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LMRD 784 - Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
"Voice of the Lower Mississippi River"
Friday, July 3, 2020 ~~~Pull the Soil~~~

Advance Note: If you want to get outside, and get on the river, we have figured out how to do it safely, even amongst the challenges of the virus. See below for contact info, or call Mark River 662-902-1885, and we'll make it happen!

(Rory Doyle)

Today I am turning the mirror inward and sharing a song in recognition and celebration of our nation’s greatest holiday, this year a remarkable time and place in our history.

Time moves so strangely nowadays... I haven’t written a song in a long time, but last week I was feeling an upwelling from the deep within and overflowing like magma in the heart of the delta, Clarksdale, raw emotions wrung out by the loss of Sir Mano the Magnificent (2003-2020) and Malcolm Mabry (1933-2020), two close friends born 70 years apart and both passed just last week... and more... the times, the losses, the pain & grief, my mother's fragile graceful golden age, the sweetness of the spring turning to summer, the honesuckles and willows, snowstorms of cottonwood fluff across sunny sandbars, our prolific garden, the feeling of a new journey, each morning another step in the journey.

(Dining with Debbie)

Pull the Soil

"Pull the Soil" (c) 2020, John Ruskey.
Feel free to share, but please credit!

Maybe I shouldn’t do this, my feelings are too raw and out of control, I’m not certain of the permanence of anything anymore... And then there's the question of looking too deeply into the pool of water... But I’ve been trying to let go and let things flow, and not hold on, or hide my head…. there's no more time for that. Lastly, my big sisters Jennifer and Abby said I should share with others, because the song might speak to you and ease some of the pain. And believe me, it's not a good idea to ignore your big sisters!

(Christopher Battaglia)

America’s riches lie not in treasury bank notes or what’s seen through a mall window, America’s riches are in you and me, in the rugged landscapes found from sea to shining sea, in all of us, all 2.5 million species, we all have equal right to the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil that endlessly surrounds us like an inland sea, and nourishes us…. We live in the heart of a paradise, in the garden of Eden. It's all around us. Why do we keep chasing mirages down busy but empty highways? My highway begins where others end, at the edge of the river.

(Rory Doyle)

Photo Gallery: ‘May the river be with you’ by Rory Doyle

Pull the Soil speaks to the never-ending cycles of life that sometimes hide underground, like the 17-year cycle of cicada, or the leopard frog waiting moisture deep in cracks of dank, dried mud, the turtle in the deep pool, the hard-cased honey locust seed passed through coyote poop, hidden cocoons of life nurtured & nourished by the sweet soils of Mother Earth, patiently awaiting the golden opportunity to croak or crack their seeds or shells or eggs and spread their wings in the air, their toes in the sand, to praise life and procreate in the wild profusion only possible in the land of plenty…. the conquistadors came looking for the gold, not realizing it was everywhere around them locked into the sandy silt, carried by the big river from the wide open outspread arms of a continent, contained between the breasts of the rockies and the appalachia... what fool’s gold were we lustfully drawn towards when COVID-19 caused a general collapse in our systems and our ambitions were silenced?

Happy Birthday America. Don’t you know me? I’m your native son. I’m the worker bee of your greatest river, and a faithful worker I will always be!

(Mike Brown)

Pull the Soil
by "Driftwood Johnnie" John Ruskey

Pull the soil up over my feet
I’ve my run my race, my life has been sweet
But man is harsh, I had to retreat
To nourish the good and beat the heat

Pull the soil up over my knees
I’ve knelt in prayer to the four winds
But never have I bowed my head
To the man who tried to eat my bread

Pull the soil up over my loins
My children are grown, they stand on their own
I’ve dug roots, I’ve planted seeds
I'm always there for those in need

Now pull the soil up over my belly
I’ve eaten well of life’s jam and jelly
And now my flesh begins to rot
Ill feed another with whatever I got

Pull the soil up over my heart
My soul’s grown deep through the deepest of darks
My spirit’s spinning in the wind
I’ve never lacked for a good friend

Now pull the soil up over my throat
I’ve sung my song, I’ve scratched a few notes
I’ve tried to let the words flow through
The big hole ‘tween me and you

Pull the soil up over my brain
The cool rich earth eases all the pains
I hear the knocking underground
It comes from deep with a heavenly sound

Now pull the soil and cover me up
I’ve drunk my fill from the overflowing cup
I’ve paid my dues, I’ve paid my rent
To Mother Earth and her dear scent

So pull the soil and let the dew
Feed the microbes that chew my food
When I was born I knew the way home
Was deep within the sandy loam

So pull the soil over my bones
The earth is dark but it feels like home
I’ve wandered far underneath the sun
Now cover me up cause I am done

Sunflower River sing my song
The fishes laugh as they run along
Deep Delta stars forever fill the sky
With muddy wings where I now fly
"Pull the Soil" (c) 2020, John Ruskey.
Feel free to share, but please credit!

