STEAMBOAT PILOT LICENSE
I wish I was back there piloting up & down the river again. Verily, all is vanity and little worth--save piloting.
- Letter to Jane Clemens, 10/1865
...all men--kings & serfs alike--are slaves to other men & to
circumstance--save alone, the pilot--who comes at no man's back and call,
obeys no man's orders & scorns all men's suggestions. The king would
do this thing, & would do that: but a cramped treasury overmasters
him in the one case & a seditious people in the other. The Senator
must hob-nob with canaille whom he despises, & banker, priest &
statesman trim their actions by the breeze of the world's will & the
world's opinion. It is a strange study,--a singular phenomenon, if you
please, that the only real, independent & genuine gentlemen in the
world go quietly up and down the Mississippi river, asking no homage of
any one, seeking no popularity, no notoriety, & not caring a damn
whether school keeps or not.
A pilot, in those days, was the only unfettered and entirely independent
human being that lived in the earth.
from the Dave Thomson collection
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