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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 844
~~~~~~~~ Monday, May 31, 2021 ~~~~~~~~~
Clarksdale, MS ~ Memphis, TN ~ Vicksburg, MS

Mark River Blog: The Lone Buck

I found a campsite on a hump of sand tucked behind a young willow forest. The River is approximately 40 ft. away lined with a stand of privets, mulberry, and willow trees. I take a walk towards the bluff and couldn't help but notice very large hove prints in the un-humanized sand. I realized I'm not alone.

I weave and maneuver myself through the stand of trees following his trail to and opening overlooking the River. The bluff is twenty feet above the water with a natural staircase of five foot intervals headed to the shoreline. What a beautiful view of the main channel with towboats up and down the navigational waterway and fresh wind on my face. With the wind, you don't have to worry about Buffalo gnats nor mosquitos.

I say to myself, "this is the perfect spot for writing", while noticing a very large area of perfectly manicured sand, with the shape of a large animal. I found where he spends his days, dazing and relaxing on this same bluff, overlooking the same River, enjoying the same therapeutic muse of the River.

My mind gets redirected, I look below and see two Mississippi Map turtles sunning on a newly exposed log on a falling river. The young trees surrounding me are filled with moths, butterflies, and other unidentifiable insects hanging and clinging for their lives as the wind fluctuates between their leaves. A third turtle tries to climb onto the log and is quickly dismissed by a casual kick of a hind leg. A mature Bald Eagle flies right over my head letting me know I'm one with the setting. This bluff is exposed during high water, so I know this land is shared by all the creatures on the island. Wild hogs have rooted up much of this real estate, chewing through decayed deadfall looking for nymphs, larva, and grubs, but worked around the precious gardens of dewberries with their flowers blooming. The Beavers have harvested willow saplings, still not leaving me a clue how they are selected.

I refocus and take a moment to think like him. This would be a great spot if the wind was coming from the North. He could spell his enemies and have to River as its back. He could flee down the staircase-like bluff to escape, but also can take a leap of faith and swim across. If the wind came from the South, his enemies could smell him, realize his size and stature, and move on to something more manageable. I gaze across the channel at a newly constructed River mansion. Maybe that's the guy who owns the blind overlooking the grassy plains of the island? Maybe he sits here watching and scouting his adversary come this fall? Maybe they study us like we study them. Why not? We both been walking in circles for 3 days? Maybe he's watching me now from the grove of trees to the right of me? I bet if I explored hard enough I could find the antlers he shed in late February. I start to spook myself, so I head back to my tent.

I think about him all night. I start to process his patterns in my sleep, wondering if he's there now. Wondering if he snacks on sweet, young mulberry leaves? I know he's there after breakfast, but when. Tomorrow I will stay there til lunch, and see if I can catch him moving. It's a long shot with the South wind, but it's worth the try. I've been keeping my pattern, so he knows I'm not a threat. I haven't search over his whole domain, because I don't want to stress him out. I haven't hunted for 11 years now, so it's awesome to practice mental hunting. You get the same rush with the citing , without taking a life.

The morning arrives after a wonderful night of serenading barges humming throughout the night. I wake up happy as always , thanking the Creator for another day of life and another day on the River. I tear up daily thinking about my path to an incredible existence on this planet, studying physics when I was young, clinging to metaphysical practices of willing your dream into reality. I have accomplished that and practice and praise it everyday.

I step out my tent noticing that the wind had shifted, and now is coming from the North. I rush down to the campfire to immediately start breakfast. I wanted to be at the bluff early, so he can't smell me when he's making his pilgrimage across the grassland headed to his favorite spot. I accomplish my goal, hunkering down, waiting patiently. Luckily the crew is rising slow, so breakfast is postponed for another hour. I suddenly hear the Quapaw "Whoo-Whoop!" in the distance so I now my hunt is over, it's time for breakfast. I pick myself up off the ground and start to head to camp when suddenly I get to the clearing and there he is heading directly towards me in the field. I immediately stop and get low, but he noticed my slight movement. He stands tall staring right at me and fled with bountiful leaps, not in a straight line, but as if he thought I had a gun. It was a combination of power and grace, like a figure skater. I felt the rush as if I made the kill. We both had a learning experience of a lifetime, and we both will live to see another day on this great River.

Mark River

Mark River is Chief Guide and Youth Leader for the Quapaw Canoe Company. He is also the Southern Coordinator of 1 Mississippi's River Citizen Program. Mark River also hosts a podcast, "May the River be with You:"

1) May the River be With You by Mark River Podcast #8 Climate Change

Climate Change is affecting the flooding, ecology and commerce along the Mississippi River. Learn how it is changing everything from the migration of monarchs (butterflies!) hatching season of mayflies to the growth of invasive plantsand the patterns of snow geese while also disrupting the flow of barges and their cargo along the waterway.

May the River be With You!

Jump on board the big muddy with your guide Mark "River" Peoples and feel the powerful, storied currents of the Mighty Mississippi River pull at your feet and open your imagination. "May The River Be With You" focuses on how the largest river in North America influences and impacts our culture, from arts and education to ecology and commerce. In each episode, we discuss how the river affects us all in unexpected ways while also featuring music, poetry, tales and myths inspired by the river itself.

Podcast presented by the Quapaw Canoe Company with support from 1Mississippi, and the Mississippi River Network. Hosted by Mark River Peoples. Produced by Coop Cooper. Artwork, music, and narratives by Johnnie “Driftwood” Ruskey.


Podcast made possible by 1Mississippi:

Mark River is Chief Guide and Youth Leader for the Quapaw Canoe Company. He is also the Southern Coordinator of 1 Mississippi's River Citizen Program.