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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
LMRD 771, Friday, Mar 20, 2020
In Celebration of Spring Equinox

Dear Readers of the Lower Mississippi River Dispatch:

We Mighty Quapaws sincerely send you and your friends and the family our deepest muddy wishes for health and survival, as well as grace and dignity in light of present circumstances. We can still celebrate simple pleasures we all share, like vernal Equinox. We are all in this together.

*If we don't hug or give you a handshake, however, don't be insulted; we still love you! See end of Dispatch for alternate salutations*

During Spring Equinox we hope you can get outdoors: the virus does not like fresh air or sunlight. UV kills viruses, and there is evidence fresh air has disinfectant qualities. As long as you can do it safely, get outside and maintain a distance from others. Really, you are safer from viruses in nature than stuck in a stuffy inside place. Walk when you can. Go for a run. Bicycle when you can. Get on the river. Stay healthy. Stay in shape. It will do your body -- and heart -- some good. Civilization is getting upended, but our natural world is continuing on pretty much the same. (Maybe better with decreased human activity) Around here that means the reawakening of trees and flowering flora, and the beginnings of waterfowl and songbird migrations. Beaver are busy rebuilding burrows, owls are patrolling the night woods, and the frog nation is filling our wetlands with their enthusiastic chorus of peeps, grunts, bleats and barks. Ursa Major and Leo are prowling across the northern skies at evening dark, while Lepus is dancing below Canis Major, and the Milky Way is flowing around Cassiopeia the Queen. Venus is sparkling in the west at dusk, while to the east Sirius our brightest star is prominently visible at dark within Canis Major. It is Spring Quinox, the earth is slowly curling through its annual 23.5 degree rotation, the very motion itself probably responsible for the richness of life.

River Activity:

Due to the pandemic, we have canceled or postponed 90% of our trips planned for Spring/Summer 2020.

The few limited activities we will continue, using new protocol for safe & sanitary operations, are 1) Canoe Rentals on the Sunflower River (2-person canoes), 2) a Muddy Waters Wilderness trip Mar 24-27, and 3) a Island Retreat for Female Naturalists April 4-7.

Limited seating. The first involves 1-2 people at a time. The 2nd and 3rd are between 6-8 people. So, well under the 10 maximum recommendation. Contact us if you have interest in any of those. Keep reading below for descriptions of each.

Also, We have adopted strict systems for virus protection, complete statement further down.

Our Prognosis:

We are a small business with a slim margin of reserve, with maybe one month to survive. Everything is moving so fast. It was 2 weeks ago that I sent the last dispatch -- which now seems like a lifetime ago, so much has changed! Every day new challenges are popping up — for us, a year’s worth of trips, and requests for refunds. We at Quapaw Canoe Company got hit by so many cancelations all at once that it has threatened our financial viability. We are a small business with a slim margin of reserve, with maybe one month to survive. I have had to research all our obligations, dozens of them, and then make sure we can cover all of the fallout without ending in bankruptcy. As result it is taking us longer than anticipated to sort out our obligations. We will have to make 1,000s of dollars of refunds, which endangers our financial standing. Most of our activity is either canceled or postponed, which means no income coming in.

But if nothing else, we Quapaws are flexible and resilient. We are working together to turn lemons into lemonade. Downturn in rivertime means we can finish a big canoe in the shop, and make repairs on our livery. We are collecting wild foods to supplement our diets. I am breaking ground to plant a garden, something I haven't had time to do in years!

Personal Statement:

I have to admit, I have been very slowly and very reluctantly accepting the reality of the situation…. Hoping it would all just go away…. pulling in my head like a frightened turtle through the rapidly-changing dynamic and conditions…. But now the reality is unavoidable...

And also my mother, Loudell Margaret Ruskey-Halsey, is in her last days…. She is now 89 y/o mother and hanging onto life by a slim thread (totally unrelated to the virus, just the final steps of a long life well-lived with 8 kids and a career in painting, psychology and music...) It is a blessing to be with her in this final chapter of her life... I am thankful she does not have to live through this strange new world settling around us...

We are all connected by the waters of the world. We all breathe the same air. Our hearts beat as one. But now a new connection has been made. If nothing else, we are now all suffering as one great whole family united by the trials and sacrifices we will have to make to survive the onslaught of a microscope but lethal invader.

We will be sending all our wishes and blessings up and down the river, and over the oceans and seas, and through the atmosphere that connects us all, to all you good people wherever you are in this great globe of ours, our dear Mother Earth.

-Driftwood Johnnie and the Mighty Quapaws

Three Very Limited Quapaw Canoe Company Offerings:
Open to anybody, but limited seating, no more than 2 peeps per canoe in Sunflower River rentals, and no more than 6-8 for longer trips in big canoe.

Canoe Rentals, Sunflower River
$25 each includes canoe, paddle, and life jacket
Round trip tour in downtown Clarksdale usually takes 2-3 hours.
Contact: contact Mark “River” Peoples 662-902-1885, or Tanner Aljets (618) 520-9749.

Muddy Waters Wilderness #1 (Mar 24-27)
This is our favorite -- and wildest -- stretch of river along the Lower Miss, and it's full of big islands, wildlife, culture, history, giant beaches, secret back channels, and the big river meandering through it all. Open seating: write to reserve your seat, or for more details! (3 nights/4 days). Click here for photos and description. For more information or 662-902-7841.

