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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 340

---- Tuesday, April 5, 2016 ----

Flood Update, Clarksdale, Miss
Soul of the Community

In this issue: Flood Update:

The Great Sunflower River Flood 2016:

-Flood Update
-Quapaw 24 Big Paddle on the Wey River of Surrey, England
-Juke Joint 2016: The Show Must Go On!

Quick Update:

As we round the corner from the flood last month, the cave is now entirely scoured out and smelling like a -- hmmm... what? ...maybe like the inside of a clorox bottle? -- and the original blue/grey color has been rediscovered in the concrete floors now that all of the sewer mud has been scrubbed and sprayed off. We have been amazed by the outpouring of words, wisdom, and support. (Note: If I haven’t responded to your emails or inquiries, I will this week. In the middle of everything I had to go retrieve a couple of big canoes for some big trips we have coming up this year. Thank-yous to be sent out also).

Surrey River Wey:

One exciting happening: some of our friends from across the pond have started a fundraiser with a 24-hour paddling/swimming adventure on the Surrey River Wey! See below for complete details about the April 23rd/24th Quapaw 24 Big Paddle on the Wey River of Surrey, England.

Some Lingering Feelings:

It is with many mixed emotions that I share my feelings as we pick ourselves out the mud and keep on keeping on down the river. For so many years (since 1992 in fact) my identity has been at least partially tied up in the cave. My career as a blues musician and museum curator all evolved in the cave. The “Riverman” CD was produced there. Quapaw Canoe Company was born out of the cave. I met my wife Sarah living there, and later for a while, it was our 2nd home. (when she walked in the door for the first time in the new millennium, she remarked “I like the smell in here!” and I knew that I had found the woman of my dreams). Over the decades I have been accumulating piles of artwork, writing, family photos, and etc, etc amongst all of the tools of our trade, and equipment necessary to running a small business. I learned a lesson about hoarding last month.

I had to let everything go, and watched with pangs of bittersweet lightning bolts of emotion as memories were grabbed by the river currents and gently pulled away and swirled out of sight. I was grief stricken one moment, and then feeling peace the next. Curiously this experience brought me an odd feeling of resolution, seeing a place I inhabit fill with water, like a dream world -- even with stinky overflow from the stormwater/sewer system, and then everything loose floating away and disappearing in the mud. I felt peaceful, in a way, free of the old stuff I was hanging onto. Maybe the same feeling that comes from a spring cleaning. Spring cleaning, Sunflower River style. It hurts when you’re forced to do it. But it feels rejuvenating when it’s over. Justin Riney wrote a soulful piece about the same experience which you can read on his latest blog posting at Riney Earth.

And yes, this is a cause for appreciation. This all took place before Easter, in the time of rebirth and rejuvenation. We have been counting our blessings: To see the power of God. To be humbled, and then released. Every season is a new opportunity for life. Every day is a new day. We will pick ourselves up out of the mud and keep going. Our hands might be in the ditches but our eyes are on heaven.

And even as we have suffered through the awesome power of the natural elements, we have also simultaneously been allowed a glimpse into the soul of our community and the spirit of all of those around us. And this is one of the most beautiful results found amongst all of the destruction and loss. And we thank everyone in our community for your kindness and attention to us and the other hundreds who suffered the same in Clarksdale/Coahoma County.

Last Major Cleanup:

Last weekend Mark River led a major cleanup of the cave with some incredible help from our friends Layne, Claire, Debbie, JR, Ellis, Jenny, Matt, Valencia, Popeye, and Woody who all volunteered their day for an awful messy and stinky operation. Everyone was looking like astronauts wearing their Haz-Mat suits with R-95 respirators. We saved a bunch more fossils thanks to Debbie Smith from the Helena Delta Cultural Center. (Thanks Debbie! You were a tremendous help in collecting fossils and important artifacts that survived the flood). We ordered a giant industrial dumpster for depositing the remains. My sister Jennifer brought porkchops and potatoes. Thanks Jen! Your lunch made Mark River’s day!

We’re starting to see the light blue floor of the cave. This is weird, for me. It's a reversal of time -- back to the early 1990s when I first arrived in Clarksdale and started cleaning up the cave to make it inhabitable as an apartment.

We power-washed and disinfected the floor and walls again and again. Every day for the past week our classy shuttle driver “Smooth” Ellis Coleman and rock steady youth leader/river guide Mark River have been spaying clorox and vinegar using a power wash lent to us by our good friend John Gary. The smell is starting to subside and the thin layers of stinky storm-water silt is just about gone. We cleaned the window seals and walls. We're gonna hook up fans and start the drying stage after one more final power-wash. Ellis and River did the last pressure wash and are starting the drying stage.

