The Headman

Susan Werby

Virginia Beach, United States

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Artist's Description

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Grunge It Up

“River Dreamer”

Alone he stands
Sweat on his brow
Working the long oar
To and fro

Steadfast his thoughts
Of freedom to wander
The sweet river’s journey
To the other side

Dreams are his
Stories written in his mind
As his muscles ripple
With his effortless motion

“Dig deeper,” he thinks
Counting his strokes
Propelling the boat
Faster and faster

Wind in his face
Rivlets of water trickling down his back
Hands clenching
The heavy wooden oar
He stands proudly
At the boat’s bow

Men, women, children
Whose dreams sadly go unheard
Yet freedom is his
This headman
For he is the River Dreamer
Susan Werby

“You know a dream is like a river, ever changing as it flows.
And a dreamer’s not just a vessel that must flow where it goes.”

Garth Brooks

“Grab your oars and clutch your souls!”
Herman Melville

Dedicated to all the African-Americans who worked as skilled boatmen on the James River and its canals (Richmond, Virginia), during the development of Industry and Commerce.

“The Headman Statue on Brown’s Island depicts a 19th century James River boatman — also known as a headman — and commemorates the early contributions of African-Americans to commerce in Richmond. Boatmen were essential to Richmond’s canal system, which provided faster transport of raw materials and finished goods around the falls of the James.”

“The statue is 14 feet high with a 23-foot “sweep,” or oar.
It was designed and created by Paul DiPasquale.
The bronze version of the statue was unveiled in November 1993.
More than 22 historic markers are within walking distance of the Turning Basin and Riverfront Canal Walk.”

“Working on a canal boat during the Civil War was a dangerous occupation. Using caution and good judgment was not always enough to ensure that a boat and its cargo arrived safely at port. Good fortune was important as well. Sometimes economic necessity required that a boatman ignore his better judgment. Whereas about 250 boats plied the canal at the beginning of the war, by 1873–1874 a total of 539 boats operated on the waterway.8 Because the canal survived the war, it experienced its most profitable period in the decade that followed; so too for the boatmen.”

Nikon D800E
PSE 12
Textures thanks to the following:
Distressed Jewell “Flight in Cyan”
Cris Buscaglia Lenz "No. 151
Three textures created by me

Artwork Comments

  • Susan Werby
  • F.A. Moore
  • Susan Werby
  • Susan Werby
  • F.A. Moore
  • Susan Werby
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  • Susan Werby
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  • Susan Werby
  • labaker
  • Susan Werby
  • Celeste Mookherjee
  • Susan Werby
  • Joy Watson
  • Susan Werby
  • Clare Colins
  • Susan Werby
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