The Mississippi River flowing by Clearwater, Minnesota
A couple weeks ago, I heard second-hand that St. Cloud
is thinking of developing a walkway from around downtown to the hospital. When I heard this I thought of San Antonio’s River Walk
. Restaurants, boutique shops, boat rides, this city’s “underworld” is alive with charm.
Until train and car took over, the Mississippi
piggy-backed its drifters north and south, it sent the prized white pine
down the river to sell and fill the lumbering industry’s pockets, but it was a carry-all for so much trash and waste it became polluted. Then some turned their backs on this great waterway. Thank goodness, laws exist now to protect its health.
It is good to think that St. Cloud will honor The Old Man
who has been its loyal friend for so long. The other day, I sat at a boat landing watching the river side-stroke around a few curves as it rolled toward Sartell where it eventually blathers in foam as it spills over the dam. It is alive.
I love the Atlantic Ocean, and it too inspires me. Sometimes, the waves play at my feet. At other times they nearly push me over as they romp toward shore with more vigor. I can’t help but visualize my German, English, Welsh, and Scandanavian ancestors sailing away from oppression, tyranny, and near-starvation to start all over again in America. The waters rush at me as if deep calleth unto deep.
I wrote Steppes to Neu-Odessa: Germans from Russia Who Settled in Odessa Township, Dakota Territory, 1872-1876 (Heritage Books 1996, 2002) after I moved to the South Dakota. The Yankton hills draw me in as they bulge from the James River, sloping and angling their way through rich, black farm land. Here my German-Russian ancestors gathered to begin their lives in earthen huts. So moved by their strength and determination, I wrote:
In quest of home, they roamed Dakota’s range.
From Yankton to Pembina, wagon wheels
dug furrows these tenacious nomads trekked
to claim near-similes of Ukraine’s steppes.
They settled. Waist-high grasses waved and clapped
an encore: soddies, shanties, rammed-earth shacks
cropped up. The husbandmen corralled the land
like bronco busters broke the untamed west.
Grooms planted rows of barley, wheat, and corn.
Their wives nursed fragile sprigs of cottownwoods.
Stacks of mischt, the twists of tight-wound hay
became crude symbols of their brutal lives.
These pacifists fought wars against the snows,
against the droughts and fires, the storms of ice.
Once former subjects, nouveau czars of plains,
in black knee boots, stood firm on humble realms.
I see them in gray photos: faces grave,
babushkas, sheepskin coats, beside their squats.
I read church records, letters, homestead deeds,
a diary, our Bible’s family tree.
On page, I transcribe lowly family myths,
then fantasize I enter their domains.
Like Russian thistles tangled in my thoughts,
dwell pioneers whose blood thins in my veins.
While living in South Dakota, I was lonesome at times for the river’s watery presence, I wrote:
Garland writes about my earthy grandmothers
who left eastern hamlets
to follow their wander-lusting husbands
across Dakota prairies.
These petticoat farmers produced the manna,
feeding the men who grappled with the land.
But their own hunger was harder to stave off
without churches, schools, and McClure’s.
North of Yankton, my youthful father tired of treeless plains,
left the rise and fall of the coteau.
Hankering after richer pastures,
he drifted east, sinking his spade in Minnesota’s fields.
Years later, I, like my grandmothers,
trekked to Dakota to work alongside my spouse.
We tilled the land in a different way,
reclaiming their inheritance of Canaan’s blessings.
While home for now may be inside this Harvey Dunn landscape
of azure skies, green-gold desert, and pasque flowers-
I feel Twain’s anchor, Old Man River,
tugging at my veins.
(c) 2002 Stupnik
After a thirty year stint in South Dakota, I returned home to Minnesota to live and write about my first love, where I was born and raised. Most of my novel/book writing right now is about my homeland, Clearwater, Minnesota
, the landscapes near the Mighty River, the friends I have/hahttps://tonybennett.com/d, and the history and Main Street Women that inspires me.
What landscape inspires you and leaves you longing to return? Is it Colorado like John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High
?” Is it the hilly and foggy city that Tony Bennett
sings about in “I Left My Heart in San Francisco?” Or is it the powerful soundtrack of “Legends of the Fall”
that beckons you back to the mountains and icy streams of Montana?
All of these places impel me to write, but for me, the Mississippi flows in my veins, mobilizing my imagination.
I welcome you to my new blog site and my new webpage. Remember, I am available to read and talk for book clubs, poetry readings, panel discussions, and almost all book and craft events. AND don’t forget to let me know what inspires YOU.