A thousand words beyond the Hill

Andreas Fuhrmann

Kentucky state road 369 connects Rochester to Beaver Dam, except on Wednesdays. That day is John and Bess Speer’s day off.

For 16 years the couple has operated the Rochester ferry, a 66-foot long barge with a tug boat that crosses the Green River. Last year, they started closing on Wednesdays.

“It’ll be so nice tomorrow to know that I don’t have get up and work the ferry,” Bess said. “One good day off.”

The Speers sold their Indiana farm in the early 80’s and were broke.

“Carter was President,” John said. “You couldn’t get a 20 percent return working your farm anymore.”

The couple decided to buy the ferry and did so with the financial backing of a friend. In the beginning, operating the ferry was Bess’s job.

“I tried to back out,” Bess said. “I told John he wouldn’t get me out on that river, but he said it was too late, I had already signed the papers.” John took a week off from work and helped Bess learn to operate the ferry.

John started working the ferry when he retired.

Since 1986, Bess has spent most of her days staring out the windows of her home on the Beaver Dam side of the river. She moves from her kitchen to the living room, watching for motorists wanting to cross.

“I love my view,” Bess said. “That’s what really got me when we came across.”