The great inland waterways of the United States don’t get a lot of national press. Due to the area in which I grew up plus the region I have called home for several decades — I’ve always been aware of them. More exactly: the Mississippi River barge traffic.

Locks and dams enable the upper portion of the river to stay open by keeping the water level at or above nine (9) feet. Yes, it seems amazing that huge, heavy barges and the tows which push them require water only nine feet deep. I’m sure physics is involved. Understanding the fine points of buoyancy was not my best science topic.

The pilots on the tows need to be alert and capable. They also need to be trained. Have you ever thought about what sort of education is involved in some of the very specialized occupations?

I had one of those “of course” moments a few years ago on vacation in Paducah, KY. Located on the Ohio River near the junction with the Mississippi — it makes perfect sense for a river pilots to have a training facility.

Paducah celebrates modern river pilots on their flood wall mural.