Before I left Maine this summer I picked up a collection of poetry by Don West titled O Mountaineers! In it I found this tribute to the river and those men and women who live, work, hunt, fish, love, breath, and die along it.
I’ve heard men on the river talk-
as we pulled the barges,
as we sat our watch
through long night hours
by muddy waters…
The river’s like us,
a live thing,
a slow thing
with many little forked branches
depending upon each other,
The river is a sluggard-
but she knows where she’s going,
she gets there!
The river wears out many a steamboat,
but she’s still here-
and will be tomorrow
and the next day.
She’ll be here next year
and next life-time!
The Mississippi bundles up
a lot of little waters,
and she knows where
The river’s like us,
Below are a few bundles of my own from the river. They are expanded from my notes the last few days.
Slap! There’s that beaver again. Out for an evening swim amongst the drowning young willow trees. For a second I thought the ripple on the water might have been a small gator. Still too cold for their taste I guess. With frost on the tent each morning I’d wish it would warm up.
Passed an outflow from a chemical plant today. We picked out the steam clouds from across the river. It look like a gyser rising into the blue sky. It must have made for great fishing. Gulls and egerts fought for space among the dozen fishermen along the bank downstream.
Oil tankers look big from a distance. Up close they are enormous. Cutting across upstream of one, even when it was far away, is not an experience I need to repeat. Though I am glad one pushed us towards the bank near Paulina for a few hours of rest and river gossip.
There are less pelicans around here. But many more herons, egrets, and cows. The rafts of ducks fly away when the tankers pass but hardly move for us.
When you camp behind a levee you never know what’s on the otherside. In Luhling we lucked out and found a fully stocked Vietnamese grocery. All the esstentials for an evening meal in the bushes–poboys, peanut butter crackers, candy, fried rice, cold beer, and some of the best fried chicken on the river. The chicken was so good that it never made it back to camp, an appetizer on the levee.
More big boats as we neared the port of New Orleans. Passing a freighter I tried to estimate how many thousands of kayaks could fit on board.
Stepped out of the river across from NOLA at mile 98.
The river kept going.