Growing up on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi is something any child would've relished, as it's shoreline offered treasures galore. As kids, we spent nearly every weekend traveling to the sandbars in our trusty lil' v-hull aluminum boat...not the grand boats of our family friends, but the little fishing boat that would take us on those magical trips to the shores where exploration was our duty of the day...such treasures...sticks, stones and bones, everything a child could drag into our little boat to take home to display in our rooms. Once finding a cache of turtle eggs, I brought several home to bury in warm sand in hopes they would hatch into my river friends...well, we won't go into that story.
Always the explorers, my brother and I would run free on the beautiful banks, back in the fifties, not knowing the pollution that was discarded into her flow. Meat-packing plant, lumber manufacturing, city sewage, run-off from agriculture, industry, barge trash and just plain people, throwing everything of refuse into her swells, not caring what happened to the spoil.
Sadly today, I will not eat the fish from her depths, once teaming with catfish, sturgeon, walleye and carp. There is now mercury poisoning from coal-fired discharge, farm run-off from chemicals and animal wastes, lead and whatever else has seeped to her belly. Will our rivers and streams ever be pristine again. Sadly the toxins run the full gamut to the delta, where they're sucked into the Gulf of Mexico, causing dead-zones everywhere.
Sad scenario for what the Native Americans called the Big Muddy. But photos of her surface splendor, keeps my hope alive that some day we will be forced to give back to nature, so that species will thrive, not succumb. As flooding continues, year after year, we see changes in pattern, but the lore of the river remains.