It was a great Wednesday. The “Dragonfly ” canoe is a couple steps away from its first layer of fiberglass. Driftwood and I closely comb over its curvature looking for places that need attention before the next phase. We smile at each other to celebrate our team’s progress. It’s an honor to be a part of building a voyager canoe. The bonding experience is priceless and it will last forever. Little did I know, our bond would be tested within the next 24 hours.

The phone rings early. I smile knowing it’s my big brother reaching out to me for our daily morning talk. I turn over to answer, and it’s not my brother, but Driftwood.

“Hey River, I think we have a situation at base. You should get here right away.”

By the tone of his voice, I knew there were challenges ahead. The rains had been coming down in sheets for two days, so I started to prepare myself mentally for the adversity ahead. I arrived at the headquarters and the Sunflower River had over-come the parking lot behind the canoe shop.The Levee Board was in route with sandbags. The water was rising so fast, you could literally see the fluctuation. Driftwood made a great plan, having a carpenter come in and cut an evacuation hole into the ceiling of the cave to the youth hostel. He also called in a favor, asking the Habitat for Humanity of Urbana, Illinois to come help with the task. We put a ladder up through the hole, formed a human conveyor belt, and saved  computers, artifacts, artwork, books, and river gear.

Photo Credit: Quapaw Canoe Company

Photo Credit: Quapaw Canoe Company

That day we were on auto pilot. I made eye contact with the Mighty Quapaws throughout this ordeal and not once did I see any doubt in the eyes of the team. It made me proud that I was a part of this company. The same bond we share on the Mississippi River to safely navigate and introduce its beauty to all walks of life, carried over to a very stressful situation on land. Being stewards of the Mississippi River, we understand nature and its will on human existence. Living next to a river brings you great joy, sites, and sounds daily, but we knew someday we would see the other side of living within its banks. We also know something great  will come out of  this experience.

Photo Credit: Quapaw Canoe Company

Photo Credit: Quapaw Canoe Company

Just like a river that flows continuously to its delta, through and around man-made structures, taking the path of  least resistance, being totally unapologetic, and  changing courses–we must be one with them. They supply our communities with freshwater, incredible topsoil for farming, and is the conduit of life for all species.

The rebuilding after the flood has started. The Sunflower River has receded back to its original channel. Everything is green and renewed. Wood ducks are pairing off looking for the perfect tree to nest. The photogenic green heron leaps from limb to limb, stocking prey. Shore-birds and songbirds sing their songs, while combing the banks gobbling up small insects and invertebrates.  Owls  are perched on low hanging branches, teaching their young how to ambush lethargic water snakes basking in the sun. Natures engineer, the beaver, enjoy the access to fresh trees in the floodplain. Otters swim on their backs eating bighead and silver carp. The Quapaws are busy with the clean-up, restructuring , and the reorganization of our work space.

Photo Credit: Quapaw Canoe Company

Photo Credit: Quapaw Canoe Company

The Mighty Quapaw’s would like to thank everyone who helped us through this unfortunate event. We realize we where not the only victims affected and our hearts and blessing go out to all.  Thanks for the words of encouragement and moral support from friends and family. Thanks to our friends from Surrey, England who held a 24-hour paddle to assist our rebuild.  And a special thanks to all the rivers that flow and supply us with the thirst of life.

~Mark River

1 Mississippi Outreach Assistant/Mississippi

mark and canoe

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