News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists

Steve Stewart

It's the boat Mark Twain dreamed of

Jim Williams of Decatur, ready to start his fifth season as boiler operator on the Delta Queen, told Ronnie Thomas that he filled in for three months on his company’s sister boat the American Queen.

Constructed in 1995, it is the largest steamboat ever built at 418 feet long with 222 staterooms, two elevators, a crew of 165 and passenger capacity of 436.

“Mark Twain named it,” Jim said. “Before he died (in April 1910), he said ‘Someday they’ll build the most powerful and the largest riverboat the world has ever seen and when they do, she’ll be the queen of America.’”

In comparison, the Delta Queen is 285 feet long with 87 staterooms and passenger capacity of 174. But Jim is partial to it.

“I like her best,” he said. “I like the old, original boat.”

Closer to home

Country music singer Ty Herndon, who attended Austin High, has two reasons for scheduling a May concert in Athens.

The main reason, he told Holly Hollman, is to help the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Limestone County.

The second reason is that he hasn’t performed much in his home state.

“My friends and family in your area ask me, ‘Why do we have to drive nine hours to see you perform?’ ”

Gospel truth?

During a concert at a Bible conference at Decatur Baptist Church, the Southern gospel group Greater Vision took jabs at the pastor, the Rev. Doug Ripley, and the Rev. Junior Hill, a Hartselle evangelist.

A group member said he remembers Doug from Morristown, Tenn., where people knew his church as the one behind the auto-parts store. The singer (quoted by Melanie Smith) also said a 400-year-old old hymn in the group’s repertoire was special to Junior because Junior, now 70, knew the writer.

Field demonstration

A friend told Amy Pollick about using a laundry detergent pen in an Athens restaurant.

She was using the pen to clean up a food stain when a couple she did not know stopped by her table. They watched her intently.

Her dining companion asked the couple if she could help them, and the woman gestured to the detergent pen. “I was just waiting to see if it really works.”

Sports as religion

University of Alabama fans may have noticed that their team is mentioned in sacred music — and we don’t mean the Alabama fight song.

The hymn “Grace Greater than Our Sin” by Julia H. Johnston exclaims, “Look! There is flowing a crimson tide.”

It was published in 1911 — at least four years after the first usage of “Crimson Tide” to describe the Alabama football team, according to

But apparently it isn’t in the Bible. Searches of online Scriptures turned up neither that phrase nor “war eagle.”

Send stories for You Don’t Say to, or call Weekend Editor Steve Stewart at 340-2444. Or write P.O. Box 2213, Decatur, AL 35609. Daily staff members contribute many of the items you see here. This column appears Sundays and Wednesdays.

Steve Stewart Steve Stewart
DAILY Weekend Editor

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