March is typically a fun month for me, as that is the month that my husband requests his big vacation time for the upcoming year. We don’t always have the money to get away during his time off, but March tends to be the month of the year that I get to dream about packing my bags for the next adventure our family might take. In the nearly six years hubby and I have been married, we’ve gone on several fun trips, from a week cruising around the Hawaiian Islands (our honeymoon), to eight days learning our nation's history in Washington D.C., a few days investigating the rich histories of Savannah, GA and St. Augustine, FL, or relaxing amongst the beauty of the mountains of Georgia. All of them were wonderful trips in their own way!
This year as I consider possible vacations, I find myself daydreaming about taking a riverboat cruise along the Mississippi River. Not too many months ago, I discovered that the American Queen Steamboat Company does a variety of tours on old-fashioned rear-wheel steamboats like those of Mark Twain’s day. Trips range in length from six to fourteen days. I’ve got grand memories of a two-hour steamboat trip I took as a child during a family vacation, and would love to experience a longer trip with shore excursions to the towns along the Mississippi River. Southern plantations, local restaurants, historical sites, and museums. All of these sound fascinating to me. Such a trip is probably out of reach for now, but there’s no harm in daydreaming, right?
In addition to the fun of vacationing, I’d love to take one of these trips to aid in researching a story that’s percolating in my brain. I recently did some cursory research on steamboats in the Old West to see if a scene I’d dreamed up would work. I was aware that steamboats were prevalent along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, but hadn’t realized they were able to navigate some of the smaller tributaries of the Missouri River. Come to find out, a common joke about steamboats was that they could sail on dew alone.
In the tiny bit of research I have done so far, I learned
that the steamboat, the Far West, was
actually an important part of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. It was commissioned
to be a supply ship for the battle, carrying 200 tons of supplies from Fort
Abraham Lincoln to the 7th Cavalry’s camp along the Yellowstone
River. In the Far West’s cabin,
Generals Terry, Gibbons, and Custer planned their battle tactics. The boat
ferried soldiers and horses from one side of the river to the other. And after
the massacre, the steamboat carried the news of the battle, as well as the
wounded back to Fort Abraham Lincoln. I’ve always tended to have a fairly
romanticized view of steamboats, and learning these facts showed me a side of
steamboat history I’d never known before. It certainly got my mind spinning
with story ideas. More research is necessary before I’d feel confident to write
a full novel centering around steamboats, but there’s plenty there, I’m sure,
to carry a novel.
|photo by Dave Gostisha|