June 22
Mississippi Trek

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Mississippi River Quest - Page 11
6.22.06
I didn't sleep well last night.  I woke up thirsty and unzipped the flap to get a drink of
water which I keep just outside the door.  Later, I awoke to the sound of mosquitoes
buzzing and covered in bug bites.  I had left the fly unzipped about four inches.  More
than enough for this hungry swarm to let itself in.

I spent the next half hour chasing mosquitoes with my flashlight and smashing them
against the wall of the tent.  When I had finished, there was blood smeared everywhere
and my tent looked like a crime scene.  I spent the rest of the night scratching my
wounds.

I am struck by the solitude of the river out here.  There are no visible houses, bridges or
roads.  From time to time I see a lone fishing boat, but for the most part, it's just me and
the barges.  I haven't seen a pleasure boat or jet ski since before St. Louis and I don't
miss them one bit.  I can paddle for twenty miles out here and not see another person.  I
can go for hours without hearing a motor.  I enjoy the peace.

Unfortunately, all this solitude is making it harder for me to resupply and mail letters.  My
cell phone almost never works anymore.  This doesn't really bother me any, but I know
people back home worry when they don't hear from me.

There is a storm moving in tonight and I am sitting on a log enjoying the cool breeze that
precedes it.  I have had very little rain on this trip and I hope I don't get a whole bunch in
the future to make up for it.

I have been trying to decide if I am looking forward to going home or not, and I really
don't know.  The river is a truly magical place and I know I will always miss it, much like I
miss my first love.  What we had was beautiful and intimate, but it has to end sometime.

I miss my friends, my dog, and flush toilets.  Unfortunately along with these things come
work, bills, and worry.  The transition will be tough.

I took a job at a seed dealership and quit my job at the quarry.  Along with my new job
came a five dollar pay cut, coworkers I didn't like, and the joy that comes with putting
soybeans in bags all day.

The good thing was that my new job was only three miles from home, and I could visit
my dad on my lunch break.

After living on my own since my dad's girlfriend kicked me out of the house at age 17, I
packed up my meager belongings and moved back into my old bedroom.

At this point, my dad was fairly self-sufficient.  He could drive himself to his
appointments and take care of himself at home.

His girlfriend had started spending every night with him, not just the weekends.  I got to
be alone with him when I came home for my half-hour lunch to watch
Cops with him.

I don't know how he managed to sit alone in that house all day.  I wish I could have been
there for him, but we would have ended up fighting.

The time he was sick was the only time we spent together without arguing, and we both
had to make a conscious effort to avoid getting into a battle.

In the evenings, she would cook him dinner and once she was done with the stove I
could cook my own.  I wasn't allowed to eat her food.  If there were leftovers, they went to
the dog.

As fall turned to winter, the cancer began to take hold of my father.  He became
permanently hunched over.  It was as though he was shrinking.  He moved slower.  Six
months ago he was a man in hiss middle fifties.  Now he seemed to be in his eighties.

He and his girlfriend went on vacation if Florida.  I wasn't invited.

His mother died that winter.  It had to have been tough on him, but he never let it show.  
The whole family showed up for the funeral.  I avoided them as much as possible.
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