Residents of Knotty Pine and others up and down the Shady River are in for a real treat this summer. Knotty Pine will host riverboat races on the Shady River. These races will pit the River Queen, owned by Andy Coogan, against the Mountain Streak, owned by Jim Gunderson. Stern-wheel boatmen Coogan and Gunderson have been long-time competitors and bitter rivals until recent events nearly destroyed Coogan's ship.
Both Gunderson and Coogan have taken freight and passengers from Knotty Pine to Mirror Lake and the King's Islands. Chief Ranger Bill Jefferson refused Coogan's passenger license earlier this year for poor maintenance (see RB032 Floating Death Trap). Not long after, Coogan's boat caught fire moving freight on Mirror Lake.
Mr. Coogan tells the GAZETTE that the boat fire along with much support from Ranger Bill and his rangers made a major change in Coogan's life. "I was not satisfied with cutting corners to make a profit," stated Coogan. "My attitude about God and my relationship with the Almighty changed for the better. I decided to quit cutting corners and live a God-pleasin' life. Me and Jim Gunderson patched things up between us, and now we're good friends. And I didn't just get the River Queen repaired. I got her fixed up good. Now she looks and works like a brand new boat."
Andy's River Queen is now one of the most powerful and fastest ships on the Shady River.
The new and improved River Queen got Jim Gunderson to make a few changes of his own. "I decided the Mountain Streak needed some improvements like the River Queen if I was gunna stay in competition with Coogan," commented Gunderson. "So I got my engine fixed up like Andy did, so I could keep up with the River Queen."
Soon the two friendly competitors were having fun racing their ships. Folks along the Shady River started rooting on the two ships as they raced (with Ranger Bill's written permission) from Knotty Pine to Mirror Lake. There will be one race each weekend for at least the next four weeks between the two ships. Other ship owners along the river have gotten word of the Ranger Races, as they are unofficially called, and want to add races of their own. Ranger Bill says that permission for the races should be no problem.
City officials say that radio and TV stations from around the state have been flooding city hall with requests for further information on the Ranger Races. The mayor expects a large increase in visitor traffic for the races.