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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

Vol 9 No. 6f, June 16, 2013

Father of the Waters

Sorry for this re-posting, but we can’t say too much about fathers. We live on mother earth but we could not survive without father sky. Often the overlooked link in healthy families, we all probably owe as much to our fathers as we do our mothers. My own father was forever supportive of my crazy endeavors, such as my first adventure on the Mississippi in the early 1980s, a 12x24 foot raft. He put me on the bus to LaCrosse Wisconsin with a huge box full of building supplies like saws and hammers. Years later he shared all of the letters I had sent home, which he had carefully stored and made copies of. He passed away at the beginning of the new millennium. But I feel his presence in everything I do today, and know that he would as proud and happy about my present day river activities as he was that day back in August of 1982 that I started exploring the Mississippi...

ALSO -- I wanted to make sure you saw the Mark River photos on Big Island. Go to for Mark River photos posted alongside his “Ode to my Father”.

LASTLY -- we have added Gayle Harper’s wonderful Father’s Day entry on Big Island. Go to to Big Island (or see below for text and a link to Gayle’s blogsite “Surrendering to Serendipity.”).

...its the day after Father’s Day, but here we go with another tribute to the fathers in our lives!

The Mark River Blog

Ode to my Father

In April this year , my Father Earl Peoples Jr., celebrated his eightieth birthday. Unable to be in his presence at the time, this is what I would have said about him.

My father introduced me to the Mississippi River when I was four years old. My mother Iveara Peoples worked the night shift at a local retailer, so my father used these chances of babysitting to enjoy his favorite hobby, fishing.

At the time, we lived in a small town outside of East St. Louis called Brooklyn, where my father worked at the Mallinckrodt Chemical Company along the Mississippi River and as a part time police officer for the town. He was also the star player on the towns semi-pro baseball team, the Brooklyn Robins. We eventually moved to the other side of the River, where we could get a better education and participate in organized sports, preferably, football. My dad took me to my first football game, at Riverview Gardens High School, where my oldest brother Earl Peoples 111 ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. It was the first time I'd witnessed people of different cultures interacting and celebrating together. I was hooked.

When I was growing up, the one thing that stood out about my dad was his work ethic. During the week, my siblings and I always came home to my father working in the yard, improving our home, or we would go across the bridge to grandma's and work around their home. We also managed the landscaping at the church, Prospect Hill Baptist Church. We built the first kitchen at the church.

Even though not educated through college, he could draw up a plan for construction of anything. He had an engineer’s mind and if he could dream it, he could build it.

I recall the time I was a high schooler when we dug a hole in the backyard five feet deep, with shovels, and made a fountain full of fish we caught in the Mississippi River. We had carp, buffalo, and bass in this backyard oasis. Over the years we let the small pond take care of itself and it flourished. You should have seen the size of the fish when we decided to fill it in due to safety concerns of the neighborhood kids who would sneak in to get a peek of the backyard fishery. Another story involved us digging a huge hole in the basement foundation, in the heart of winter, in order to build a fireplace, which is still functioning today. I remember the time when I was in college, when instead of giving me the summer off, we put a new roof on our house, with just hammers and nails. I stopped coming home for summers after that.

Another characteristic about my father was his bravery. Back when I was young we would fish well into the night along the River. There would be local "river rats" and "hobos" up and down the River looking for handouts and opportunities to take advantage of fisherman. My father always preached, "you never go to the River without protection." Whenever these circumstances came up, my father would have a short conversation and we would never see them again. Everyone knows that when the sun goes down, the River gets really dark. My brother, William, and I would stay really close to him in the pitch black night. We would stay there all night and leave in just enough time to get a little sleep before school. He never let anyone take advantage of our family. There's a story in my neighborhood where my father challenged a gang trying to take over our street and they never came back.

The other thing that stands out about my dad is his youthful appearance. He always looked young for his age. His energy for everyday life is contagious and had a profound effect on me as I meandered my way through my path. He still chops wood and maintains various rental properties.

I used to hate to come home after football, basketball, and track practice knowing my father would put me to work. I have always been his chief laborer. So today as I look at my accomplishments, I could not have achieved my goals in sports, life, and my stewardship to the River without the characteristics that my Father installed in me at an early age.

Thanks to all the Fathers that have made a difference in their kid’s life. Happy Father's Day. Mark River.

-Mark “River” Peoples

Mark River is a guide and teacher with Quapaw Canoe Company and is also the 1 Mississippi Southern Region Intern representing the Lower Mississippi River Foundation. Please go to for the Mark River Blog with photos, maps, videos, and other depictions of the Big River!

