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A life spent navigating the Mighty Missouri

Steve Strider was inducted into the Missouri River Rat Hall of Fame by the Meriwether Lewis Dredge, a museum of Missouri River history in Brownville, Neb. His keepsake was this trophy made from a river boat throttle. (Photo by Liz Johnson/Richmond News)

By Liz Johnson, Staff Writer

We live our lives along the fierce Missouri River and have an ease of crossing from one side to the other by virtue of good solid bridges. We don’t pay much attention to the river itself nor have we noticed how the constant river traffic is rarely seen any.

We take the river for granted and forget the fact that generations of men dredged a living off of the river – creating a channel suitable for navigation and running goods up and down the river.

A lifetime on the river

Steve Strider, formerly of Hardin and Richmond, is one of those river men. He retired just six months ago after 43 years of working on the river. Thirty-eight of those years were in Kansas City working for Holliday Sand and Gravel Company.

Strider, a second generation river man, began his career as a deck hand in 1974.

“My dad was a riverboat captain for Massman Construction Company of Kansas City,” Strider said. “That’s where it all started.” 

Strider’s father, James, and his brother, Harold, went to work in the late 1930s when maintenance was just beginning on the Missouri River.

“My dad started about 1939, and they were using steel barges and loading rock riff-raff in the river,” Strider said. “They were building dikes and revetments. My father did that for his entire career.”

Revetments are used to stabilize river banks, prevent bank erosion and reduce the tendency of the river to migrate across the flood plains. Rock riff-raff are large chunks of rocks, usually achieved from blasting in quarries.

Strider said the original plan was to re-build the entire navigable part of the river from Sioux City, Iowa, to St. Louis.

“They had to build all of the dikes,” he said. “In the later years, they had to repair the same dikes. My father’s entire lifetime was spent doing that.”

Strider’s career as a boat captain was to pilot the boat that pushed the barges. The boat would be hooked to a big barge loaded with rocks.

The complete story is in the Friday, April 21, 2017 Richmond News.

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