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Ted Davisson 12-14-2007 01:20 AM

" Tow-Line Tate , The Very First Mate "
Greetings From New Orleans ,
Sometimes when Iam alone or going down the river or just going through some old box in my attic and I come accross a forgotton relic from my steamboat days , seldom do I not think of some of the old pilots that were my mentors that always made an impression on me and for that matter not necessarly always a good impression at that . I was so fortunate to be on that old steamboat to witness the passing of what I consider the Golden Age of Steamboats and just as important the passing of genuine and authentic Steamboat Pilots . One of my favorite and unforgetable CHARACTERS and Scoundrals of that day was Capt. Howard Tate , affectionately known as " Tow-line Tate , The Very First Mate " ! I still carry with me a more than vivid image of him either behind the sticks of the DQ , spitting into a brass spitoon or better yet one time when the boat was laying in Memphis and he and Capt. Wagner , were sitting on the bow of the boat , throwing craps , while passengers were boarding . How well do you think that image would go over today in this world of incredibly and redicuilus political correctioness . In a sad way I am glad that these giants are no longer with us and don't have to deal with these absurd new rules of social correctness . I remember Capt. Tate telling the story of when he took his boat over and through a broken levee to rescue stranded farmers on the roof of their farms during the flood of 27' . I remember Capt. Tate gambling and cleaning house with the crew in the crew mess , I remember Capt. Tate teaching me how to make a Monkey Fist and then throwing a heaving line that deckhands a fraction of his age could not do , I remember Capt. Tate propositioning some new and unsuspecting maid and sometimes getting lucky , I remember Capt. Tate telling me the worst thing the company could do was to install a radar on the Queen , I remember Capt. Tate telling me how to " run " behind Towheads , I remember Capt. Tate teaching me that when " rounding up " a steamboat you want to back the stern into the wind , I remember Capt. Tate talking to passing towboat pilots and them thanking him for everything he taught them . In my opinion Capt. Tate was not only one in a million but was also a unique member of a steamboat pilot faternity that we will only now read and dream about . My hat is off to you Capt. Tate , Long May You Run !
Smoothe Sailing !
Ted Davisson

Don Sanders 12-15-2007 01:02 PM

Can You Tie the Fool's Knot?
Cap'n Tate was the best story teller ever I heard tell a tale on the DELTA QUEEN. He was featured in a long December issue of Playboy, the mag, after he captivated the writer, Richard Rhodes, sometime around 1971.

One time I was short-splicing a line, on deck, and he came by and asked me if I could tie the "Fool's Knot". Saying I couldn't, he showed me a time or two. It's seemed a silly knot of no practial value, but I kept at until I master it.

An hour, or so, later, Tate ambled by and asked, [I]Boy, ya learned the Fool's Knot, yet?[/I]

[I]You means like this?[/I] My hands flew as fast a did his when he first showed me.

[I]Now, do you know how to long splice?[/I], he asked. And with that, the gruff old pilot sat down next to me and taught me to how long splice. I had passed his test to see if I was interested-enough to learn a knot so simple that "any fool could tie it".

If I hadn't learned to tie his Fool's Knot, Tate would not have wasted another minute on showing me anything more. I use that very same test to this day; if a newbie doesn't learn that knot, Like Captain Tate, I know that they do not possess a genuine interest in [I]larnin'[/I], and that is as far as they go with me.

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