Overflowing Stormwater/Sewer Systems

On flood day, March 10th, we had actually sandbagged the door of the cave. This slowed down the influx of muddy water. But then we got slammed from behind by a surprise visit: the toilet overflowing from the stormwater/sewer systems of downtown Clarksdale! YUCK! This surprise rear attack first disgusted us, then scared us (how high will it get?), and then made us want to cry. But we are Quapaws. We had to dry up our tears and keep hauling whatever we could grab and get it upstairs through the hole cut in the ceiling!

Lessons Learned:

We have learned many lessons from this flood. We will never move headquarters back to the cave. We are rebuilding our offices, library, outfitting & storage 30 feet up above the old location. What will happen with the Cave? At this point we are not sure what its future will be. It might become a youth training center, or Sunflower River rental center, or maybe an interpretive center for Mississippi River fossils and driftwood. We don’t know. At this point, we still have our hands full organizing gear and rebuilding offices, storage, kitchen, library, and etc. The one thing we do know, the river rose higher than it ever has before, and it would be foolish to rebuild at the same low level we were at. These kinds of storm systems seem to run in cycles. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another rise of the Sunflower River. This time we will be prepared.

Open for Business

But for now -- please know we are fully operational! We saved all of our guiding & outfitting gear. We will continue our most important work unchanged -- which is sharing the wild beauty of the Lower Mississippi, and helping protect those remaining wild places. That is our real work. Our focus is on the next generation, those who will inherit the earth from us.

How can you help out?

There are many ways to help flood victims recover from this natural disaster. See below for a list of who to contact and where to send support. Quapaw Canoe Company had its last major cleanup this weekend. Like other flood victims, we started the process as soon as we could (actually as the waters were still rising!). We will need to eventually rebuild our kitchen, offices, library and outfitting storage.

Quapaw Canoe Company Flood Relief:

We have set up our own recovery fund at Quapaw Canoe Company Flood Relief . Our goal is to raise $25,000 in one month (by May 9th) to offset recovery expenses and to rebuild lost infrastructure. Whatever we don’t use will be turned over to the Clarksdale Community fund for others in the same dire straits as us. We will be transparent about costs and funds raised.

If you don’t want to make a donation online, you can send a check to us by mail, and it will be counted into the total.

Quapaw Canoe Company

291 Sunflower Avenue

Clarksdale, MS 38614

Please contact me or Zoe Sundra for more info, or if you have any questions. And God bless!

Quapaw 24 Big Paddle

Meanwhile, our friends Chris Barnes and Andy MacLean have started an English based adventure fundraiser, a 24 hour paddle through a day and night on Surrey’s River Wey:

Calling all river rats in the UK to join an epic overnight paddle to support a big flood cleanup across the pond in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

This is the inaugural Quapaw 24 Big Paddle, a 24-hour paddle on Surrey's River Wey, that's all about coming together to do something amazing and as a test of endurance and togetherness.

The Quapaw 24 has been set up to honour the amazing work of the team at Quapaw Canoe Company, who are recovering from a terrible flood that has destroyed their HQ, affectionately known as The Cave.



11am - meet at Tilford Green, Surrey

1pm - start paddling

7pm - dinner break BBQ and exit point for Saturday-only paddlers

9pm - resume paddling


9am - start point for Sunday-only paddlers, from Weybridge and paddle on the Thames

1pm - end paddle at Teddington/Twickenham (TBC) and lunch/beers

For all details and to get involved, check out our website:

To donate to the Quapaw Flood Recovery appeal:

Our Commitment to the Clarksdale Community

We at Quapaw Canoe Company are humbled and inspired by all these acts of kidness, strength and generosity. We hope in some way that further on down the river of time that our work will help other people see the light and be rewarded in similar fashion!

We at Quapaw commit to make best use of any funds raised, and share any un-used funds with others affected by this disastrous flood.

Where to Volunteer and send support to Coahoma/Quitman County Residents:

Coahoma/Quitman Recovery & Relief

Volunteer Response Center:

CCHEC - 109 Clark Street Clarksdale, MS 38614

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM (Mon-Sat), Closed (Sun)

Donation Reception Center:

Clarksdale Civic Auditorium - 506 E 2nd Street Clarksdale, MS 38614

10:00 AM - 2:00 PM (Tues & Thurs - after April 1)

Coahoma/Quitman Recovery & Relief Fund

North Delta Planning & Development District 501(c)3

checks payable to: "Coahoma/Quitman Recovery & Relief"


Mail to: PO Box 1488

Batesville, MS 38606

Drop Off: Any First National Bank or First Security Bank




Our 13th annual, 2016 edition of Juke Joint Festival is dedicated to all of the late, great Delta blues performers who have passed away during the past year — including Juke Fest regulars LC Ulmer, Elmo Williams and Eddie Cusic as well as other Mississippi bluesmen like BB King. RIP.

