Clifton J. Dodge and Colors
article by Trent Livingston
The Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination,” is the best way to describe Clifton Dodge and his signature watercraft, COLORS. For the travels they’ve logged thus far, they have definitely etched their journey in the annals of Louisiana history. Having traveled so many bodies of water and accumulating signatures, friendships and most of all memories along the way, Clifton and COLORS embody the spirit of Louisiana.
“It was the people along the way,” stated Clifton when asked what emotions come back to him while aboard COLORS and traveling the waterways. “They came out to say hello, to see us making our journey, give us a smile and autograph COLORS.” As I sat with Clifton and spoke of the adventures, you could almost hear the wind blowing gently, the water rippling past the bow, feel the warmth of the sun or even the rain on every word as he described each experience with crispness and beauty of the outdoors.
The journey began with a grandson asking Clifton what his favorite memory from childhood was. Clifton stated, “My favorite memory or thing I did was with my grandfather building a pirogue on the banks of the Red River in Avoyelles Parish.” His grandson then asked, “Why can’t we build one?” “I don’t see why not,” Clifton then replied. Just like the changing of the wind, a phone call was made and cypress wood was delivered that same day for building what would become COLORS – Louisiana’s most famous boat. COLORS is built out of planed 3/4″ cypress. Said Clifton, “When the cypress was delivered, my grandson was off-put a little by the weathered looks of the wood.” His grandson said, “I expected something a little different.” With a smile, Clifton took the wood over to Tallulah to Chip Sullivan to have it planed and prepared. 16′ long with 24″ bottom and 27″ top widths, COLORS has built in seats that dual as ribs, a machete holder, a holder for all of the permanent marker pens used to sign COLORS and a unique feature coined by Clifton as the “rudderlizer.”
The “rudderlizer is a string controlled, adjustable depth controlled rudder and stabilizer built into one. It can be controlled by hand via the captain if traveling with two persons or by foot controls if only Clifton is aboard.
While on the Mississippi, the “rudderlizer” saved the day when COLORS came upon not one, but two barges, headed different directions but passing each other simultaneously. Clifton said, “I told the captain look, then he said, ‘No, you look.’ It was one of the largest barges I had ever seen with a ten foot wake and 3 to 4 foot waves from the wake. We had lowered the “rudderlizer” all the way once we were in the big rivers and sure enough they kept us from capsizing in the waves of that huge barge. As we rode up one wave, the next one came and we were riding both at the same time before eventually falling behind and outside of their paths.”
If you have not had time to read Colors: Louisiana’s Most Famous State Boat, you can pick up a copy at the historic Rhymes Memorial Library in Rayville or online at www.kidswannahelp.com where 100% of the books proceeds go to those organizations. You can also find the book for free at kindle.com.
Congratulations to Clifton J. Dodge and COLORS for representing what the true spirit of Louisiana means.