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Guntersville Gleam: He’s running the river in a shanty boat

Guntersville Advertiser-Gleam
by Joe Cagle

Wes Modes and his dog Hazel are currently traveling the Tennessee River in this shanty boat. The trip is a part of a project Mr. Modes is doing to meet people in river communities.

People in Guntersville are used to seeing the same sort of traffic coming in and out of the city harbor.

The occasional pontoon boat, a bass boat or even a Guntersville Police boat are the norm, with big yachts sometimes visiting. But a very different kind of boat pulled into the harbor this week.

Wes Modes of California is traveling the length of the Tennessee River in a 1940’s style shanty boat he built.

His journey is a part of his project called “People’s River History.”

“My goal is to travel along American rivers and meet people in different river towns,” Mr. Modes said. “I love talking with people and hearing their personal narratives.”

Mr. Modes arrived in Guntersville Wednesday and stayed for several days.

“I don’t really have a set schedule so it allows me to spend time in each community,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to meeting people here in Guntersville and hearing their stories.”

On his first day Mr. Modes was welcomed to Guntersville by police chief Jim Peterson.

“It’s just really neat to see something like this in our city,” Chief Peterson said. “I’m going to set him up with some people that will give him some great stories.”

Mr. Modes began his journey down the Tennessee River in Knoxville. He’s been in the news in other places. He plans to travel the 658 miles of the Tennessee River all the way to Paducah, Kentucky.

This is Mr. Modes’ first trip down an American river.

“I have floated down the Mississippi from Minneapolis to St. Louis,” he said. “This is really my own adventure and it allows me to learn about other people’s adventures.”

The boat was built in 2014 from “repurposed” materials. Mr. Modes understands why some people may mistake the boat for something completely different.

“Some people have said they thought my boat was an outhouse that had gotten loose,” he said. “And a lot of people will say it looks like a chicken coop, which it should. We disassembled an old chicken coop when building it.”

The shanty boat gets its power from a battery, which is charged by the motor and solar panels.

Mr. Modes feels he has all the room he needs with the boat measuring 80 square feet.

“I see these shows about people living in tiny houses that are 200 square feet,” he said. “I feel I’ve got all I need with 80 square feet.”

Mr. Modes doesn’t travel alone. He has his dog Hazel on board with him.

“During my travels I record video, audio and do interviews with people,” he said. “This is sort of my summer field work. I’ll produce all my material during the winter.”

To keep up with Mr. Modes and read more about his project visit www.peoplesriverhistory.us

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