Mingling

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One foot in the mighty romantic Mississippi and the other in the good ole reliable Ohio.

I’ve crossed the Mississippi River four times now since embarking upon my RV journey.  Each time, something tickles a tiny, unused corner in my heart and I feel like if I just close my eyes I’ll be transported back in time and onto a raft with Huck and Jim.  Or a powerful riverboat with Samuel Clemens himself at the wheel.  Or . . .  Yikes!  I struggle not to tear my eyes from the center road lines as I try not to look over the edge of the bridge.  But the river draws me . . . dooowwwwwwnnnn . . .  I look . . .  And it is stupendous!  Roiling, mad, muddy . . .  Eeeeeeek!  Back to the hummingbird, quick!

So at this crossing, after studying the map as I love to do, I decided to investigate the spot where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers mingle.  Mingle, ha!  The Ohio is toyed with ’til forgotten, while the Mississippi wends onward, solo, to the ultimate party in New Orleans.

Every time I look at this magnificent river, I cannot fathom how early explorers crossed it.  But cross it they did.  And with crosses.  DeSoto wins the prize.  He is history’s designee as the first European explorer to cross the Mississippi and, when he died in 1542, his faithful men committed his body to the river so that the local indians would not discover that the man was not divine.

Indeed, priests performed a vital role as part of these early exploration parties.  “They were always prepared . . . to explain hell to the savages,” notes Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi.  Here is one of my favorite passages from Twain as he accounts how, after navigating the Mississippi to its rest in the Gulf in 1682, La Salle claimed the territory ranging from Montreal in French Canada to the French colonies in Louisiana for King Louis XIV:

“La Salle set up a cross with the arms of France on it, and took possession of the whole country for the King–the cool fashion of the time–while the priest piously consecrated the robbery with a hymn.”

Quoting Francis Parkman, a contemporary chronicler who was an ardent fan of La Salle, Twain added his own twist to the scene (noted below in bold print), brilliantly pirating Parkman’s historical viewpoint into quite a different tack:

La Salle “stood in the shadow of his confiscating cross . . . (and) on that day, the realm of France received . . . a region of savannas and forests, sun-cracked deserts and grassy prairies, watered by a thousand rivers, ranged by a thousand warlike tribes . . . passed beneath the scepter of the Sultan of Versailles, and all by virtue of a feeble human voice, inaudible at half a mile.”

When Samuel Clemens was still a boy, the mighty Mississippi and the land around it was well on its way to becoming tamed.  The Trail of Tears (1830-1840) had largely emptied the lands east of the Mississippi of indian tribes.  The final stages took place as thousands from holdout Cherokee tribes crossed the mighty river a bit south of where Clemens was spending his boyhood, dreaming of riverboats, adventure, and romance.

By the time Clemens . . . by the way, he created his pen name, Mark Twain, from the call that riverboat men would yell out to let the pilot know the depth of the waters–Mark! Twain!–with twain being equal to two fathoms, or twelve feet.  Anyways, by the time he fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a riverboat pilot, the vast lands to the west of the Mississippi had also been cracked wide open.  The Lewis and Clark expedition in the early years of the 19th century had raised those floodgates.  Speaking of which, in 1803 Lewis and Clark stood at the convergence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers before forging further westward . . . where Dawny and I stood just a few days ago.  Just saying.

Dreams.  Adventure.  Romance.  Tears.

Truths and half-truths.  Sanctity and betrayal.

Mingling.

In the roiling mad, mighty muddy waters.

Roll on history.  Roil on.

Dawny on the Mississippi ...

Dawny on the Mississippi . . .

 . . . and a few steps over, on the Ohio River.

. . . and a few steps over, on the Ohio River.

A Place Called Peace

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I met a beautiful lady

Joy gently tracing her face

Her face . . .

which oh so delicately bears

a network of lines

mapping the journey of her life

 

Married at 18

to her one and only true love,

they shared much happiness

And, in times of deep sorrow

they relied upon each other and their Lord

for strength

for healing

for faith

that goodness exists, and the world is not

a lonely

dark

place

 

This beautiful lady

tells of the children

who graced their lives

and of other children

they lost

along

the way

Oh my!  How sad!, I exclaim

No, not sad at all, she smiles . . .

She smiles . . .

For we clung tightly to one another

as we tread those paths

and we found a place

called Peace

 

Blessed Lady

Beautiful Lady,

lacework of joy

caressing her face

as she bids farewell

for now

to her Beloved

 

Rest in Peace, KS

Dedicated to his Beloved, CS

Marching On

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Hot dog!  Overnight temps down to the 60’s!  And in the daytime, we left those triple digits in our dust as Dawny and I and our Texas friends, Carol and John, wound our way from Texas to the northeastern corner of good ole Oklahoma.

The state slogan is “Oklahoma:  Native America.”  Or at least that’s the one in vogue now.  Depending on where you look, it is also “Oklahoma is OK.”  Your state slogan is probably not the best place to show off humility.  I like the first one much better.

Oklahoma is a pretty state, packed with Native American lands and cultural and historical sites.  And casinos.  It has the second largest population of Native Americans, second only to California.  One reason their population is so high here is because the Trail of Tears ended in Oklahoma.  It wasn’t Oklahoma then.  It was Indian territory.  The US Government, in its farsighted way, figured they wouldn’t be needing that land.  They were satisfied for the time being with the vast lands they took from the Indian tribes east of the Mississippi while sending their people on a long trek to be resettled.  Removed.  Preferable to genocide.  Although, make no mistake about it, that was one of the considered options.

Carol and John tow a jeep behind their RV, so we took lots of day trips (I don’t tow anything, so I’m a bit of a stick-in-the-mud when traveling alone).  One day we visited the Cherokee Heritage Center south of Tahlequah.  They have a powerful exhibit on the Trail of Tears, as well as a wonderful guided tour of an ancient Native American village.

Carol is part Cherokee and one of her ancestors survived the Trail of Tears.  She is a nifty lady.  And a good friend.  It has been great traveling this past week with her and John.  Sharing time, meals, ourselves.  I think Dawny is seriously smitten with John.  He knows exactly how to pet her.  Must have something to do with all those cows he works . . .  He understands how to handle a stubborn animal (shhhh, don’t tell Dawny I said that).  And neither of them mind when Dawny helps clean the dishes after a meal.  They get her.  I think they even get me.  That’s kind of nice.

So it will be a sad parting when they head back to Texas (camping and fishing along the way) and Dawny and I continue our journey north and east.  At least I know–Good Lord and Lady Luck willing–that we will see each other again and, in the meantime, we can keep in touch.  Poor Dawny doesn’t understand any of that.  Poor girl lives too much in the moment.

That’s all right ole girl.  Cheer up.  Soon enough we’ll be seeing our boy back in Virginia, and your old pals Xolani and Arabia . . .  and Dusty!  Eyes forward, hearts uplifted, friends all around.  We are blessed.  Never forget that.  We are blessed.