Dear Closeted Homosexual Riverboat Captain,

I love my sister and her family, but lately it feels like she and her husband have decided that my home is their own private daycare for their 6-year-old daughter. Every weekend, they drop her off at my apartment and go out with their friends. How do I tell my sister that her single, overworked sibling could occasionally use a Saturday night on her own without hurting her or my niece’s feelings?

- Pushover In Providence

Dear Pushover,

Welcome aboard the Old Henrietta, the finest steamboat to ever float the Mississippi! I suppose if you’re going to be coming along with us on this travel, you’ll need to know well and good that this here vessel is primarily for trading and the exchanging of cargoes and I don’t take passengers without them doing their fair share of the labor. Heck, I'm just pulling your leg, folks! I've got plenty of strapping, burly young men in my crew who will do the heavy lifting, so you just sit back, relax, and let Captain Langdon and his merry men steer this ship straight!

Dear Closeted Homosexual Riverboat Captain,

I’m a religious person, but my wife is not. I’ve been considering donating a percentage of our income to my church, but am unsure how to get my wife to support this decision even while she doesn’t go to my church. Is it irresponsible for me to donate a percentage of my own paycheck without telling her?

- Trick Or Tithe

Dear Trick,

Folks, I been a captain of this here boat for somewheres around 24 years now and I’ll tell you what, it's been a real labor of love for me. Even stitched up those curtains you see behind you with some spare time I had. Requires a certain fortitude to impose this vessel around the ol’ Mississip, yes indeed. Solitary lifestyle too, it is. I reckon few men are quite stalwart enough to give up the notion of a wife and family and let the river take them where it may, but I suppose I'm willing to make the sacrifices other men can’t. Yes, sir. Don't you worry about ol' Captain Langdon. I get along without a wife and family just fine.

Dear Closeted Homosexual Riverboat Captain,

Lately I’m afraid my in-laws are undermining my authority by giving my two 8-year-old boys whatever they want when they want it, even if my husband and I said they had to pay for it with their allowance money. How do I fix this without alienating my husband’s family?

- Frustrated Daughter-In-Law

Dear Frustrated,

Whew! It is hot as blazes out here, ain't it? Oh, by the way, while we're anchored here, sir, feel free anytime to shed your drawers there and jump down into that river to re-christen yourself, if you like. We don't stand too much on ceremony around here, and the water's nice and fine!

Dear Closeted Homosexual Riverboat Captain,

My husband's job has recently forced us to relocate to an area where most school districts’ education standards are unfortunately well below par and even dangerous. While we cannot afford to send our children (a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old) to the local private schools, I have considered homeschooling them. Any advice?

- Looking For What’s Best

Dear Looking,

Oh, I suppose the river boating life suits me just fine. See, I can't say I care much for the polite society you folks have on land. Too much finery! Too many rules! Always somebody telling you what you can and can't do. Or who you can and can't be. I guess I just wasn't made for that world, if you catch my drift. I like it out here where a man can be alone with the waters and ain't no one around for miles trying to civilize him. Yes, sir, that's the way a man oughta live. Boy, listen to me, talking your ears off! Give a riverboat captain like me a moment of your time and they'll tell you a tale as long and wide as the Mississippi itself! Especially when the fella listening has a nice, kind face like yourself.

Confidential to Dissatisfied In Dodge:

Seen all sorts of folk along my journeys, I have. I remember on a stay over in New Orleans a few years back meeting an equally refined captain like myself and, good Lord, we talked good and late about our travels up and down the Mississip. Must’ve drank some incalculable amount of a potent liquor also, 'cause I barely remember getting back to my lodging that evening. Never heard from that old mariner again.

Horace E. Langdon, Pilot of the Old Henrietta is a syndicated columnist whose weekly column, “Ask A Closeted Homosexual Riverboat Captain,” appears in more than 250 newspapers nationwide.