The second of seven blogs
HERE COMES RALEIGH
Raleigh talked about the “Merchant Marines.” I never learned why he signed on to sail the seas but this became his livelihood. World war two was then a recent memory and the sea lanes were safe again, leading to almost anywhere in the world. My childhood memories are that he hit every port in which a ship could dock. He did not, of course, but Raleigh could make you think that he had done so, multiple times. With every arrival at our house, there was always the new tales of adventure. We loved it!
This country boy could never have imagined what would happen later in this story. To me it is unreal that I can now cross the Tombigbee River at Pickensville via a bridge and launch my boat at the Raleigh Ryan Access Area. Yep! That’s the same Raleigh Ryan. Well, maybe the same person but one who had mellowed over the years.
Raleigh eventually tired of his nomadic way and deserted his seafaring life and downsized his vessel to a riverboat. There was a need for someone to operate the ferry across the Tombigbee at Pickensville and Raleigh was the natural candidate to fill the position. The year was 1951, and he stayed at this job until 1979 when the waterway bridge called for an end to ferry service at Pickensville. He was the only person to lose his job because of the waterway.
Raleigh was given a new job by the Tenn-Tom’s service contractor on the snag boat Montgomery which is moored behind the Tom Bevill Visitor’s Center in Aliceville. He was a popular host at this exhibit. In 1988 he officially bade goodbye to a livelihood on the water. After working a total of 37 years on the river that he loved, he was not ready to go home to his rocking chair! The remainder of his life he could be seen frequently talking to park visitors, spinning tales of past adventures and sharing his vast knowledge of the historic Tombigbee River.