Letter from the Editor 

"Don't tell anybody about this."

The speaker was Memphian John Gary, and the "this" he was wanting me to keep secret is the Mississippi River. Yes, I know, you're Memphians. You know about the Mississippi. It's that wide, brown, roiling chunk of dangerous, dirty water that flows past downtown and sometimes floods Arkansas.

But the odds are you don't know about the Mississippi River that Gary, my family, and I visited — lived on — last weekend. This Mississippi has sandbars bigger than Caribbean beaches, "blue holes" where the swimming is splendid, wood storks, great blue herons, petrified mud that comes in fantastic shapes, and glorious peace and quiet.

It's the wilderness next door — our Rocky Mountains, our ocean, our natural treasure. Less than five miles above Memphis, we watched a bald eagle scout for fish in a shallow backwater as white egrets circled over his head. We walked a vast sandbar at sunrise and marveled at the fresh trails of coyote, deer, large birds, small rodents, and even the S-shaped track of a snake.

And here's the other big news: You can float blissfully along in the Mississippi in a life-jacket, and you won't get sucked down by giant whirlpools or get eaten by a huge alligator gar.

We were led by John Ruskey of Clarksdale, Mississippi, who runs a guide service called Quapaw Canoe Company that specializes in Mississippi River floats. We rode in — and occasionally paddled — a 23-foot hand-built canoe modeled after those built by the French Voyageurs 300 years ago. At 450 pounds empty, it was so stable you could dive off the side or the bow and barely rock the boat.

Ruskey is a good man, dedicated to making a change in his community. He has a contingent of youngsters he trains as apprentice river guides — the Mighty Quapaws. The two who accompanied us made lunch and dinner, did the heavy lifting and paddling, and provided lots of adolescent high jinks. They are much the better thanks to this program.

We camped on an island beach, ate catfish and steak and fresh vegetables, then sat around a bonfire passing a bottle and swapping lies until we ran out of both.

We discovered a new world just beyond our city limits. You should go experience it sometime. Just don't tell anybody.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Sticky Fingers

    • The Local Angle

Blogs

Tiger Blue

Tigers 90, Bryant 72

Intermission Impossible

Waiting for Godot, J & K Cabaret, Elves, Fairies, Ghosts, and Actors

Music Blog

Rock Against Racism Rises Again

Beyond the Arc

The Hustle Dispatch: Week 5

Politics Beat Blog

Harold Ford Jr. Latest Figure Cited for Sexual Harassment

Politics Beat Blog

Bredesen Enters U.S. Senate Race

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Bruce VanWyngarden

Readers also liked…

  • On Austin ... and Jackson

    • Jul 14, 2016
  • Common Sense Pot Policy

    Unlike Bill Clinton, I've inhaled. So have 49 percent of all Americans, according to a recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Marijuana (medical or otherwise) has been decriminalized or legalized in 23 states, and measures are on the ballot to legalize it in five more states this November, including Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and California (where medical pot is already legal). A recent Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans think pot should be legalized and regulated like alcohol ...
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • The Deplorable State of the Media

    • Sep 15, 2016
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation