Gamblers putting it all down on the steamboat race of the century

New Orleans, Louisiana, July 1, 1870: Both steamboats—the Robert E. Lee and the Natchez—promote themselves as “the fastest steamboat on America’s rivers.” Even though neither boat has ever lost a race, one of them is wrong. And, the day of reckoning has arrived.

At 5:00, yesterday afternoon, just off the New Orleans docks, a brief silence of anticipation filled the air. Each proud steamboat idled side by side, poised and ready. The starting pistol shot rang out. Silence vanished. Boat whistles blew. The paddle wheels churned. Passengers on both boats cheered and clapped. Thousands of spectators lining the banks of the Mississippi began whooping, shouting, dancing, and jumping. The noise of excitement crushed normal conversation, as the race of the century was on. The din dimmed only as the boats disappeared around the first bend.

Over the next few days, thousands of more spectators will be in every river port and thousands more on levees between those ports, both night and day, as the Natchez and the Robert E. Lee speed their way along the 1200 miles of the twisting, treacherous Mississippi River from New Orleans to St. Louis.

American patriot Patrick Henry involved in questionable land deal

Louisville, Georgia, February 22, 1796: American patriot Patrick “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” Henry and his Virginia, Yazoo Company, along with four other land speculation companies, appear to be involved in a scurrilous land speculation scandal we now call The Yazoo Land Fraud here in the great state of Georgia that proudly stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the East to the Mississippi River in the West.

Four land speculation companies bought 35 million acres of land from our state legislature under a two year old heinous land grant law for as little as 2 cents—that’s right folks, I said 2 cents– an acre in western Georgia. (Present day Mississippi and Alabama).

The actual paper version of this nefarious land grant law that was passed by a majority of our thieving, lying legislators in 1794 was consumed by “Holy Fire,” yesterday—appropriately enough, on the Lord’s Day—on the front lawn of our state capitol building, right here, in Louisville. (Louisville was Georgia’s capital until 1806).

Pharmacist renames popular soft drink from Waco to Dr. Pepper

Waco, Texas, June 12, 1885: Charles “Doc” Alderton, a pharmacist at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store at Fifth Street and Mary Avenue downtown, has finally developed a soda fountain drink he thinks thirsty customers will enjoy and order every time they come into the drug store.

He calls his newly concocted soft drink the “Waco.” All this week, customers have come into the store, sat down at the soda fountain counter and laughingly shouted out, “Hey, Doc, give me a shot of Waco!”

“Doc” Alderton loves to work behind the soda fountain counter when he’s not in the pharmacy, and he loves to hear that shout out for a “Waco.”

Customers have been telling him for years that they were tired of the “same ole fruit flavored drinks” he served. They wanted something different. Alderton promised he would create exactly what they wanted.

For the better part of a year, the good doctor has been applying his pharmaceutical knowledge to blending assorted fruit flavors and conducting various experiments to come up with just the right taste for his new soft drink.

Cajuns turn oil bust into tourism boom

Houma, Louisiana April 17, 1986: Jimmy and Betty Provost, who live in the Gibson community about 20 miles northwest of here—just like their ancestors more than 200 years ago–have chosen to stand their ground and fight for their livelihood, as our current depressing and devastating economic downturn, known as the “oil bust,” threatens to crush so many of our futures here in the bayous of south Louisiana. We have largely depended on oil for jobs for the last three generations. Now, those “good times” seem to be over.
The Provosts have decided to make a living the old fashioned, ancestral way. They didn’t run for a job in another oil patch somewhere. They didn’t run to the government for handouts. Instead, they rolled up their sleeves, reached deep in their souls for strength, and risked their entire family’s future on saving the past and living off the land, but not exactly in the same way as their ancestors.

The couple officially opened Wildlife Gardens, a nature preserve, bayou farm, and bed & breakfast, right in the middle of Bayou Black Swamp, at 5306 North Bayou Black Drive in the Gibson area, yesterday at noon, surrounded by all sizes of alligators, giant 150 pound alligator snapping turtles, deer, raccoons, muskrats and comfortable room accommodations on stilts out over the murky waters of the cypress swamp itself.

Galveston hurricane kills 12,000 and destroys city

Galveston, Texas, September 10, 1900: A gigantic hurricane of biblical proportions strewed its wrath across Galveston, late Saturday afternoon, hurling 140 mile per hour winds and walls of water 20 feet high. A hurricane so horrific it is impossible for this reporter to describe adequately with mere words the death and destruction left in its wake.

An estimated 12,000 are dead in a city of 38,000 people. The wealthiest, most enterprising city in Texas has been obliterated. An estimated 4,000 modern buildings and elegant homes have been reduced to mangled, waterlogged debris.

Saturday night, as the water began receding, reality raised wrenching images never to be forgotten by all who witnessed them.