Back in the summer of 97, I was working on a different boat, the M/V Antigone. We went to load some barges in Memphis, TN. Coming up around the bend to the dock, I spotted a red Sabine boat. I immediately knew it was the Zephyr because of it's unique low profile. After docking our barges I went to visit my old buddies on the Zephyr and borrow a pack of tortillias. Then it was back to work because we had three barges to load.
Later that day I noticed a couple of wheelmen talking on the dock. It was Tiny Henderson (all 350 lbs of him, and man who eats a four course meal by getting a big bowl and stirring it all together), and the pilot and die hard advocate of the brute force of the Zephyr, Buddy Strickland. Later that day after finishing some of our barges, both boats were called to pick up a couple of boats a little ways down the slip. I was onboard the newer, and bigger Antigone as we untied and left for the short trip down the way. As we were leaving, Big Tiny hollered down to me on the loud speaker. He said that we were going to settle once and for all which boat was the hoss of the Sabine fleet. We were going head to head against the Red Rocket!
This was the heavy weight championship with the Zephyr being the champion and the Antigone being the younger, top heavyweight contender. Everyone was anticipating the showdown. As the Red Rocket slowly started to turn around to face up to the bow of the Antigone, everyone on each of the boats went out to watch, even the captains and crew that were off watch and were sleeping. The green deckhand on the Antigone, Bull and I, were on the foredeck of the Antigone and Captain Vic and their deckhand, Sheldon Duck were on the foredeck of the Zephyr. Everyone else was in the wheelhouses of each boat with Buddy at the helm of the Red Rocket and Tiny at the helm of the Antigone.
Let's get ready to rumble!
Both boats were at a complete stop and push knee to push knee in the middle of the waterway so that no innocent women and children could get hurt. People on the dock had come out by then to witness the battle. Silence ensued. The boats were eye to eye gazing each other down. Then came the roar of the engines of the Antigone. I felt the deck of the Antigone rumble. Bull and I looked toward the shore to see the progess on the battle. We saw that the Antigone was slowly forging ahead against the Zephyr. I then looked at Captain Vic on the Zephyr. He had on his classic stoic look in his face. By then the Antigone was pushing ahead even faster. "We're beating them!" cried out Bull. "Just wait", I replied. Right then I saw smoke pour out of the stack of the Zephyr. The Antigone's forward progress started to slow down. The Zephyr was fighting back with all it's might. The Antigone then slowed to a crawl. I looked to the shore and saw that both boats came to a dead stop. Then I saw the exact instant when the Antigone slowly started to move backwards. The Zephyr kept pushing and pushing the Antigone back faster and faster. The Zephyr then let up as a true champion would instead of issuing complete knockout.
It was really bizarre to see the Zephyr defeat the boat I was on at the time. There are contenders and there are pretenders . . and there is the mighty Red Rocket!