Life Between the Levees: America's Riverboat Pilots (Hardcover)

Life Between the Levees: America's Riverboat Pilots By Melody Golding Cover Image

Life Between the Levees: America's Riverboat Pilots (Hardcover)


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Winner of the Donald T. Wright Award from the the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library, a special collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library

Life Between the Levees is a chronicle of first-person reflections and folklore from pilots who have dedicated their lives to the river. The stories are as diverse as the storytellers themselves, and the volume is full of drama, suspense, and a way of life a "landlubber" could never imagine. Although waterways and ports in the Mississippi corridor move billions of dollars of products throughout the US and foreign markets, in today's world those who live and work on land have little knowledge of the river and the people who work there.

In ten years of interviewing, Melody Golding collected over one hundred personal narratives from men and women who worked and lived on "brown water," our inland waterways. As photographer, she has taken thousands of photos, of which 130 are included, of the people and boats, and the rivers where they spend their time.

The book spans generations of river life--the oldest pilot was born in 1917 and the youngest in 1987--and includes stories from the 1920s to today. The stories begin with the pilots who were "broke in" by early steamboat pilots who were on the river as far back as the late 1800s. The early pilots in this book witnessed the transition from steamboat to diesel boat, while the youngest grew up in the era of GPS and twenty-first-century technology. Among many topics, the pilots reflect movingly on the time spent away from home because of their career, a universal reality for all mariners. As many pilots say when they talk about the river, "I hate her when I'm with her, and I miss her when I'm gone.
Author, photographer, and artist Melody Golding lives in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History Archives Center acquired her solo documentary exhibit on Hurricane Katrina and also her documentary photography and oral history project on wild boar hunting in the Mississippi Delta. Her photographs are on display at the Department of Homeland Security and have been featured in solo exhibitions at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, and at numerous universities, colleges, and museums. Her previous books are Katrina: Mississippi Women Remember and Panther Tract: Wild Boar Hunting in the Mississippi Delta, both published by University Press of Mississippi. Her photography has also been published by the National Women's Studies Association Journal (Johns Hopkins University Press) and the Royal Photographic Society Awards Journal, London, England. She received her BFA from Mississippi State University. Learn more about her work at
Product Details ISBN: 9781496822840
ISBN-10: 1496822846
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
Publication Date: April 23rd, 2019
Pages: 344
Language: English