Apicultura Wiki

The steamboats of the Mississippi are as remarkable for size and form as the river itself. Gigantic specimens of art that go bellowing over the swift and muddy current, like restless monsters, breathing out the whisperings of the hurricane, clanking and groaning as if an earthquake was preparing to convulse the world, obscuring in clouds of smoke the sun in the daytime, or rolling over the darkness of night a flame as if the volcano had burst from the bosom of the deep.

Who, without wondering, sees them for the first time, as they rush along, filled with an ever-busy throng of travellers, and loaded with the boundless wealth, that teems from the rich soil, as the reward of the labor of the American husbandman!

The Mississippi is also very remarkable for little steamboats, small specimens of water-craft, that are famous for their ambitious puffings, noisy captains, and gigantic placards - boats that run up little streams that empty into the Mississippi - boats that go beyond places never dreamed of in geography - never visited by travellers, or even marked down in the scrutinizing book of the tax collector.

The first time one finds himself in one of these boats, he looks about him as did Gulliver when he got in Lilliput. It seems as if you are larger and more magnificent than an animated colossus - you find, on going on the boat, that your feet are on the lower deck and your head up-stairs; the after-cabin is so disposed of that you can sit inside of it, and yet be near the bows. The ladies' cabin has but one berth in it, and that only as wide as a shelf.

The machinery is tremendous; two large kettles firmly set in brick, attached to a complicated looking coffee mill, two little steampipes and one big one.

And then the way that the big steam-pipe will smoke, and the little ones let off steam, is singular. Then the puffing of the little coffee-mill! why it works as spitefully as a tom-cat with his tail caught in the crack of a door.

Then the engineer, to see him open "the furnace" doors, and pitch in wood, and open the little stop-cocks to see if the steam is not too high, all so much like a big steamer. Then the name of the craft, "THE U.S. MAIL, EMPORER," the letters covering over the whole side of the boat, so that it looks like a locomotive advertisement.

Then the "U. S. MAIL" deposited in one corner of the cabin, and two rifles standing near, as if to guard it; said mail being in a bag that looks like a gigantic shot- pouch, fastened to a padlock, and said pouch filled with three political speeches, franked by M.C.'s, one letter, to a man who did not live at the place of its destination, and a small bundle of post-office documents put in by mistake.

The bell that rang for the boat's departure, was a tremendous bell; it swung to and fro awfully; it was big enough for a cathedral, and as it rung for the twentieth, 'last time,' one passenger came on board weighing about three hundred, and the boat got under way.

Let go that hawser," shouted the captain in a voice of thunder. Pe, wee, wee, pish, went the little steampipe, and we were off. Our track lay for a time down the Mississippi, and we went ahead furiously, overhauled two rafts and a flat-boat within two hours, and presented the appearance of a reel big steamer most valiantly, by nearly shaking to pieces in its waves. The two light passengers got along very well, but whenever the fat passenger got off a line with the centre of the cabin, the pilot would give the bell one tap, and the captain would bawl out, "Trim the boat."

Captain Raft, of the U. S. Mail steamer Emperor, it may not be uninteresting to know, was one of those eccentric men that had a singular ambition to run a boat where no one else could - he was fond of being a great discoverer on a small scale. In one of his eccentric humors, Captain Raft run the Emperor up Red River, as the pilot observed, about "a feet," which in the southwest, means several hundred miles.

Among the passengers upon that occasion was old Zeb Marston, a regular out-and-outer frontiersman, who seemed to spend his whole life in settling out of the way places, and locating his family in sickly situations. Zeb was the first man that "blazed" a tree in Eagle Town, on the Mountain Fork, and he was the first man that ever choked an alligator to death with his hands, on the Big Cossitot. He knew every snag, sawyer, nook and corner of the Sabine, the Upper Red River, and their tributaries, and when "bar whar scace," he was wont to declare war on the Cumanchos, and, for excitement, "used them up terribly."

But to our story - Zeb moved on Red River, settled in a low, swampy, terrible place, and he took it as a great honor that the Emperor passed his cabin; and, at every trip the boat made, there was tumbled out at Zeb's yard a barrel of new whiskey, (as regularly as she passed,) for which was paid the full value in cord wood. Now, Captain Raft was a kind man, and felt disposed to oblige every resident that lived on his route of travel; but it was unprofitable to get every week to Zeb's out- of-the way place, and as he landed the fifteenth barrel, he expressed his surprise at the amount of whiskey consumed at his "settlement," and hinted it was rather an unprofitable business for the boat. Zeb, at this piece of information, "flared up," raised his mane, shut his "maulers," and told Captain Raft he could whip him, - the pilot, and deck hands, and if they would give him the advantage of the "under grip," he would let the piston- rod of the engine punch him in the side all the time the fight was going on.

