Vantage Point

Who will speak for the river?

"I will speak for the river. My moccasins are worn thin from following its banks. I have tasted the Great River's gifts. I have hunted the elk, bear and buffalo along its shore. I have trapped its mink and beaver for my robes and built my family's lodge on its broad plains. I have fled its torrents and felt the power of its pull. It is a Great Spirit and cannot be conquered." Native American, c. 1530

"I will speak for the river. I explored its braided channels. I caught monster catfish from its broad, roiling waters. I followed the river and found new lands. I trapped and traded, traipsed and traveled by rough boat to the edge of the known world. It provides for me, yet I fear its power. It will never be tamed." Coureur de bois, c. 1650

"I will speak for the river. I run my ship through its channels, watching for markers and sounding the depths with a length of chain. I load wood for my ship's boilers from its banks and watch the commerce of a young land. We fish its mysterious depths. The river yields life, but it can dash to death those who defy it." Riverboat captain, c. 1832

"I will speak for the river. My daddy's cabin is yonder in the field. We farm this 'ere bottom on shares - most beautiful corn you ever did see for the past coupla' years. But back in '84 come a monstrous big rise, the biggest my granddaddy ever did see. It took out the field and the crop with it - near took out our cabin, too. When the water went down it left rich black loam. Another two years and we'll buy our own place, daddy says." Sharecropper's son, c. 1890

"I will speak for the river. Sure, we need it to carry away our wastes so our towns can be sanitary and our factories productive. But sometimes I think it does more harm than good. Why, it washed away that new mill built on its banks - lock, stock and barrel! T he river is undependable and destructive. Something needs to be done!" Missouri resident, 1930

"I will speak for the river. We can build dams and dikes to tame the river's flow. We can build walls so our towns will have the benefit of the river and safety from it, too. All it takes is money and know-how. It's just water, after all." Engineer, 1950

"I will speak for the river. Even though it took my house. My favorite doll got left behind. Mom said, `Hurry, the river is rising!' Men in boats came to get us. My baby brother cried, but not me. Now we live on a hill and I have a new doll. I looked at our old house and it was all yucky with mud and sand. I like our new house better." Flood victim, 1993

"I will speak for the river. I see it year-round. I fish for channel cats in the summer and walleye and sauger in the winter. In spring and fall my family and I hike along the bluffs. I want my kids to understand what a river means: water to drink, fish to eat, rich soil for crops, homes for wildlife - and beauty - plenty of that!

"You know how people are, though - always fighting over something. `It's my river! No, mine!' That type of thing. I don't know, but it seems to me we ought to just let the river be a river. It's part of our history, you know?" Anler and conservationist, the present