Horn Island Naturalist's Retreat (April 7-10)
For female naturalists and nature enthusiasts. Women only. To & from Ocean Springs, MS, starting Tues April 7 for 4 days, return to shore Fri April 10. Open to professional scientists, biologists, amateur naturalists, and nature enthusiasts of the female persuasion! For more information or 662-902-7841.

Quapaw Canoe Company — Virus Safety:

Please read this entire statement for some important COVID-19 Protocol we have adopted. We can do this safely if all agree to follow. The river is safer than most other places because of the fresh air, sunlight UV, and (in general) low profile contact.

Note: still formulating this... please send your own suggestion, or make correction as you see necessary -- or wherever we are lacking. Thanks!

First of all, we will never be more than 6 to 8 people in our big canoes, which is the number on board for best handling, with plenty of open air all around. That said, some personal hygiene and sanitary protocol is critical for everyone’s safety. (Note: the big canoe is safer in this regard than riding in a car, or bus, or plane, where the air is trapped within).

We're customizing these trips for locals, those who can get here within a half-days drive. The most vulnerable part of this is getting here. Walk or bike when you can, if you live close enough. Drive, don't fly. Avoid hotels and restaurants and all public places. When gassing up, protect your hands from gas pump and payment station. Carry personal hand sanitizer. Wear gloves, and sanitize your hands when done.

First and foremost: if anyone feels sick, feverish, or might have come in contact with anyone else in sickly or feverish condition, please don’t take any chances, and DON’T COME! Stay at home. This also holds true for me and my guides of course.

Here are some simple recommendations from the CDC, and are good practice in general:

*Stay home if you are sick
*Wash hands 20 secs frequently with soap and water
*Don't touch your face

*Maintain a min 6 ft distance from others

Quapaw River Protocol

The canoe and the river present special challenges and advantages:

1) no hugs or handshakes. We’re doing Japanese style bow, or tip your hat, or other no touch methods of greet and goodbyes. Don’t be insulted when we don’t hug…. We still love you!

2) Wash your hands frequently: We will make hand washing and hand sanitizer available to any visitors to our Clarksdale home base location. If you visit, go directly to one of our bathrooms and wash your hands! Use paper towels to dry, and then throw away.

3) Island Hand Wash: We will set up hand washing station with soap wherever we stop on river

4) Everyone should carry personal hand soap and/or hand sanitizer on canoe to use as needed.

5) If you have to sneeze, or cough, it’s easy in the canoe — use a disposable hand kerchief or paper towel, and sneeze towards water, away from center of canoe! Be aware of which way the wind is blowing!

6) you can always wash your hands in the river seated in the canoe. Use your personal hand soap and/or hand sanitizer. Biodegradable soaps are always a good choice for nature-friendly cleanliness (such as Dr. Bronner’s or other).

7) in public places, it’s also good to avoid touching common surfaces as much as possible -- for us that’s the paddles, life jackets and sides of the canoe. At any stops, keep your paddle and life jacket at your designated seat, or on shore. We will sanitize gunnels and seats in between trips, and at all stops during trips.

Note: As far as I can tell, vigorous hand washing with soap for 20 minutes is more effective than hand sanitizer. On the sandbars add sand for extra grit!

Info on traveling within the US:

General recommendations on prevention:

If you have any questions, or etc, see below for my contact. Feel free to write or call back!

John Ruskey
Quapaw Canoe Company
291 Sunflower Avenue
Clarksdale, MS 38614

Quapaw Canoe Company — Alternate Salutations in a Virus World:
(Thanks to Big Muddy Mike of Big Muddy Adventures for helping create this list!)

1) The Japanese Bow: Hands at your side, make eye contact, bend at waste towards the greeter. A slight bow forward, almost like a nod of the head, a slight online of the torso from the hip, and return upright! (unlike the old world bow of submission to your ruler).

2) The Indian Bow: Hands in prayer above heart, bow slightly and then arise with a smile.

3) Emma-Lou Jump-Up-And-Down: my daughter used to get so excited when seeing friends and loved ones that she would jump up and down repeatedly! Very effective!

4) Sailor's Salute: raise right hand to head, as exemplified in the US Navy.

5) Steamboat Captain's Salute: lift your hat in the air (or arm if not wearing hat) and wave back and forth.

6) Cowboy/Girl Hat Tip: Make eye contact, place hand on corner of hat, or if no hat pretend you do. tip hat towards greeter.

7) American Sign Language Love Sign: Make eye contact. Make fist then point your pinky and pointer and thumb up. Move side to side. End with a smile.

8) Paddles High Five: on the water paddlers can high five with the blades of their paddles... SUP or kayak or canoe... approaching ships port to port or starboard to starboard extend your paddle blade and slap "high five!” (maintaining at least 6 foot distance of course!)

9) Heart Bump: Bump heart with fist and extend towards person: a heartfelt soul greeting -- for soul brothers and soul sisters.

10) Medieval Courtsy (Female) or Bow (Male): A gesture of respect or reverence made by bending the knees with one foot forward and lowering the body.

11) Swahili Fire Greet: Facing person maintain eye contact and run your palms together in rapid circular motion while saying "pasha, pasha, pasha!" and then throw the sparks outwards sweeping one hand over the other towards person, saying the words "chama, chama, chama!" (thanks to my sister Jennifer for this one!)

We're all Connected:

Ending here with Big River Love to everyone. Wherever you are, in on any of the seven continents, or on any of the seven seas -- wherever the passage of life flows onwards forever flowing -- we hope you are well and making good decisions for yourself, your friends, your family, and the future of humanity.

We feel you, and we are all in this boat together. Yours always, in service,

"Driftwood Johnnie"
John Ruskey