, in concert with the steers-man, in managing the boat, and keeping its head right against the current. The rest place themselves on the land side of the footway of the vessel, put one end of their poles on the ground, the other against their shoulders, and push with all their might. As each of the men reaches the stern, he crosses to the other side, runs along it, and comes again to the landward side of the bow, when he recommences ope-