Grandfather of Waters
I grew up just a few miles–as the crow–or now as the eagle flies–from the mighty Mississippi River. Early mornings were marked by the view of the mists rising from surrounding rivers–the Mississippi to the west, the Wisconsin to the South, and the Kickapoo to the east. The Kickapoo was also north of us but too many ridges between us to see mists.
The sun might shine brightly on the ridge but the valleys were frequently foggy.
I cross the Mississippi three times on my route from Texas to Wisconsin–St. Louis, the Quad Cities, and then in either Dubuque or Marquette. There are always fabulous vistas to view and enjoy.
There are two channels–the East and West–both quite wide and in the spring time those channels swell and expand with melting snow from further upstream. The locks for the barges close sometime in the fall and re-open in the spring with ice blocking traffic. Eagles nest near the dams/locks. Sometimes the bridge access is under water and those people living in Iowa but working in Wisconsin use boats to cross.
At one time the crossing was a toll bridge. The Locals were not appreciative of this inconvenience since they had paid for the bridge–and so one night, the toll-taker’s little shed was taken apart. Imagine my surprise one year when the bridge was moved about half a mile south–no longer entering Wisconsin on Blackhawk Avenue.
Blackhawk and his tribe named this river many years ago. At its origins in Minnesota, this river can be easily stepped across—here you need a canoe or water craft of some sort. I always thought it curious that they called it Grandfather rather than Grandmother or Mother.
In the past there was a brisk business in fishing for clams for the pearl button factory. I have some of those buttons–my grandmother bought them–as they would have been inexpensive at the time. I have a few postcards of the fishing rafts used to collect the clams somewhere in my post-card collection.
French fur traders used this area as a jumping off spot for the west and north–collecting supplies; French and Indian wars meant several forts and a battle or two–including George Washington. Geronimo supposedly hid out in a local cave. And then there was William S. Beaumont who studied the stomach and its workings in one of his patients he had patched up.
Each trip to Wisconsin means a mandatory stop to see the Mississippi from a high point, a drive along the Kickapoo and Plum Creek, a view of the mist rising from the Wisconsin, and the farm.