Raft, at this display of fury from Zeb, cooled down immediately, acknowledged himself "snagged," begged Zeb's pardon, and adjourned to the bar for a drink. One glass followed another, until the heroes got into the mellow mood, and Zeb, on such occasions, always "went it strong" for his family. After praising their beauty individually and collectively, he broke into the pathetic, and set the Captain crying, by the following heart-rending appeal: -

"Raft, Raft, my dear fellow, you talk about the trouble of putting out a barrel of whiskey every week at my digging, when I have got a sick wife, and five small children, and no cow! - whar's your heart?"

Dinner in due course of time was announced - the table was covered with the largest roast beef, the largest potatoes, and the largest carving-knife and fork that ever floated, and the steward rang the largest bell for dinner, and longer than any other steward would have done, and the captain talked about the immense extent

Of the Mississippi, the contemplated canal through the Isthmus of Darien, and the ability of the steam warships; he said, that in the contemplation of the subject, "his feelings war propelled by five hundred horsepower - that the bows of his imagination cut through the muddy waters of reality - that the practicability of his notions was as certain as a rudder in giving the proper direction - that his judgment, like a safety-valve to his mind, would always keep him from advocating any thing that would burst up, and that it was unfortunate that Robert Fulton had not lived to be President of the United States."

With such enlarged ideas he wiled away the hours of dinner; - arriving at the mouth of "Dry Outlet" (a little ditch that draws off some of the waters of the Mississippi when very high), the pilot turned the bows of the "Emperor" into its mouth, and shot down, along with an empty flour barrel, with an alacrity that sent the bows of the boat high and dry on land, the first bend it came to.

A great deal of hard work got it off, and away the steamer went again, at one time sideways, at another every way, hitting against the soft alluvial banks, or brushing the pipes among the branches of overhanging trees. Finally the current got too strong, and carried it along with alarming velocity. The bows of the boat were turned up stream, and thus managed to keep an onward progress compatible with safety.

The banks of the "dry outlet" were very low and very swampy, and were disfigured occasionally by wretched cabins, in which lived human beings, who, the captain of the "Emperor" informed us, lived, as far as he could judge, by sitting upon the head of a barrel and looking out on the landscape, and at his boat as it passed. From the fact that they had no arable land, and looked like creatures fed on unhealthy air, we presume that was their only occupation.

In time we arrived at the "small village," the destination of the "mail pouch;" "the passengers" landed and visited the town. It was one of the ruins of a great city, dreamed of by land speculators in "glorious times." Several splendidly-conceived mansions were decaying about in the half-finished frames that were strewn upon the ground. A barrel of whiskey was rolled ashore, the mail delivered, the fat man got out, and the steamer was again under way.

The "dry outlet" immerged into a broad inland lake, which itself, with a peculiarity of the tributaries of the Mississippi, emptied into that river. Our little boat plunged on, keeping up with untiring consistency all its original pretensions and puffing, and the same clanking of tiny machinery, scaring the wild ducks and: geese, scattering the white cranes over our heads, and making the cormorant screech with astonishment in hoarser tones than the engine itself.

Occasionally we would land at a "squatter's settlement," turn round and come up to the banks with grandeur, astonishing the squatter's children, and the invalid hens that lived in the front yard. The captain would pay up the bill for the wood, and off he would go again as "big as all out doors," and a great deal more natural. Thus we struggled on, until, sailing up a stream with incessant labor, such as we went down when we commenced our sketch, we emerged into the world of water that flows in the Mississippi. Down the rapid current we gracefully swept, very much to the astonishment of the permanent inhabitants on its banks.

Again for the "innumerable time," the "furnaces" consumed the wood, and as it had to be replenished, we ran alongside one of those immense wood-yards, so peculiar to the Mississippi, where lay, in one continuous pile, thousands of cords of wood. The captain of the "Emperor," as he stopped his boat before it, hollowed out from his upper deck, in a voice of the loudest tone - "Got any wood here?"

Now the owner of the wood-yard, who was a very rich man, and a very surly one, looked on the "pile," and said "he thought it possible."

"Then," said the captain, "how do you sell it a cord?" The woodman eyed the boat and its crew; and eyed the passengers, and then said, " he would not sell the boat any wood, but the crew might come ashore and get their hats full of chips for nothing."

Hereupon the five hundred horsepower of the captain's feelings, and the rudder and the safety- valves of his well-regulated mind, became surcharged with wrath, and he vented out abuse on the wood-yard and its owner, which was expressed in "thoughts that breathe and words that burn."

A distant large boat, breasting the current like a thing of life, at this moment coming in sight, gave us a hint, and rushing ashore amid the "wrath" we bid the "Emperor" and its enraged captain a hearty goodbye, and in a few moments more we dwindled into insignificance on board of the magnificent - , the pride and wonder of the Western waters.