Using the river to transport necessities is nearly as old as humankind itself, and the area now known as West Virginia is no different.
As many as 2,500 years ago, the prehistoric Adena culture used the Kanawha, Ohio and other rivers to connect isolated villages into trade networks.
As today’s Daily Mail WV reports, even with the modern interstate highways and railways of today, the rivers are still the safest, most fuel efficient, and most environmentally friendly way of hauling bulk goods like coal, oil, aggregate and grain.
But the marvels of modern technology that reduce the labor and brute strength needed in many industries hasn’t changed the hard, laborious work for the deckhands of inland waterway towing companies.
Inland waterway shipping still requires laborers with good strength to tie barges together, good sense to stay out of harm’s way, dedication to the water and an independent spirit to stay on the river, alternating six hour shifts on the boat while working 20 days straight. It’s a job not for the faint of heart, or body.
Hats off to the hardworking crews at Amherst Madison and other towing companies who get bulk goods to market safely and cheaply, who help keep down the number of trucks crowding our interstate highways, and give us all an occasional glimpse — as we notice a tow gliding along the water’s surface — of the hardworking, independent, American spirit.