ProRodeo Sports News - Sept. 4, 2020

I’ve probably been there. I may get orders to load in Houston and then go to Memphis, Tenn. The last two years we primarily have gone from the Mississippi River down to Brownsville (Texas). I will go as far east as Panama City, Fla., and as far north as St. Paul, Minn., on the Mississippi River.” Being the captain of a tow boat has many layers. “I’m responsible for getting from Point A to Point B in an expedient manner without hitting anything or running over anything,” he said. “I have to make sure everything is in compliance, including my guys. I have to make sure the equipment is in compliance. There are a ton of rules and regulations you have to follow and stay on top of and be a weather forecaster.” For the last two years, Bell has been pushing barges carrying gasoline and diesel fuel. “My general cargo is 58,000 barrels of either gasoline or diesel (fuel),” he said. And, he’s not following an 8-to-5 schedule. “I come out on the boat for 28 days normally, and I go home for two weeks,” Bell said. “I’m on day 35 right now (Aug. 26) and I have 35 more to go. I’m going to get off the boat just in time to enter the ProRodeo in Hempstead (Texas).” The Waller County Fair & Rodeo in Hempstead is Oct. 1-3. Bell said long stretches on the water are something he’s adjusted to. “The way I’ve looked at it is I have a rodeo for 28 days in a row and I’m going to win first at every one of them,” Bell said. “You have to keep your head on a swivel and keep your head in the game because if I make a mistake, bad things happen. People’s lives are in danger, the environment is in danger. You

don’t have much time to miss your family because you’re worried about the task at hand.” The boat Bell is presently the captain of is 2 years old. He travels with a six-man crew including himself. “It’s a four-deck boat, and I have satellite TV and a washer and dryer,” he said. “The vessel I’m on now is state of the art. The whole third deck is my quarters. I have a relief captain who takes command on my 14 days off, and when I come back, he goes home, and he takes his 14 days off. He or I are always in charge.” One of Bell’s toughest challenges is Mother Nature. “The hurricane season is horrible,” Bell said. “You have to really pay attention to the weather and allow your experience and judgment to guide you. I have a real good understanding of the water and the weather – I feel I have to know as much about the weather as a farmer does. A famer’s living depends on the weather, and that’s a pretty heavy toll to take. You learn extremely fast what weather conditions are going to do what to you. One of our famous sayings out here is, ‘You just get used to it.’ But it is amazing what you can get used to.” Hurricane Katrina, the Category 5 Atlantic hurricane that caused more than 1,200 deaths and $125 billion in damage in August 2005, particularly in the city of New Orleans and the surrounding areas, was something Bell was in the middle of. “I’ve seen places under water that I’ve never seen underwater, and Katrina was extremely bad,” Bell said. “I was in Houston for Hurricane Ike. I was right outside Port WATER WORLD FULL OF ADVENTURE

“I had a couple of guys who took an interest in me as a deck hand. They saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. They passed their knowledge and wisdom to me, and I’m carrying their torch.”



William Kierce photo

While Jason Bell’s primary job isn’t rodeo, he competes in PRCA rodeos like in Glen Rose, Texas, in 2016.

ProRodeo Sports News 9/4/2020


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