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A Story Not Worth Telling

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

The following story about the Mississippi River is not worth telling. Unlike those river events that make the six o'clock news and bring Presidents and politicians running with promises of relief: floods that shut down River Drive or breached levees, swallowed farms and towns or washed away bridges.

I'd like you to come with me to an everyday, storiless stretch of the Mississippi, where nothing whatsoever has ever happened. They're getting harder to find, what with all the markers noting the site of the first bridge across the river, the highest bluff, the wreck of this or that steamboat, the spot where Lincoln, or General Grant, or Charles Dickens, or Teddy Roosevelt landed, or the site of the first appendectomy.

If there were markers at the places I'm thinking of, they would have to say, "On this spot, absolutely nothing happened."

And they'd be right. On this particular April morning, as always at this spot, nothing is happening. Mallard ducks and flocks of shorebirds have come down to nest in the flooded marshes on their way north for the summer. Stands of willow, their feet in water, have turned golden and silver with catkins, getting ready to leaf out. Along the bluffs, buds are swelling, too, on the red, white, and burr oak, and on the hard and soft maples, and the walnut, hickory, butternut and honey locust. Blossoms on the wild apple, plum, and cherry fill every space.

At the water's edge, deer stand drinking. Warblers and finches have returned to their shrub homes on the island. Fox, badgers, and raccoons are awake. Mink and muskrat are hard at work; otters are playing. A whole family of skunks waddles single file through the woods.

The air, woods, and water are dense here with stories not worth telling. And should you find this place, or one just like it elsewhere in the valley, don't you tell anyone. Humans insist on making stories out of anything they can get their hands on, and should they find these places, it will only mean even more markers and plaques.

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