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Shantyboat Journal

Shantyboat Journal

Edited by DON WALLIS
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Shantyboat Journal
    Book Description:

    Harlan and Anna Hubbard, newly married in middle age, build the boat of their dreams and drift down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Harlan is an artist and a writer with a poet's eye for the beauty of the world. Anna is a musician and an elegant master of the arts of graceful living. For seven years (1944-1951) the Hubbards make their home on their little boat, drifting with the river, camping on the land.

    Together they learn how to create and sustain a self-sufficient way of life that is infinitely fulfilling. It is a "river way of life" -- free-flowing, endowed with the love of nature, the discovery of community, the rewards of good work, and the joy of creativity.

    The journal is a witness to history, embracing the gentle spirit of an America now lost to modern "progress." It is one of the most significant renderings in our literature of a deeply felt sense of place.

    Out of this journal grew Harlan Hubbard's enduring classic,Shantyboat, and his idyllicShantyboat on the Bayous. His laterPayne Hollowis a Thoreauvian testament to the values embodied in the homesteading life the Hubbards lived for four decades after they completed their epic river journey. Their life together has been praised by Wendell Berry as "one of the finest accomplishments of our time." TheShantyboat Journalreveals its creation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5728-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Editor's Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Don Wallis

    “Sometimes I long to write a river book,” Harlan Hubbard wrote in his journal on September 4, 1939, “a book of the Ohio, which shall itself flow through the pages, and the very smells and sounds shall be there, too. For so it flows through my heart.…”

    When Harlan wrote this he was thirty-nine years old, a solitary soul, restless and lonely, an artist frustrated at the failure of his work to gain recognition. He lived with his widowed mother in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, a suburb of Cincinnati, making his living by working part-time as a carpenter. He longed for...

  5. I. A River Way of Life: September 13, 1944 – December 31, 1946

    • 1 To Build My Own Boat on the River Shore
      (pp. 3-22)

      September 13, 1944I do not know just why I call this place home. I feel no strong attachment to it, or desire to return when away. Yet it is the center of the universe, the standard of comparison for the rest of the earth, the one place in which the stars are just right and the sun rises correctly. When I leave it, part of me remains behind, and all is joined in one when I return. I was welcomed by the song of four birds. I had not thought of them when away, but when they sang here...

    • 2 A River Way of Life
      (pp. 23-66)

      January 1, 1945When we awoke and looked out the door, there was snow on every twig. The deck and gangplank were white, even the line had a ridge of snow on it. The wind blew today from the west probably, though we did not feel it under the bank. The waves rocked our boat all day. We felt more afloat than ever.

      January 2This morning one of the rarest joys in this climate, a clear sunrise over snow.… I feel something new in myself, as if in a faraway place.

      The temperature was +4 degrees, we learned, but...

    • 3 The Spell of the River
      (pp. 67-122)

      June 10, 1945A fine dawdling day, rain threatened and finally coming in hard showers toward evening. I had a morning bath, diving into the water from the after deck, climbing into the johnboat, soaping myself and diving in again. After all the years of swimming in the river under many circumstances, this is a new experience, and brought out strongly the conditions of our life here. We really have our house afloat.

      Today we put out a sort of a trot line, tying one end to the boat, the other to a rock as anchor, with a few hooks...

  6. II. Shantyboat Drifting: The Ohio: January 1, 1947 – November 30, 1948

    • 4 Driftwood
      (pp. 125-147)

      January 1, 1947.Big Bone Island. Light snow during the night, freezing rain this morning. We can stay in and be snug as a rabbit in his nest.

      We are closed in with mist. The rain freezes, though later in the day it seems warmer, and rains harder. It is a satisfaction to know that I need not go out, but I do so anyway at intervals, because I enjoy it. I gather 2 bushel of corn from the field above.

      Anna writes letters, I take care of some odd chores. The dogs are feasting on the mess we prepared...

    • 5 Payne Hollow
      (pp. 148-188)

      February 18, 1947Yesterday for dinner we had the wild duck that Powell gave us. Roasted in the oven. We found it delicious, rich and juicy, somewhat tough, especially the first serving, but we left it in the oven while eating, and had all degrees, from rare to well done. Duck soup from the bones.

      This morning after breakfast and some reading and a trip to the spring for water, I made a short excursion down the shore. I came back with favorable reports, and a bucket of shad for dinner.

      February 20Yesterday afternoon in the sun and cold...

    • 6 The River in Winter
      (pp. 189-216)

      December 1, 1947Up before daybreak, casting off in the bright moonlight.

      December 2Again I arose in the frosty tail of night, no sign of dawn, but the night stars low, the moon paler. I cast off, and at once the boat slips away, in the slow current and a like current of air moving down the river. So still and quiet, a rooster crowing inland. We seem to be drifting through the air.…

      We had fine drifting to Bethlehem yesterday, past steep hills and then a gravel shore with sycamores. Anchored off town and went ashore. Post office,...

