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Judy Patsch 01-22-2008 11:10 AM

Our late great SPRAGUE EXPEDITION 1980
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The pix of the week inspired me to search for the pictures I took when Lexie and I visited the SPRAGUE on a 1980 DQ trip. But where oh where in this mess - ah yes, in the photo album labeled "Models, Museums, and Displays". Dewey Decimal I ain't!!! Anyway, the story: Franz posted the pix I took a year or two earlier from the DQ and it was this sighting that got Lexie and I plotting a visit. This occurred in 1980, June I think. The DQ was docked about a mile below the SPRAGUE on the Yazoo. We got out the DQ workboat and rowed upriver well before any passengers were up and about. After floating around the remains, we tied off the rowboat and climbed aboard. I had never seen the SPRAGUE in operating or even museum condition, yet chills went through me as I stepped aboard... it was obvious that steamboat/treasure/memorabilia buffs had been there before us, as there was nothing 'loose' or in 'liberating' condition left. But to just walk about her was one of those steamboating moments. At this point she was no longer salvagable and she later broke in half when being pulled out, I believe. You'll notice the paddlewheel is several yards downstream. After walking wherever we felt it safe on the hulk, we rowed down to the wheel and noted 2 stirrups just waiting to be liberated. Knowing that the wheel's diameter was 44 feet, we 'liberated' very carefully as we figured we were in about 22 feet of water. Duh.. later that year Lexie sent me a pix in low water - the weight of the wheel had collapsed it, so we were really in just 2 or 3 feet of water! After the liberation, we paddled back toward the DQ. Lexie let me off a ways above it, I had the 2 stirrups in a plastic garbage bag and nonchalantly walked back on board the DQ( as nonchalantly as one can when carrying two heavy pieces of iron in one hand). I went back to my Skid Row room to watch Lexie and accomplice put the workboat back on the fantail. By this time, some passengers were up and about, and they puzzled as to how Lexie got so 'rusty' looking. I quickly slipped into my room to wash my rust off before being noticed. So went our DQ/SPRAGUE expedition in summer 1980. Pix 1) The SPRAGUE hulk and paddlewheel in the Yazoo as seen from the DQ. Pix 2) the hulk
Pix 3) floating along the starboard side in our workboat

Judy Patsch 01-22-2008 11:14 AM

More pix
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Pix 4) aboard the starboard side of the SPRAGUE, with our expedition vessel tied off on the stern
Pix 5) Lexie and the capstans
Pix 6) Lexie and an anchor

Judy Patsch 01-22-2008 11:19 AM

Even more pix
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Pix 7) looking down into the cabin area
Pix 8) a closeup of the starboard as we bid farewell
Pix 9) liberation territory - note the real bucketboards had been replaced by slats to lighten the wheel weight

Mary Sward Charlton 01-22-2008 11:45 AM

Judy, this then secretive trip to the relic is now legendary, spoken of in hushed, reverent terms, passed from one river fan to another. As I am a humble holder of a piece off the Gordon C., gleaned in 2006 low-water, I can only imagine the sense of awe you must have felt to actually step aboard Big Mama. Thanks for sharing the pictures. Mary

Shipyard Sam 01-22-2008 01:18 PM

Cheyenne C. Cheyenne's Pic
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Why all the tippy-toeing around? Have any thing to do with the fear generated several years by the High-Sheriff of Warren County, Mississippi when certain steam-gauging instruments were temporarily missing from BIG MOMMA's engine room?

Enclosed is a shot of the SPRAGUE's paddlewheel taken by the legendary, Cheyenne C. Cheyenne-- "where the middle-C stands for Cheyenne." Notice the shadow of the top of the DELTA QUEEN's mast in the foreground.

Bill Judd 01-22-2008 01:37 PM

Thanks Judy for posting those photos of the bitter end of the Sprague. I was on her four times. Twice in 1959, when upbound in tow here at Cincy and when she was on display at Pittsburgh. Once in the 1960's at Vicksburg, even went to the show on board and finally in April, 1977 when the boat was beached out after the fire. Spent several hours on board. You could drive your car right up to the hull. In fact I used the car roof ( a station wagon) to access the boat. Funny thing was the road down had a rather high center crown but I got down OK. Could never figure out why it drug all the way up.

Keith Norrington 01-22-2008 03:25 PM

Capt. Bill: I, too, made a foray to the SPRAGUE ruins in the spring of 1977. I had two cameras, taking prints and slides, and was so enthralled on getting pictures of the huge sternwheel that I didn't hear a herd of horses come up until they were nearly upon me! I sought refuge under the BIG MAMA's sternwheel until they galloped away! I'm a city kid and didn't know quite what to think of all those big and wildly snorting creatures!

Seems that a LOT of steamboat enthusiasts made pilgrimages to the boat after the fire when she was beached out up the Yazoo and even later after the sinking. Various parts of her are still strewn along the riverbank, including her smokestacks, which I saw just last year. Rest in pieces, great lady of the river!!!

Judy Patsch 01-22-2008 03:57 PM

...more like the fear generated by Capt. Wagner when the sheriff arrived!!!! Whenever I see those gauges on display, I'm tempted to stick a sign: Donated by....

Judy Patsch 01-22-2008 04:11 PM

More SPRAGUE demise pix
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Capt. Bill, I don't know if I could have climbed about her as we did if I had been on her when she was 'alive'. This was chilling enough. Same feeling as when I walked on the GCG bones in St. Louis... Here are 3 more pix, taken less than a year later, in April 1981. You can see the forward half has been stripped, the hogchains mostly removed, and interior items removed, which brings the question: what happened to her engines? Were they removed before or during her museum days, or were they there at the end?

R. Dale Flick 01-22-2008 04:36 PM

Steamboating colleagues:
Judy, many thanks for the incredible SPRAGUE photos pictured on this thread...and for others on A sad sight indeed, but I've learned a lot about the boat from all the memories here. Nothing as forlorn as a vessel in its extremis. Keith's account of being surprised by the horses is something. I can imagine there may have been other 'critters' in/around/under all of that wreckage.

*I noted in the one shot the neat jackstaff still on the bow of the SPRAGUE. Was it wood, iron or steel? That would have made a great addition to a municipal park, landing...or even somebody's yard who was willing to remove it, cart away and restore with hours and hours of scraping and painting, not to mention basing in the ground. Was the jackstaff also lost in due time?

R. Dale Flick

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