Rock Island Lines

Monday thru Friday 11 AM

A series of award-winning stories about our region's traditions, institutions, and people, past and present. Rock Island Lines is written and read by Roald Tweet, Professor Emeritus of English at Augustana College.

The stories in these three-minute modules are rooted in a specific place; a "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River." It's the logical site for a storyteller. It is from the rich heritage of our region that Tweet spins his histories, biographies, and "stretchers."

Roald has spent much of his life travelling up and down the river, with forays overland, east and west, talking to the people, reading their journals, and enjoying the humor and history of America's heartland. His observations about life around Rock Island strike responsive chords across the region. It's a viewpoint that will enrich and enliven your day.

Listen below or subscribe on iTunes or RSS. 

Sponsored by
Quad City Bank & Trust

Working River

12 hours ago

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

I see that the starving artists are back at the Holiday Inn again for their annual sale, room 211. What would those artists do without rivers? Any painting over $19.95 is bound to have a stream or a rivulet winding through it, perhaps even the sweet Afton flowing gently.


Jan 19, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

The communities clustered along the Mississippi around Rock Island have contributed their share of sports heroes to American folklore. There's Roger Craig in football, Gene Oliver in baseball, and Jack Fleck, the golfer who beat Ben Hogan in the U. S. Open.

Ed Lamp

Jan 18, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Ed Lamp is 97 years old. He still lives by himself in one of a cluster of small homes and cottages along the Rock River, a mile or so from where the Rock empties into the Mississippi. The homes are hidden from busy Black Hawk Road by a row of industries. The only access is a nearly invisible gravel road. The owners prefer it that way.

A through K

Jan 15, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

We Rock Island Lutherans don’t take much stock in the doctrine of predestination—except when it comes to church potlucks. Somewhere in the fine print of the Augsburg Confession, the early church fathers determined that Lutherans whose last names begin with A through K must always bring salads to church suppers.

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

The first few minutes of a war are exciting. Some madness seems to make men eager to leave home and family to hunt each other down.

Button, Button

Jan 14, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

If you come for a visit to our Mississippi Valley and want to bring a souvenir back to the relatives in Potosi, Wisconsin, here's some advice. Avoid those cute ashtrays made in Taiwan that say, "Greetings from the Quad Cities," or the bumper stickers that say, "Support mental health or I'll kill you." Instead, take a walk along some of the more out-of-the-way stretches of our Mississippi River, where the current has deposited a stash of old clam shells. With any luck, you'll soon find one that resembles a Swiss cheese—with half-inch holes over the whole shell.

John Buford

Jan 13, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

If you have ever visited the Battlefield of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, you may have seen the statue of John Buford at the northwest entrance. An inscription reads: In memory of Major General John Buford, commanding the First Division Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, who with the first inspiration of a cavalry officer selected this battlefield July 1, 1863.

War Eagle vs. Itasca

Jan 12, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

The most famous steamboat race ever chronicled on the Upper Mississippi River was between a tortoise and a hare in 1856. And as you learned in the pages of your third-grade reader, such a race is not always a foregone conclusion.

Brooms and Antlers

Jan 11, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Even the Mississippi River seems to know when it has crossed the Mason-Dixon line. The Upper Mississippi is a Yankee protestant-work-ethic river, always busy. The lower Mississippi below Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio comes in, is a grander, more leisurely affair—a world of colonels and judges and mint juleps. No wonder that Currier and Ives chose to immortalize the steamboat race between the Natchez and the Robert E. Lee rather than between the small, plain packet boats north of St. Louis.

Galena, the Backwards

Jan 8, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Galena, Illinois, a hundred miles upriver, must be one of the more unusual small towns along the Upper Mississippi River. When Galena found herself further and further behind in the frantic race toward the twenty-first century, with wider streets, brighter lights, more super stores and mega malls, she stopped for a breather, and then began running backwards toward the nineteenth century.