Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History
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"Old Man River," Paul Schneider's exploration of America's great waterway taking the reader from the Mississippi River's origins to its polluted present and tracing its prehistory, geology, and cultural and literary histories is as vast as its subject.
The fascinating cast of characters includes the French and Spanish explorers de Soto, Marquette and Joliet, and the incomparable La Salle; George Washington fighting his first battle in an effort to secure the watershed; the birth of jazz and blues; and literary greats like Melville, Dickens, Trollope, and, of course, Mark Twain.
Pirates and riverbats, gamblers and slaves, hustlers and landscape painters, loggers and catfishers, tourists and missionaries: The Mississippi is a river of stories and myth. It's Paul Robeson sitting on a cotton bale, Daniel Boone floating on a flatboat, and Paul Bunyan cutting trees in the neighborhood of "Little House in the Big Woods."
Half-devastated product of American ingenuity, half-magnificent natural wonder, it is impossible to imagine America without the Mississippi."
W., Calvin B. Smith, and Kenneth T. Wilkins, eds. Proboscidean and Paleoindian Interactions. Waco, Tex.: Markham Fund of Baylor University Press, 1992. Franklin, W. Neil. “Pennsylvania-Virginia Rivalry for the Indian Trade of the Ohio Valley.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 20, no. 4 (Mar. 1934): 463–80. Frazier, Ian. Great Plains. New York: Penguin, 1989. Fremling, Calvin R. Immortal River: The Upper Mississippi in Ancient and Modern Times. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005.
among the Sioux and the Omaha, but when she heard that the Great Serpent was in danger of being sold and leveled, she took it upon herself to raise the funds from the women of Boston to purchase it for the Peabody Museum. Interestingly, the Great Serpent Mound is not in the effigy mound region of the upper Mississippi, or in the neighborhood of Cahokia. It is instead almost solitary as far as animal effigy mounds go, on a small tributary of the Ohio. Also enigmatic is the time in which it was
contact. Father Marquette was surprised and pleased that even here on the previously unvisited Mississippi, the Indians seemed to recognize the newcomers. “On hearing the shout, the savages quickly issued from their Cabins,” he wrote later, “having probably recognized us as Frenchmen, especially when they saw a black gown.” But the celibate man in the long black skirt could not make any sense of the Illinois men who dressed like women, sang but didn’t dance, and were highly esteemed spiritual
cattle. They paint their faces with red ocher, great quantities of which are found at a distance of some days’ journey from the village. When Father Marquette presented his last gift to the leaders of the Illinois nation he made a simple request. He hoped his new friends would tell them all they knew about the river downstream. After Marquette was finished, the “Captain” of the Illinois Indians thanked him with another elaborate recitation of how the river had never been calmer, the crops never
Father Membre. “As they were soon so near that they could understand each other, they asked our Frenchmen who they were. They replied that they were French, still keeping their arms at ready, and letting the current bear them down in order, because there was no landing place till below the camp.” The Illinois were not as concerned about who showed whom their pipe first and held out three calumets. “Our people at the same time presented [ours],” said Membre, “and, their terror changing to joy,