Monday, December 14, 2009

Paddling the Pascagoula, 1954

As I've mentioned here before, one of the greatest rewards of being an author is hearing from readers of my books about how reading one of them either inspired them to go out and do something adventurous or reminded them of a past pleasure from a similar experience.

This week I got an email from Mike Warnock, a reader of Paddling the Pascagoula who said he could relate to the narrative because he had made his own journeys down the river in the mid 1950's, along with fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 220 of Moss Point.

In the photo above, from 1954, Mike is the kid in the straw hat in the back of the second canoe. He said the longest trip they did on the river was 5 days and 150 miles. They saw few, if any people, and he doesn't remember seeing any of the sewer discharges or trash Ernest Herndon and I reported in our book from our trip in 2004, fifty years later.

Last summer Troop 220 had a reunion at a cabin out from Lucedale, not far from the river (see photo below). Mike is now living in Idaho and is still an outdoorsman. Their Scoutmaster, Sam Wilkes, now 83, is the man in the front center.

I told Mike that I envied those experiences he had at that perfect age for canoeing a river. Though I went on to become fanatical for many years about canoeing and sea kayaking, I never set foot in a canoe until I was 18 years old. Canoeing was almost unheard of around the small town where I grew up, and we did not have an active Scout Troop that did that sort of thing.

Ernest and I have often discussed the fact that Mississippi, a state blessed with woods and water, including thousands of miles of perfect streams for canoeing, just does not have a canoe culture. Even today, anyone paddling a canoe on the bigger rivers of the state like the Pascagoula or the Pearl is looked on with disbelief by the local fishermen in their John boats with outboards. This may never change, but for those of us who do recognize it, this state has some of the finest canoe waters in the country, and the Pascagoula River System surely has some of the finest in the state. I would have loved the opportunity to make such a journey down the river at the age or ten or twelve, but as it turned out there were plenty of opportunities later, and hopefully will be many more in the future.

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"A boat is freedom, not just a way to reach a goal."
Bernard Moitessier - A Sea Vagabond's World


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