“For Our Fathers”

by Gayle Harper

The Mississippi is often referred to as “The Father of the Waters.” Gayle Harper keeps a wonderful blog called “Surrendering to Serendipity.” Recently she wrote about her father and how he changed her view of the Big River...

In the midst of all the memories that have crumbled and faded with the years, a few stand like crystals, perfectly preserved and shining like the moment they were created. One of mine is the first time I saw the Mississippi River. I was nine and the oldest of three squirming around the back seat of our blue and white DeSoto. “Sit up, kids, and look out the windows,” said my Dad, “we are about to cross the Mississippi River.” I sat up on my knees as the high iron bridge rumbled beneath us and when I could see that enormous expanse of murky water spreading below, it felt like the world just stopped. When we finally reached the other side and were deposited into a different state, I spun around to watch it go and then exploded into a dozen questions, all trying to be asked at once. Where does it go? Where did it come from? How far is that? Why is it that color? Can we go closer and see it? Dad did his best to answer and then said, “OK, listen carefully and I will teach you to spell its name.”

And so it happened that for the remaining miles of that trip, I chanted endlessly, “M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-humpback-humpback-I.” (I thought for years that my clever Dad made that up!) In all the years since then, with every crossing of the great River, I hear that in my head and smile. I lost my Dad 23 years ago when he was just 65, but I treasure this link between Dad and the River.

As Father’s Day approaches, other random memories of Dad have been surfacing and I’d like to share a few…

He loved a good joke – he would latch onto one and tell it until he had completed the rounds of everyone he knew!

April Fools’ Day might have been his favorite holiday. I’m sure he started planning weeks in advance. He got me good many times, but my crowning achievement was when I emptied the sugar bowl and replaced it with salt and he put a couple of big honkin’ spoonsful on his cereal!

There were Daddy-Daughter dances when I got a new dress and he bought me a corsage and I knew he was the handsomest Dad and the best dancer there!

There were countless weekends at the lake learning to water ski and then teaching every other friend interested with Dad patiently circling around to try once more to get that newbie up. The funniest of all was a family friend who tried to learn as an adult and just couldn’t manage to get her butt out of the water. After one especially looong attempt, she yelled so it echoed across the lake, “All Right! I’ve now had a 50-yard douche and I am DONE!” I thought my Dad would fall out of the boat he laughed so hard!

There were family vacations with all of us layered in a pop-up camper and everyone trying to fall asleep before Dad did because he snored like a buzz saw – and no one ever succeeded!

There were the really bumpy times between us when he was a bullheaded German and I was a headstrong 15-year-old, certain that the love of my life was a boy he didn’t like. We were each immovably anchored in our stubbornness and clashed like a couple of mountain goats.

There was the indescribable expression on his face when I placed his first grandchild in his arms. That was as close as I ever came to seeing him cry.

There is the way he adored my mother, always calling her “the most beautiful woman alive” and showing us daily the depth of human love that is possible.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad! You live on in the hearts of all who knew and loved you!

And to all you fathers out there – Happy Father’s Day!

And to the great Mississippi River that the Native people of the Ojibwe tribe named Misi-ziibi, which is often translated as “Father of Waters,” – happy Father’s Day to you too!

I would LOVE it if you would take a minute and think about your Dad or your own experience of being a Dad, or the father of your children or the Father of Waters or anything else this stirs in you and share it with us. This blog is at its best when it is a conversation between us all!

Thanks! Gayle

For photos and the rest of Gayle Harper’s wonderful writing and photos from the Great River Road, go to

Backpacker Magazine

Outdoor Nation Contest

$1,000 grant to program

with the most “likes!”

Dear Friends of the Mighty Quapaws:

Thanks to you we received over 400 likes on the Mighty Quapaw Apprenticeship Program! We won’t know for another month, but as of now that places us as the front-runner in the Outdoor Nation Contest for a $1,000 grant. Many thanks for your vote, and from all of the Mighty Quapaws “May the River be with You!”

Go to:

and “like” the photo of MQ Dinky working on the Grasshopper Canoe...

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Outdoor Nation was launched in 2010 to empower millennials to champion the outdoors – as athletes, artists, advocates and ambassadors. Supported by North Face, REI, and the National Park Service Conservation Fund,

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The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch is brought to you by the Lower Mississippi River Foundation. The LMRF is committed to creating better recreational access, understanding and appreciation of the free-flowing Lower Mississippi River.