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86 MIN READ TIME

BORN BY THE RIVER

Words KEVIN EG PERRY @kevinegperry Photographs RUSH JAGOE @rushjagoe
Sun Studio in Memphis where Sam Phillips recorded an A to Z of R’n’B

THERE ISN'T A SOUL ALIVE who knows the Mississippi River better than Captain Clarke 'Doc' Hawley. Now retired, the 82-year-old once Hi had a pilot's licence that extended over 1,300 miles of the river and its tributaries. In order to be granted this licence, he was required to draw that entire distance by hand, from memory, five miles to a page. As Mark Twain, a former riverboat pilot himself, wrote in his memoir Life on the Mississippi: 'In order to be a pilot a man had got to learn more than any one man ought to be allowed to know.'

'Not only do you draw the shape of the river, the sandbars and the bridges, but you draw what's under the river as well,' explains Captain Hawley, standing on the bridge of the Steamboat Natchez. We're docked at the Toulouse Street Wharf in New Orleans, and outside the window cargo barges laden with grain pass silently along the Mississippi. 'That's more important than anything, because you need to know where not to drop anchor or you could hook into an oil line. After I drew from Cincinnati, Ohio, down to here I thought I could go to work drawing maps at Rand McNally [a publishing company] forever.'

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