    • 7 Bizzle's Bluff
      (pp. 217-232)

      March 27, 1948I made a bicycle expedition back into the country through Iuka and up the Cumberland, to the Kentucky dam on the Tennessee.… I found a place that I took to at first sight and it seems to meet most of our requirements.… A beautiful old house there, the Barrett quarries above, then Bizzle's Bluff and Bizzle's Creek.

      March 28A bright, cool Easter Day after a night which froze ice. We had Sunday visitors coming afoot down the old ferry road and by water. We liked especially old Mr. Hedgepath, our neighbor. He was raised near Birdsville,...

    • 8 To the River's Mouth
      (pp. 233-240)

      November 11, 1948We worked by starlight preparing to leave, and drifted out of the Cumberland, and past Smithland before sunrise. The Ohio's current in the chute was swift. Looking back, the view was impressive. The Cumberland, with its hills as a background, seemed the main river.

      We passed outside the towhead below the island and then pulled to the Kentucky shore, for a wind sprung up from the SW, which was quartering, ahead and offshore. Rowing more or less steadily all morning, but good drifting. I put the mule overboard, found time for some work on the gear. Anna...

  7. III. Shantyboat Drifting: The Mississippi: December 1, 1948 – April 15, 1950

    • 9 Wild River
      (pp. 243-264)

      December 1, 1948A nice run through the dredged channel, seeing nothing of the notorious whirlpool at Chalk Bluff.… At Island No. 6 we considered going behind, but the strong current carried us into the wind and around the point, just missing a black buoy. TheCommercial Clipper, upbound, passed us here and we rocked in its waves a long time, a bad stretch, very narrow, the waves breaking on a reef extending from the Kentucky shore.

      We had glimpses of Hickman on our way by, and it was the most attractive town we have seen in a long time....

    • 10 Bisland Bayou
      (pp. 265-294)

      March 2, 1949Magnolia Bayou, 6 miles above Natchez. A name we have given it. We pulled in here yesterday, early in the afternoon, having that morning made the stretch from Bayou Pierre.…

      The few houses at Ashland made a great show. It is remarkable how few towns, even houses, we see.… Below Waterproof cutoff, we were carried out in midstream and all hands were called to close in with the Mississippi shore. Passed Cole's creek, with a houseboat in the entrance, quite a wide place. Below, a motor scow with cabin, we knew he was a lamplighter, put out...

    • 11 River's End
      (pp. 295-326)

      December 6, 1949, Natchez. We like this place much more than we expected. Behind a fringe of willows the sand cliffs rise, crowned by thick-growing pines, suggesting a Chinese landscape painting. A view out on the river looking up the old channel. The town and down river view is shut off by the sand bank, so we might be not at all near. Yet its sounds reach us, the varied hum of the saw mill, now in operation, voices, dogs, cars, train whistles, none of this frequent or close by. Once or twice I thought I heard firecrackers.

      December 7...

  8. IV. Shantyboat in the Bayous: April 15, 1950 – July 1, 1951

    • 12 New Country
      (pp. 329-345)

      April 15, 1950 Boatyard, Harvey Canal. Our shantyboat life goes on even in these unfavorable surroundings. We seem to live leisurely, compared to the hustling men about us. Yet we are busy at something all of each day. It is pointless, you say, but so seems much of the activity about us, respectable and sanctioned as it is.

      Crossing the Mississippi on the ferry yesterday, we felt no longing to be drifting there again. When we saw the muddy current swirling past the ferry dock… we felt relieved that our struggle with the current was over. Yet it was not...

    • 13 The Creation of an Environment
      (pp. 346-356)

      October 31, 1950Bayou Black. There is another campboat on this shore. Soon after landing its inhabitant came to see us, an old man, very friendly, gave us a little eel for bait, offered us a catfish still struggling on a springline. He told us much about this place. His name is Verret.…

      Mosquitoes are bad but we ate on deck with not much discomfort and are bothered little in our sleep. We think we may stay here a while.

      November 1A visit yesterday evening from Frank Verret, the old man who lives on the campboat a hundred yards...

    • 14 A New Beginning
      (pp. 357-370)

      January 9, 1951This afternoon I walked along the road across the bayou in the direction of Franklin. An unfenced road among the bare canefields, woods off in the swamps, live oaks and other trees along the bayou. A desolate country between and how muddy it would be! It is desolate because one feels nothing when he looks at it. It is not like an expanse of prairie or sand. One senses the hurried, profitable crop-raising, mechanized and done without love or humility. Coming back, I walked along the bayou side, and this was better, trees, pasture part of the...

  9. Appendix. Diagrams of the Shantyboat
    (pp. 371-375)
  10. Glossary
    (pp. 376-380)