July 4, 5
Mississippi Trek

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I should have just stayed in bed today.  This morning as I was getting into my boat a bee
started flying around my head.  I took a swing at it with my paddle and missed.  Now it
was pissed and coming after me.  As I got up to run I dropped my Walkman in the water.
 I picked up my radio and turned my attention back to th bee.  It was surprisingly
persistent, but I finally got it with the paddle.  I put the radio on the deck of the boat to dry
until the mid-morning storm arrived.

Once again I had a morning thunderstorm.   I was caught with no good place to stop, but
saw an abandoned hunting shack on the bank.  This looked like as good of a place to
weather the storm as any and I pulled my boat onto what I thought was a sandbar near
the cabin.  I stepped out of the boat and into mud nearly to my waist.  As I fell into the
muck I broke the antenna off of my radio/GPS unit.  It doesn't work without it.  Hopefully I
can get a new antenna in New Orleans.

After freeing myself from the quagmire I pulled my boat ashore, grabbed my cooking
gear and some lunch and headed to the cabin.  It was a small plywood shack sitting
about ten feet off the ground on stilts.  I climbed the stairs and tried the door.  It was

Inside, the floor was dusty and covered in dead bugs.  There were two rooms.  One had
a bunk bed with two mouse-eaten mattresses.  The other was a kitchen.  There was
even a sink and a toilet, but no running water.  The only thing of interest I found was a
half bottle of Crown Royal on the kitchen counter.  I thought about taking it, but with all
the generosity I have been shown I thought it would be bad karma.  Some hunter might
return to his long forgotten cabin this fall to enjoy a drink only to find his bottle missing.  I
wouldn't like that.

I went back outside to cook lunch where it was cleaner.  I sat under the shack and ate
as the storm passed.  As usual, lots of lightning and very little rain.

After covering four miles and waiting out another storm, I paddled into Baton Rouge.  
From here to the Gulf the river is deep enough to allow the passage of ocean ships.  I
saw two giant oil tankers docked at refineries.  It will certainly be interesting to meet one
of these leviathans on the water.  They look like they could make a killer wake.

Tonight I am surrounded by the sounds of fireworks.  Luckily, none are very near.  Still, I
find them annoying.  I haven't had a very good day and need my rest.

I turned twenty five December ninth of last year, five days before my dad died.  We had a
party in his hospital room with pizza and cake.  Kent came.  My two aunts and his
girlfriend were there, too.

My dad had a list of things he wanted me to do around the house before he died.  When
he asked me if I had done something I told him I had even if I hadn't.  I wanted him to be
at peace, not worrying about stupid projects around the house.  I had also begun to
throw things away, newspapers, boxes, appliances that didn't work.  That sort of thing.

On the last birthday I would ever spend with my dad, his girlfriend went to the house and
made a list of all the projects I had
lied about finishing and all the stuff I had thrown out
and told my dad.  It was an evil thing to do and I'm sure it hurt him even more than it did
me.  I found this out several days later from someone who overheard the conversation.

My dad was in better shape for my birthday than he had been in months.  He got his
voice back.  It was the first time I had heard him speak in over a month.  He didn't want
to die before my birthday and this would be his final rally before he slipped into oblivion.

My birthday went well.  I got the usual clothes and we enjoyed the food.  I was deeply
troubled by this sudden change in his condition.  I knew people often gather all their
strength just before they die.  I enjoyed the party, and then went home and cried,
knowing I had precious few trips left to make to the hospital.
Mississippi River Quest - Page 15
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I tried out my Walkman radio this morning and found it had come back to life.  I was
pissed about it all day yesterday and was very glad to have it working again.  I really
need to quit throwing my electronics in the water.

I was plagued by thunderstorms again today.  I had to wait out four storms and set up
camp tonight when a fifth rolled in.  I waited out one storm in a cattle pasture.  I should
have put on my sandals before looking for cover.  I hope I never step in a cowpie
barefoot again.

The storms are supposed to continue through next week.  There hasn't been much rain.
 Just enough to keep me and all my things wet.  My tent and sleeping bag smell
horrible.  They didn't smell good dry, but things have worsened considerably after a few
days of being wet.

I met my first moving tanker ship today.  She was a red and white boat named the
Happy Bee.  The two things I learned about these giant ships is they are fast and quiet.  
I will have to pay close attention to avoid being run over.  The wake was tall, maybe five
feet, but not steep.  I didn't have any trouble getting through it.

The day after my birthday my dad could hardly breathe.  He sat in his chair drenched in
sweat from the effort of drawing each breath.  He couldn't sleep, ate very little, and
received all his fluids via IV.

His voice was once again gone.  He wrote on his notepad he was scared and he knew
he would be dead soon.  I was scared, too.  I did the only thing I could.  I hugged him
and told him I lived him.  I took off work to be with him.

Five days later the phone rang at 1:00 am.  I knew what it would be.  It was my dad's
girlfriend telling me he was gone.  More than anything else I felt relief.  My dad had been
through hell and it was finally over.  I also felt guilty for being relieved about his death.  I
wasn't glad he was dead, but slowly drowning in your own fluids isn't living.

My dad never accepted religion.  He never even acknowledged there was the possibility
of life after death.  He believed when you die, that's it.  Your soul dies with you.  I believed
the same for many years.

I worry about the spiritual consequences of his non-belief.  For the most part, he led a
good life.  He wasn't without his vices and sins, but no one is.  If you believe in all the
dogma of organized religion, he may have consequences to pay for his non-belief.  I
personally think that God loves all his children and can forgive anyone who has led a
good life.

The day after my dad's death I was sitting alone in what was now my house.  (It still
seems strange to call it my house instead of my dad's house) when his girlfriend and
two sisters came in.  They didn't ask me how I was doing.  They started looking for
clothes for his funeral.

My dad wanted to be buried with a spoon in his hand.  He had heard a story on NPR,
when you came in from the fields for dinner and mother cleared the plates, if she left the
spoon it meant desert was coming.  By being buried with a spoon in hand, my dad was
ready for his cosmic reward.

He had picked out a spoon and put it in the coffee table drawer which was full of junk.  I
was unaware the spoon had any meaning when I cleared out the drawer and put the
spoon back with the silverware.  The women bitched me out about the spoon.  I told
them it didn't matter which spoon it was, it was a symbolic thing and picked out one to
replace the one I had put away.

They then accused me of throwing away his belt, something I didn't do.  They said they
would have to take one of my belts and cut it in half to get it on him.  I told them to go to
Wal-Mart and buy a fucking belt, and they stormed out of the house.
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