Malcolm Mabry, Jr.
Dublin - 1933-2020

Animal lover, farmer, teacher, artist, writer and former long-time legislator, Malcolm Mabry, Jr. died June 12, 2020 at Clarksdale Nursing Center. Malcolm was 87 years old. He leaves behind the legacy of a life devoted to the betterment of both man and animals.

Highlights of Malcolm's diverse life include an early career as a high school history teacher; seven decades of farming his family land in Dublin, MS; self-publishing two books of poetry; serving for nearly a quarter of a century in the Mississippi State Legislature; almost single-handedly raising $1.5 million for Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine's state-of-the-art oncology unit; and last, but definitely not least, being the last ray of hope for more stray dogs than can be counted.

Malcolm devoted 24 years to the Mississippi Legislature, serving in both the House and the Senate between 1964-1988. When he first went to Jackson in the 1960s he described himself as one of the most conservative members of the legislature and a member of the old guard of right wing Democrats that dominated the ultra-conservative legislature. Later in the 1970s, during a district-wide door to door senate campaign, he began to see firsthand the struggles and poverty of his black constituents. This brought on a complete change of heart to the once staunch segregationist, This lead him to becoming one of the most liberal members of the Senate, gaining a reputation as an arch defender of civil rights and a champion for the underdog. He counted among his mentors Albert Schweitzer, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King.

Mabry was known for his smooth southern drawl, his self-assured and outspoken manner, and his sometimes formidable temperament. These traits came to fore most often as a politician protecting the rights of the oppressed on the senate floor, as a Delta farmer fighting to preserve the environment, or when advocating for the welfare animals. It was common for Malcolm, when arguing such points, to strike his iconic senatorial pose, holding up his hand with raised forefinger pointing determinedly straight up and locking his piercing blue eyes on yours as he lectured home his point.

Malcolm was a study in contradictions considering his political accomplishments and his hardboiled, old-Delta-farmer-no-nonsense attitude. Aside from his public life in politics he was a humble, generous and unpretentious man with many unexpected interests. He lived a simple life. Malcolm never married and had a family. He never moved from his childhood home in Dublin, the small Mississippi Delta community where he was born. He was an ardent reader and subscribed to six newspapers, including the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He was usually reading several books at a time, all on diverse subjects, and he leaves behind a sizable and amazingly eclectic library. He was well versed on a wide array of topics including world politics and economics; history; astronomy and quantum physics; and the lives of great people, from Einstein to Mother Teresa.

Malcolm was one of the last handwritten letter writers, regularly writing to his many friends around the nation in his distinctive, flowing calligraphic script. For many years he exchanged letters with several political notables, including a former U.S. president. He adopted the small, Mayberry-like town of Kenyon, MN, keeping up with their goings-on through their local paper, the Kenyon Leader, contributing to their community charities; and making many close Kenyon friends. He wrote poetry and self-published two books of his poems. He diligently painted hundreds of small smooth river stones with colorful, elaborately detailed designs resembling bejeweled Faberge Eggs. He continued to help farm his land until he was 84 and regularly mowed his beloved pecan groves and pet cemetery with his tractor and bush hog, keeping them in pristine, park-like condition.

It was only in his last two decades of life that he began to rescue and care for stray dogs. This latter endeavor that would come to be what he thought of as his only really important accomplishment. A fervent dog lover since childhood, taking in strays began innocently enough when he took in a feral mamma dog and her 8 puppies he found living in one of the old deserted share cropper houses on his farm. Soon his number of strays began to increase and he started buying up and fencing in houses in Dublin as people moved away or died to house them. At one time he had up to 38 dogs housed around town and out at his farm headquarters. He always provided them with the best of shelter, food, veterinary care, attention and love. With no children or close family, his dogs became his family. He carefully avoided the insensitive term "dogs", calling them instead his '"babies." He spent time with each one of them daily.

Malcolm once told a reporter, "One by one they came in, and I adopted them and people began to put dogs in my yard. They'd just appear. And there were stray dogs that would just come to town here and I'd start feeding them and it just gradually got more and more….I didn't start at the beginning to have my own animal shelter. It's not something I planned, but now I've come to the conclusion it's my mission in life."

Malcolm is preceded in death by his mother and father, Abbie West and Malcolm H. Mabry, Sr., his brother Ray, his nephew Billy Ray Mabry, and his niece, Mary Lou Mabry. He is survived by his niece, Lucy Ann Mabry of Clayton, NC, one great-nephew, Malcolm Ray Mabry (Julie) of Greenwood, MS, one great-niece, Elizabeth Rybolt of Cleveland, MS, and cousin, Bill West (Brenda) of Collierville, TN. He leaves behind many close friends, including his longtime friend, David Cook.

