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" Tow-Line Tate , The Very First Mate "

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    " 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

    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, Boy, ya learned the Fool's Knot, yet?

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

    Now, do you know how to long splice?, 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 larnin', and that is as far as they go with me.