Walter Brown grew up near Greenville, Mississippi, and spent his entire life working in occupations related to the mighty Mississippi River. In the book The Land Where the Blues Began (Delta 1993), Alan Lomax describes Walter Brown as “the old river runner,” “a roustabout,” “muleskinner,” and “legend maker, the poet of facts.” Lomax interviews Walter Brown about his experiences working on riverboats. Brown and his friend Arthur (no last name given) demonstrate a technique called “rocking” that they used when unloading heavy cargo from riverboats. Lomax observes:
“Old Water and Arthur were revealing to us, I guessed, the ultimate significance of the terms “rock” and “rocking.” They belonged to the ancient and honorable order of black burden bearers, of lifters and toters, roustabouts and longshoremen, who had loaded and unloaded the cargo of canoes, caravels, and clipper ships, and who had carried the loads to the riverbanks and the seaports or moved the bales and bundles across country when mankind was on the move.” (Chapter 4, p. 154).
Walter Brown is also interviewed in discussions about his role in helping build the massive levee system in the Mississippi Delta region using teams of mules (Chapter 5, pp. 235-55).
Full Name: Walter Brown
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