Juke Joint Festival is "half blues festival, half small-town fair and all about the Delta." It celebrates our past AND living history by presenting over 100 blues acts during the course of the weekend -- most of them Mississippi or Southern, many in their 60s, 70s, 80s or even 90s! This is the real-deal Mississippi blues festival that you've read about. It is like no other in the world.

During the daytime, you can expect at least a dozen small stages with authentic blues. At night, we feature all of our surviving juke joints, blues clubs and other indoor stages -- last year included 20+ venues.

Our next Juke Joint Festival is Saturday, April 16, 2016, with exciting related events on starting at 5pm on Thursday, April 14th and carrying through the night of Sunday, April 15th. (Related events on that Sunday include the always free and fabulous Cat Head Mini Blues Fest at 10am as well as the Second Street Blues Party in front of the Rock & Blues Museum.)

The home of this much acclaimed festival? Historic CLARKSDALE, MISSISSIPPI -- just 90 minutes south of the Memphis International Airport and once home to such blues greats at Son House, John Lee Hooker, Junior Parker, Ike Turner, Eddie Boyd, Sam Cooke, Muddy Waters, Pinetop Perkins, Earl Hooker, Lil Green, Big Jack Johnson and many many others. It's the land of the Crossroads!

What is the JUKE JOINT FESTIVAL? It’s a positive event for everyone in Clarksdale. It’s good for families, businesses, musicians and tourists alike. The festival itself combines an international “blues festival” with a community-minded “small-town fair,” creating a strong and memorable event like no other in the universe. It’s organized by the Clarksdale Downtown Development Association (CDDA) and staffed by enthusiastic volunteers. This “half small-town fair, half blues festival” does more than simply entertain attendees -- though it definitely does that, too! It aims to educate and enlighten native Deltans and blues tourists alike through a series of performances, exhibits, and presentations involving music, art, storytelling, film, and children’s events. The event mixes visitors with locals and showcases the economic power of cultural tourism, turning average Deltans into ambassadors for the region.

Speaking of economics, last year’s festival was our most successful yet with full hotels and expanded press coverage. Festival attendees came from at least 46 U.S. states, 53 Mississippi counties and 28 foreign countries. The Juke Joint Festival makes every effort to keep vendors, talent and suppliers as local as possible. A family-friendly event, the festival also provides a bus service at night to discourage drinking and driving between music venues. Our daytime Saturday events are all FREE while our nighttime Saturday events all come for the price of a cheap ($15 pre-sale or $20 that night) wristband which gets you unlimited rides on the blues shuttle bus and entry to at least 20 nighttime 'juke joint' venues.

Paddle’s Up!!!

Thanks to the Following:

Thank you for helping us dig out of the mud and rebuild: Chris Barnes, Andy MacLean, Greg Barefoot, Lanna Von Machui, Clarksdale Habitat for Humanity, Pennsylvania High School, Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board, Justin Riney, Riney Earth, Isaiah Allen, Jennifer Ruskey, Dr. Patti Johnson, Layne Logue, Quapaw Vicksburg, John Gary, Colton Cockrum, Memphis River Warriors, Coleman Cockrum, Ellis Coleman, Debra Smith, Possum Cauthen, Matt Sutton, Lautaro Mantilla, Yazoo Pass Cafe, Levon’s Ristorante, Oxbow Restaurant, New Roxy Theater, Charles & Fredean Langford, Billy & Madge Howell, Lee Quinby, Ping Wang, Marcheta Taylor, Jenny Ruskey, Sichendra Bista, C E Lawson, Greg Poleski, Gary & Lou Ruskey, Erin Lee, Chad Robinson, Julia K. Gill, Marilyn Sundra, Amy Lauterbach, Joey Dickinson, Edna Cooley, Paul B Cooley, Melissa Levy, Kathleen Quinlen, Michael Waters, Christine M Favilla, Marilue Maris, John & Lori Moore, Sandra Perry, Melinda Parkman, Charles Rutledge Jr., Mark Bix, Melanie Cheney, Steve Schnarr, Linnea Goderstad, Bill Branch, Kathryn Behm, Ellen Morris Prewitt, Snoop Dog & Tony, Margaret Pierrepont and Louise Loughran, Rex Miller, Steven Bender, Rebekah Pickard, Chris Ruskey, James Tootle, Robert Landreneau, Olga Page, Jordan E. Hanssen, Miss Rima Patel, Emily Davis, Miss JM Barnes, Frank & Sue Ruskey and Tanner Aljets. Our sincere heartfelt thanks and our paddles are up to y’all! We couldn’t do it without friends like you. It takes many hands to paddle this canoe.

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

is brought to you courtesy of

The Lower Mississippi River Foundation