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Rivers and Lakes

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

We Rock Islanders who live along the Mississippi River don't hold much for lakes, those little puddles that dot the landscape up above the bluffs interrupting good corn or soybean acreage.

Lakes just sit there letting rivers do all the work. Lakes are fed new clean water by rivers and drained of old water by rivers. Otherwise, a lake would just be a stagnant bog.

Lakes are merely rivers taking a coffee break before getting back to work. They’re aneurysms on river arteries. A river has work to do, carving gorges and valleys, reshaping islands, trying out new channels, poking, prying, pushing. Even in winter, rivers are at work under the ice, cleaning the Midwest, while lakes are asleep, their boats beached belly up like a giant fish kill.

Have you ever boated on a lake? What's there to do but row to the opposite shore and back, or else round and round like one of those kiddie rides at the county fair?

Rivers go places; they're on the move. Even a little paper boat put in the gutter after a rainstorm sails down the hill into a creek, then to a river, and from there, possibly, to distant shores. What child has not soared around the world on the wings of such imagination?

That's why we river dwellers around Rock Island are such go-getters. We don't need Sunday school to teach us that our lives need rudders and oars, we don't need a report card to remind us to build sturdy boats, we don't need a commencement speaker to challenge us to push off from shores and follow our dreams. The River teaches this.

Meanwhile, what do those folks know who live around lakes, sitting in front of their cabins hoping for a nice sunset, or, it it's August, watching the pond scum turn the water green.

A few lake dwellers succeed. Thoreau, I suppose, did okay by his little pond, but think what Walden might have become had Thoreau lived along the Mississippi

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.