After a couple of weeks the hillbilly got off and was replaced by a younger, much taller mate, who probably had been to college and not prison. I’m sure he considered himself pilot material and was just biding his time. He was much more relaxed about the working conditions, but I managed to have my run-ins with him as well.
On my off-watch, when I wasn’t sleeping, I spent time drawing the mechanical parts of the boat, mostly down in the engine room. When the captain and the mate found out that I could draw they started asking me to do some drawings from the numerous softcore porn mags in the crew lounge. I think I did one and they came back with another assignment for me. At that time drawing from photos was beneath me (now I think drawing from photos is better than not drawing at all) I considered the whole thing ridiculous and had not yet perverted my art to do anything so crass as an assignment. I refused to do anymore, telling them that it wasn’t really the kind of art that I was interested in. The mate towered over me and was probably in his late twenties and fit. He got angry. He insisted. I continued to refuse. He told me that he could put me out at the head of the tow (it was late November) and make stand out there as a “lookout” for the rest of my trip. I looked him in the eye and said, “Are you threatening me? ‘Cause if your threatening me, go ahead, put me out there, I don’t give a shit because I’m not going to draw your fucking nudie pics for you.”
I think I must have said the magic word, because he immediately replied, “I wasn’t threatening you!” And he repeated that declaration about five times in five minutes, making sure everyone heard him. Now I must say that in spite of what I think about unions now, the International Maritime Union probably saved my ass that day. Or at least my artistic integrety. I think that unions are most important in dangerous jobs like that.
Those of you who know me in the analogue world probably are chuckling over my claim to even having artistic integrity. Today the first words out of my mouth would be, “What’s in it for me.”
Check out this series of photos. That’s about the size of the boat I was on. But we never did anything like that! Although we did get a call one night that a couple of barges had gotten loose on the river and we needed to go corral them. We had to pull one off a bridge abuttment that it was stuck against sideways to the current. One of my big adventures.