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Captain Wagner Remembered

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    Times Moves On.

    Thanks for the photos, Denny, but they made me very sad to see pictures of Ernie Lee and know that he is gone. When he was a toddler, I was a 17-year-old deckhand on the AVALON and he was often aboard with Mrs. Wagner. Ernie Lee was about the same age as my youngest brother, Jeffrey, and I "took to" little Ernie and spent many hours walking him, by the hand, 'round and 'round the dance floor of the boat while we were 'dead-heading' without passengers. It saddened me that he had his "limitations" and never matured into the sort of man his dad was. He was like a little brother to me as was my own Jeffrey. Mrs. Wagner was always kind to me, and she allowed me into her family circle. Her daughter, Sandy, was a beauty, and we sometimes went ashore for a soda or a walk. I wonder what became of her...?

    Sad to hear of Mrs. W's passing... she disappeared from the river scene after Big Cap died. I heard she did not want to continue contact with the river people from the past, and so I never tried to contact her.

    Time marches on...


      L'il Ernie

      As Ernie Lee grew up, it became apparent that he was not going to mature, and he had his "limitations", as you say, but like a child within one's own family, L'il Ernie's limits were taken in stride and, though saddened that he was not to become the man his father was, his condition was accepted that as he grew older and assumed a man's body he was always to remain a little boy forever thrilled to sit astride a fire truck wearing the Chief's cap and twisting the steering wheel from side to side as the engine rushed to a fire seen only by him.

      As I watched that very scene, I overheard the two firemen who brought the fire engine down to the landing as part of the general river festivities that happened whenever the DELTA QUEEN was in a town talking to one another, and I recall them saying cruel things about the little boy in a man's form sitting on their truck having the time of his life. Their mean words still hurt as I remember their unkindness to someone who was very close and dear to me. Their rude words made me realize how hard and cold the world really was away from the protective cocoon that enclosed our secluded world aboard the steamboat... and things were never really the same after that.


        "Big Gravy".................