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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
No 258, Tuesday, Sept 23, 2014

CORRECTION from last week: CAREFST is this week, THURSDAY, Sept 25th

This Thursday, Sept 25: CAREFEST: benefitting the Care Station (which feeds over 200 people a day in Clarksdale/Cohoma County), featuring Ronnie and the Remnants, Heavy Suga’ & the SweeTones, The Blackwater Trio, John Mohead, Candace Webb and Marshall Drew at Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale. Full story below.

Mark River Blog:
Rivergator Stories base map.jpg
Watercolor depiction of the Middle Mississippi
From St. Louis to Cairo, confluence to confluence
for Rivergator: Paddler's Guide to the Middle/Lower Mississippi River
(2014, John Ruskey)
"Growing up along the Mississippi River was a Blessing:
The Natural World Became my Playground"

"Where you from?"

Madison County, Illinois

People always ask me, "Where you from?" I say "St. Louis", but realistically, I come from both sides of the Mississippi River. Born in a hospital in East St. Louis, my family settle in a historical Madison County, Illinois consisting of little river towns like Venice, Madison, and my town, Brooklyn. These towns thrive on fishing the Mississippi River and semi pro baseball, which each town had a team. My grandparents lived across the River close to the Chain of Rocks where I spent my time when mom and dad worked. I was merely eight years old when we moved to North County, MO. So when people ask me that question, I just want to say, "I'm from the River."

Growing up along the Mississippi River was a blessing. In these towns, it seemed that if you where not at work or school, we were fishing and exploring along the River. I remember digging for night crawlers in mosquito infested floodplains right before we made it to the channel to fish. Hobos and river rats up and down the gravel roads looking for bait, tackle, and most times, monetary supplements to help with their refreshments. My father would dress us in coveralls during the heat of the summer to protect us from the insects. If the fishing was good, we weren't leaving soon.

The section of the River we fished extended from the south entrance of Chain of Rocks Canal to the Mckinley Bridge. In recent years industries have claimed these spots, but locals say they are still spots you can get to. I remember catching lots of catfish, buffalo, and white bass. When it flooded we would walk through the muddy floodplain and grab fish stranded in deep depressions. There were times when fishermen would go to popular localities and lay the fish along truck beds for sale. A lot of times families on hard times always had a freezer full of fish. Up north, there is a very dense populations of yellow perch. They were a prize fish during their annual run, but with the infrastructure of the upper Mississippi River, they are few and far between these days. My dad would bait my line with three hooks and there were times when we would catch them three at a time for an hour straight. We also would go north of Mosenthein Island, north of the Chain of Rocks and snag spoonbill catfish on their way to the Missouri-Mississippi River confluence, in route to ancient spawning grounds in the tributaries of the Missouri River. Spoonbill catfish are filter feeders so snagging and netting is the only way to catch these succulent fish. Many times when the fishing was slow, my dad would simply say, "Go play." Those were the moments when the natural world became my playground. The moments I develop my athletic ability. I would grab a stick, transform it to a motorcross handlebar and scale muddy banks, hurdle driftwood, and practice sprinting in the sand and mud.

One evening the fish were biting into the night and dad wasn't leaving. Suddenly, a large object kept reappearing in the current and my father started wondering what it could be. It wasn't abnormal to see pigs, cows, and other animals in the River. Then there was a splash. We knew then, it was a beaver. My dad wanted the beaver for his tail. It could be use as a sharpening tool. In order to stay in good graces with the Creator, we knew we had to eat it if we caught it. Dad signals for me to go to the car and get his pistol, which he kept in the tackle box for family safety. We were taught never go in the wild without a weapon. I retrieve the pistol, tearing up for the poor beaver, and gave it to my father. One shot and the beaver disappears into the eddy. He then pulls out a huge treble hook and snags the animal, pulling it to shore. The weekend comes around when neighbors are having fish fry's and barbecues. My dad smokes the beaver in hickory and passes it out to the neighborhood as roast beef. Everyone enjoyed it until I told my 2nd grade class about it and it went viral. We got dirty looks for months.

The elementary school I attended was named after Elijah Parish Lovejoy, a minister, journalist,and abolitionist. He was born in Maine, but move to Alton where he own a warehouse and printing press. During the Civil War, speaking against slavery, he was murdered by a pro-slavery mob in Alton. His printing press was thrown into the Mississippi River. If you are ever in Madison County, don't be surprised if you meet someone named Elijah. Like most river towns, Madison County has its seedy places, but if you are ever close, stop in and have St. Louis style chinese food. It's the best in the nation!

For more Rivergator stories please go visit

Mark River

Mark River Peoples 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!


Sept 25

CAREFEST: benefitting the Care Station, featuring Ronnie and the Remnants, Heavy Suga’ & the SweeTones, The Blackwater Trio, John Mohead, Candace Webb and Marshall Drew at Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale. Full story below.


