Portraits of the Past: In the heat of summertime

Staff Writer
The Examiner
The Examiner

The last time I remember it being this hot for such a long period of time was back in 1980, when temperatures soared above the 100-degree mark for more than 30 days straight. It was so hot and humid; the poor little birds were dropping out of the trees.

About three weeks into the heat of 1980, we decided we had had enough. So, we took our two little girls and decided to head north for a couple of weeks of relief. Strangely, we headed east though, on U.S. 24 across Missouri toward the Mississippi River – our quest was to find the source of that Mighty Mississippi.

We crossed the Missouri River on the Waverly Bridge, and stopped at a Dairy Queen in Carrollton, Missouri, the home of Girl Scout cookies. Those delicious favorites used to be baked there at the cookie factory, and when they were roasting, the whole town smelled like little Girl Scout cookies.

We moved on toward Paris, Missouri, and checked out one of the few covered bridges still left in our neck of the woods. We camped the first night in a tent, with the raccoons, at the state campground on Mark Twain Lake – a beautiful piece of paradise here in the Midwest.

The next morning, we toured the Mark Twain birthplace memorial at the nearby town of Florida. The house he was born in is now sitting inside the memorial building, out of the weather. It was a good introduction to Samuel Clemens – before we visited Hannibal and Tom Sawyer’s House. There, we were re-introduced to ‘ol Jim, Becky Thatcher, and Huckleberry Finn, but we didn’t get hooked into whitewashing a fence.

Over the next couple of days, we moseyed up the highways along the lazy Mississippi through Iowa and Minnesota until we reached Minneapolis. We have family living there, but we didn’t bother to crash their party, instead we took pictures of each other on the steps of the capitol, across the river in St. Paul.

We traveled north about 50 miles above Minneapolis and camped for a couple days in the St. Croix State Park near Pine City. The weather was much better up there in Minnesota – in fact it was in the 60s – but it had been very dry there also, and the St. Croix Scenic River was lower than normal, according to the park rangers. But that did not deter us from floating the river the next day in a canoe, which was a six-hour trip.

Interstate 35 begins way down on the Rio Grande River at Laredo, Texas. It comes up northward through Kansas City and Minneapolis to Duluth on the southern tip of Lake Superior. So, we found ourselves on a familiar highway the next day when we stopped for lunch on the Great Lakes. The only problem with being in Duluth was, we were now a long way from the Mississippi. Remember, our quest was the source of the river. So, we took off west across Highway 2, through Grand Rapids to Bemidji, Minnesota. The afternoon was dark and rainy, but it only added to the flavor of the gigantic statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

From there it was a short drive south in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” to Lake Itasca – the source of the Mississippi River.

After a round of picture taking on the little footbridge with our Kodak Instamatic, we considered our mission accomplished. We crawled back up on the super slabs and headed for Fargo, North Dakota. There, we grabbed the familiar Interstate 29, dropped back down toward home and hot weather – mission accomplished.

– To reach Ted W. Stillwell send email to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592.