And he also leaves behind his "babies": Butterbeans, Baby, Big Baby, Francine, Pup Pup, Little Boy (AKA Rabbit), Ethel II, Emma II, Mamma, Mamma Bulldog, Spot, Honey Spot, Girl, Boy, Boy-Boy, Cookie, Big Brown Dog, Eurma, Pearl, Uncle Duke and Street Dog.

*"One can always tell the state of a nation by the way they treat their animals."

Mahatma Gandhi

*(A favorite quote of Mabry)

If desired, donations in memory of Malcolm may be made to the Clarksdale Animal Rescue Effort & Shelter (CARES/1645 Desoto Ave., Clarksdale, MS 38614), animal shelter of your choice, or St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in memory of Alexa Cooke (501 St. Jude's Place, Memphis, TN 38105). The photo placed is credited to Diane D. Orr.

A graveside service will be held 11:30 A.M. Friday June 19, 2020 at Oakridge Cemetery in Clarksdale, MS. Meredith-Nowell Funeral Home in Clarksdale, MS is in charge of arrangements.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.

By David Cook for the Clarion Ledger, June 15, 2020

Sir Mano "the Magnificent” 2003-2020

Sir Mano "the Magnificent" passed away the other night at Mom & Daddy’s. Over the spring and summer he seemed to be weakening, and getting skinnier. This summer he has been outside all the time during day, only coming in at night. Last week he wouldn’t come in at all. Grampa Gare was feeding him outside. I saw him on the last day, and he did seem to be saying something to me. He’s been eating, but looking emaciated. Almost all fur & bones. Daddy said he didn’t come in that night, so he went looking for him. And found him peacefully tucked up underneath his truck.

Mom was sad Mano about this morning as we looked at pictures of him. And Daddy Gare-Bear was tearing up as we talked about him. I was too. I am feeling the loss. He was a real mannish cat, in the fullest sense, but also a wise being, with the deepest green blue eyes, a deep soul, and one of the strongest personalities ever. A life well lived, the tough guy on the block, the one who never learned to retract his claws when sitting on your lap, the one who liked to climb in my daypack, and squashed my hats wherever I laid them, who peed in Abby's suitcase to send a message across the country back to Abby's cats on Puget Sound, who liked to eat Kiki’s dogfood resulting in the worst cat breath ever!

Sir Mano appeared at the Catalpa House in the early years (I think 2003). I was unable to care for him at the time, so Mom & Daddy adopted. But initially he wouldn’t stay put at their house. He continually wandered back to Catalpa House. How he made that journey over and over, and how he learned to orient himself and safely & successfully walk that route (1/2 mile with lots of mean dogs, foxes, other alley cats, owls, and traffic) is still a mystery to us. It was until I sat down with him and we had a real man-to man heart-to-heart that he never tried to make that journey again.

My Daddy Gare-Bear thoughtfully buried Mano in the monuments to Grandpa & Grandma Waters. I am going to make some kid of monument or memorial stone or something for Sir Mano.

Blessings to all. Sad morning for all of us, but also full of appreciation for the life well-lived as a deep Delta cat.

Endnote: I am constantly being surprised to discover myself where I am in the season, but also feeling there is no place I’d rather be right now, and thankful to each and every one of you reading this to be on this journey together.

If you want to get outside, and get on the river, we have figure out how to do it safely, even amongst the challenges of the virus. See below for contact info, or call Mark River 662-902-1885, and we'll make it happen!

In service,

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

We Can't Breathe

We at Quapaw Canoe Company are shocked, hurt and angered by the knee chokehold murder of George Floyd in the river city Minneapolis, and subsequent injustices suffered by non-violent protestors, by ethical police trying to do their job, and by the many innocent people across our great nation. This is not what we are about. The right to breathe is the most basic of human needs. The right to clean water would have to be second. Everything we do at QCC is about a good, healthy life for all. We can’t breathe in this kind of atmosphere.

If you would like to read more about our internal rationale, please go to end of newsletter for a description of our core values and how they apply to this difficult time in our nation’s history.


Balance, Diversity, Democracy

Quapaw Canoe Company core values are balance, diversity, and democracy, which all derive from our experience paddling big canoes on the big waters of North America.

Balance is exemplified by the passage of our canoes. Everything we do is about keeping even keel. To do otherwise is dangerous to our health and well-being. Pandemic and police brutality are symptoms of the imbalance we seek to counteract in our services and work as canoe builders, guides & outfitters. Other imbalances include species loss, global warming, and loss of wild places. Diversity for us includes all peoples and all creatures great and small. We have always created equal access for all. Since 1998 we have made it our mission to make sure all communities found along the Lower Mississippi River enjoy equal access to the wonders of the big river, and the life changing experience of the wilderness. Our adventures practice the best qualities of Democracy. Everyone in the big canoe sets aside their differences and paddles together for the good of the whole. We believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Inherent in life is the right to breathe clean air, the right to drink clean water, the right to eat good food, and the right to live in healthy shelter, in healthy communities.


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