October 2-7

Huck ‘n’ Jim Mississippi River Great Books Seminar (FULL)

An entirely new way to look at the river: through great literature, including Twain, Melville, TS Eliot, Charles Bell, and the Rivergator.

October 3-4

Tennessee Williams Festival

Celebrating America's Great Playwright

Clarksdale, Mississippi

Go to for schedule and more information

October 8-11

King Biscuit Blues Festival

One of the world’s greatest blues festivals

On the levee of the Mississippi River

in downtown Helena Arkansas

For complete schedule, go to:

October 11

Phatwater XIII Mississippi River Challenge

The Ultimate River Race on the Lower Mississippi!

This year you can paddle with a team of Mighty Quapaws!

learn more at:

October 14-15

Mississippi River Network Annual Meeting

October 15-17

Mississippi River Conference

October 17-19

Colton Cockrum’s Annual

Be-A-Man Expedition


Nov 15-25

Rivergator Celebratory Expedition:

St. Louis to Caruthersville

307 miles on the Mississippi River

Celebrating the Middle/Lower Mississippi River Water Trail


Dec 6-16

Rivergator Celebratory Expedition:

Vicksburg to Baton Rouge

207 miles on the Mississippi River

Celebrating the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail


March 2015: Atchafalaya River Expedition

From Three Rivers WMA to the Gulf of Mexico

via Simmesport, Krotz Springs, Flat Lake and Morgan City with side trips down mysterious side channels and bayous, and fantastic birding, amphibians, and exploration along the way!

April 2015: Rivergator Expedition:

Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico

including Plaquemines, New Orleans and Venice (bring your haz mat suits and respirator)

October/November 2015:

Rivergator Completion Celebration Expedition:

St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico

1180 miles on the Middle and Lower Mississippi River! Start: Missouri River Confluence. End: salty waters of the Carribean.

The following story appears courtesy of Jesse Wright, publisher, Clarksdale Press Register.


Third annual CareFest offers entertainment at Ground Zero: Fundraiser benefits The Care Station to help offset rising costs of food

By Rebekah Yearout, The Clarksdale Press Register

Food, entertainment and helping the community will all go together Sept. 25 at Ground Zero Blues Club during the third annual CareFest, which benefits The Care Station.

Charlie Estess, director of The Care Station, said the past two years, they’ve raised about $5,000 each year. However, he said the fundraiser is especially needed this year because of the rising cost of food.

“Our budget is about $100,000 a year, and at this point in time, as of today, we’re about $12,000 behind last year as far as the residual fund in our account, so we’re actually a little short of meeting our expenses,” Estess said. “We’ll make it until the end of the year, but we always like to have a cushion. We don’t ever want to be in a position where we pay the light bill, the gas bill and whatnot.”

He said a lot of the food The Care Station gets comes from the Food Bank in Memphis, and they have been short important items, such as bread.

“Some of the food suppliers have had to tighten their belts, so there are some products we can’t get. We always had bread, and even give loaves away at the end of the week, and right now, the bread supply has tightened up so much they hardly ever get bread at the Food Bank in Memphis. Some of the suppliers are keeping their inventories a lot tighter, so there’s not as much product left over to put in our hands,” Estess said.

He added that Kroger does “a fantastic job” of helping keep The Care Station stocked, but they still have other food costs plus overhead to consider. Estess said their gas bill has also gone up.

The Care Station delivers about 170 meals a day and feeds around 50-60 people at lunch. They also give customers a brown-bag lunch to take home on Friday to get them through the weekend.

The CareFest was the brainchild of music producer and artist Gary Vincent, who came to Estess two years ago with the idea.

“It’s going to be really cool, and the beauty of this thing is it’s a community event for the community. That’s what these guys do on a daily basis. We’d really like to bring attention to the fact that prices go up every year,” Vincent said.

Tickets cost $10, but attendees are encouraged to contribute when they pass the basket during the performances.

Vincent said they have scheduled seven local musicians and bands to play at the benefit, including himself, Ronnie and the Remnants, Heavy Suga’ & the SweeTones, The Blackwater Trio, John Mohead, Candace Webb and Marshall Drew.

Estess said that Mayor Bill Luckett is “graciously donating his space for the night,” too.

“Last year, there were 28 people there from Europe, and (Luckett) had them all come up on stage and gave them an honorary badge … a souvenir to take home. We probably had 50 people from other places that were there with the Clarksdale crowd, and every single one, when we told them what we were doing, they gave at least what we asked plus more,” Estess said. “To me, that’s really neat to know people are coming here and seeing what’s going and going home and telling people about the kinds of things that happen here in Clarksdale.”

Vincent said the goal of the event is really twofold.

“It’s a way to generate income for something that is very needy, which is great community effort, but it also is designed to increase awareness about something that is so positive for the community and continued support is so important,” Vincent said.

Tickets, which are $10, are available at local banks, Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art and the Delta Blues Museum.

For full story with photos, please go to and subscribe. Consistently unique news from the land where the river flows that gave birth to the blues -- news and stories you will not be able to find at any other source.

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