Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking to ya from the wheelhouse. I’d like to welcome all of you aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat. For safe passage on our trip, please do not sit or climb on the outside rails, and be sure to watch your children. The waters can be unpredictable in these parts, and we’d sure hate to lose any of ya. Also, there should be no fires or smoking on board. Thanks, and now, a few words from the first mate.
(Spanish safety spiel)
Secure all cargo! All passengers aboard!
Bowman, cast off bow lines. Engine room, ahead one quarter. Engine room, ahead three quarters. Ledge man, sound off.
LEDGE MAN (Singing)
By the mark. Mark one! Mark twain! Half-twain. Mark three. Mark four. Deep four. Ocean Deep.
We’re embarking on a steam-powered journey along the Rivers of America. On our trip, we’ll visit the magnificent Columbia in the great Northwest, the powerful Potomac in the mid-Atlantic, and the rugged Rio Grande along the border of Texas and Mexico. We’ll hear the voices of the pioneers, the native peoples, and a mischievous character or two, telling the unique stories and legends of life along America’s great rivers. We begin our trip on the mighty Mississippi, headin’ south, and ending up down in New Orleans.
(Music begins for “Down in New Orleans”)
In the South Land, there’s a city
Way down on the river,
Where the women are very pretty,
And all the men deliver.
They got music, it’s always playin’.
Start in the day time, go all through the night.
When you hear that music playin’,
Hear what I’m saying, it make you feel alright.
Grab somebody, come on down!
Bring your paintbrush, we’re paintin’ the town!
Honey, there’s some sweetness goin’ ’round,
Catch it down in New Orleans.
New Orleans is rich in music, history, good food, and ghost stories. How else do you explain all those rumors of a mansion bein’ haunted? Folks say the place is filled with 999 happy haunts, and they’re lookin’ for someone to make it 1,000. Go ahead and find out for yourself, but don’t expect me to go with ya!
We’re now passing Fowler’s Harbor, home port for the three-masted windjammer, the Columbia. And there’s the most famous landmark in these parts. The critters call it Splash Mountain—and watchin’ folks plungin’ over its falls, I think you can see why! I’m at a loss to understand what’s going on here. Perhaps Br’er Frog can shed some light on the situation.
I told Br’er Rabbit he better mend his ways! I told him Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear gonna toss him over the falls, all the way to that there briar patch. Huh, funny thing is, folks seem to love splashin’ down that big old drop.
LEDGE MAN (Singing)
Mark three! Mark three! Quarter left three! Half-twain. Half mark twain! Quarter list. Left flag. Mid-flag and touching!
If you’re new to the river, you’re probably wondering about those calls! That’s the ledge man, callin’ out the depth markings so we can avoid runnin’ aground.
LEDGE MAIN (Singing)
Mark twain. Those are the two sweetest words a river man can hear. It means the water is two fathoms deep—safe enough for riverboats like ours to travel through. But Mark Twain means somethin’ else these days. It’s also the name of an author—a witty fella who used to pilot a sternwheeler himself in his day.
When I was a boy, there was but one ambition among my comrades in our village. That was to be a steamboatman. We had ambitions of other sorts—to become clowns or pirates. These ambitions faded out, but the ambition to be a steamboatman always remained. Of course, when I was younger, I could remember everything, whether it happened or not…
We’re now travelin’ into the real backwoods country. There’s plenty of wildlife in these parts, but none wilder than Mike Fink. He’s the captain of that Gullywhumper keel boat, and he lives right over yonder in that cabin. And I believe he’s home right now. It sounds as if he’s got visitors. Must be the king of the wild frontier, Davy Crockett, with his good friend Georgie Russell.
Up on the ridge is an Indian chief, giving up a sign of peace. Seems appropriate, given how peaceful the waters are here in the backwoods.
Indian village ahead, captain!
Ahead, a tribe of plains Indians has set up camp along the river. And there’s the wise old shaman, sharin’ his knowledge with the young braves. If I’m translatin’ properly, he’s tellin’ the story of how a woodpecker taught young tribesmen to carve holes in a hollowed out branch. Blowin’ air through the branch, they created a strange and beautiful sound. That’s how the Lakota discovered the flute.
(Speaks in Lakota language)
As we continue on, keep a close eye on the riverbanks. There’s a good chance we might catch a glimpse of moose, beavers, mountain lions, and other wildlife.
That’s Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island on the starboard side. I tell ya, if there was one thing young Tom Sawyer always said he wanted to be, it was a pirate.
It’s just the life for me! You don’t have to get up mornin’s. And you don’t have to go to school, and wash, and all that blame foolishness. You see, a pirate don’t have to do anything!
As we steam back into civilization along the Rio Grande, you can see the towering buttes of Big Thunder Mountain off in the distance. That mountain was the site of the biggest gold strike in these parts, and a railroad was built to haul the riches out. They say that train’s now the wildest ride in the wilderness—and from the screams I always hear comin’ from over there, I’d have to agree!
Well folks, we’re now comin’ up on the Frontier Landing, where our journey ends. On behalf of our entire crew, I’d like to thank you for visiting us aboard the Mark Twain. When exiting our riverboat, you may find the stairways to the right side and back of the boat provide easier passage. We hope you enjoyed your voyage with us, and that you’ll visit us again real soon!
Engine room, approach levy at one quarter steam! Man the bowlines. All passengers, stand by to go ashore!
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