Friday, July 11, 2008


River keeps flowing: Rubbish sifts through backwaters

Late June brought a lot of wild and unsettled weather to our part of the Midwest, as well as to many other parts of the country. Who knows whether or not El Nino was the culprit? We had a few cool days, but several that were almost unbearably hot and humid – the kind of weather that had some of us old-timers recalling some especially torrid July and August days of years long gone by, and re-telling old tales of days spent shocking oats and threshing.

Severe wind storms did a lot of damage on both sides of the Mississippi. We're assured that these were not "twisters," but straight-on winds. Much damage was done to surrounding farms and in the neighboring towns. Many trees were uprooted, others broken off, and a surprisingly large number had much of their upper growth torn off and
slivered and shredded. Considering all of the property damage done, everyone felt fortunate there was no loss of life in our immediate area.

Our small town was spared any damage, straddled by the storms as they hop scotched around the area. We did get caught in a driving rainstorm one evening as we crossed the river on our way to having dinner at White Springs. For a while, as we threaded our way around fallen trees, I wished we had stayed in our native Wisconsin. But things were no calmer in Prairie du Chien. Maybe even worse. We've met a few people who now have a lot more fear of, and respect for, storms than they did two weeks ago.

A day after one of the storms, I watched the big old Mississippi from the Iowa shore (OK, from the observation deck of the Miss Marquette Riverboat Casino), and was amazed at the continuous stream of rubbish that drifted by. Judging by the amount of green water plants, algae, and pond scum that floated by, I decided that the fast-moving water must have thoroughly cleaned out all of the backwaters and sloughs.

The dead trees (and many still sporting green leaves), branches, twigs, stumps, and even chunks of firewood hinted that many of the woodlands must look a lot neater now after nature's spring (or early summer) cleaning. Now and then I would spot an enterprising blackbird calmly riding one of the sticks or small tree trunks as it floated downstream, much like a tourist on a cruise ship, finding ample cuisine to its liking.


River, near the shore your ripples
Look as brown as chocolate milk,
But, at midstream, your face appears
Youthful, and. as smooth as silk,

Smiling upward at the heavens,
Reflecting the bright blue sky,
Appearing so still and peaceful,
Silently you move on by.

Restless, tireless, you keep moving
On your journey past our town
With a load of baggage that would
Wear 'most any trav'ler down.

Mud that's slid down from the hillside
Out of fields of beans and corn,
Where the soil was unprotected
New gullies were ripped and torn.

From quiet, peaceful backwaters,
Water plants, weeds, and pond scum
Keep floating by, and I wonder
Just which sloughs they’re coming from.

Dead trees from many a woodland
And the bluffs along your shore,
Green-leafed, storm-torn trees pass by, then
Are followed by many more.

Flotsam, maybe jetsam, almost
Any object that will float,
There's a faded life preserver
From somebody's fishing boat.

Next an old Styrofoam cooler
That escaped its owner's grasp,
And an aged upside-down rowboat
Kind of gasping its last gasp.

Then a varnished paddle – I hope
Some canoers had a spare –
And that rushing, storm whipped waters
Gave them no more than a scare.

Now a happy, hungry blackbird,
Unafraid – to say the least
Rides along as it enjoys a
Storm-provided tasty feast.

Evening settles in the valley
And I hear a distant bell.
Our old river keeps on flowing.
The moon rises, all is well.

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