Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 11, 2009


Cruising down the river on a Wednesday afternoon


          Adventures tend to be less exciting as one grows older. Years age my wife and I climbed aboard the Scream Machine at Six Flags. We were young and daring – and foolish enough to think we could keep up with our teenage children. Gradually, out of respect for our hearts, we stayed off the thrilling rides.

          This past Wednesday we joined a group from our church for a leisurely ride on the Alabama River. In Montgomery we boarded the river boat, Harriott II, for what was billed as an “Educational Cruise.” An exciting adventure it was not though most of our group enjoyed doing something together.

For fifteen bucks apiece we were treated to a box lunch (hamburgers or chicken fingers) and a one-hour cruise on the muddy Alabama. The food, while edible, was nothing to write home about. But I guess we got all you could expect from a fifteen-dollar package deal. 

The scenery was less than spectacular. There was only a hint of color in the trees on the river banks. Racing along at six miles per hour, we passed under two power lines and two bridges. In the future the river boat owners might consider hiring some dancing girls to perform on the river bank. Or they could let the guests play bingo with the prize being a captain’s cap. 

          Captain John Bull and his crew did a good job herding us on and off the attractive three-decker boat. We had comfortable seats at small tables. After lunch many of the passengers walked out on the bow of the boat to enjoy the breeze and a better view.

          The “educational” part was elementary to say the least. The captain talked about the Alabama River and the history of river boats but without much enthusiasm. Perhaps, since most of us were old codgers, he did not want to excite us. If that was his goal, he succeeded.

          There has to be a way to add some excitement to the fact that upstream the Coosa and the Tallapoosa rivers join to become the Alabama River, and that downstream the Alabama River becomes the Mobile River before arriving at the Gulf. The captain might say that at the very place where the Coosa and the Tallapoosa join, in 1844 Chief Tallapoosa led a huge Indian uprising that left hundreds of settlers dead. Even if it did not happen, everyone loves a good story.

          Since the captain’s name, John Bull, was once the symbol of freedom for Great Britain, he could have fun with his name. He could trace his ancestry back to the Napoleonic Wars when his great, great grandfather was a hero in the British Navy. So he comes from a long line of courageous sea captains and he knows the tale of Moby Dick like the back of his hand. It was the first book his mother taught him to read.

Best of all, the good captain might spend a day off in Selma and take a lesson from Kathryn Tucker Windham. The famous storyteller could help him develop a good yarn to spin as he entertains his guests on the river cruises.

Old folks would welcome the injection of more enthusiasm and fun in the Harriott II cruises. They might even want to come back for another ride and bring their friends.

And one more thing: spend a quarter more and serve some apple pie for dessert.  “Grand Ma’s Chocolate Chip Cookies” are a better choice for a tailgate party. + + +