WhiteCrow Walking

My solo walk across America began in Maine. I walked for nearly 3 years carrying a backpack and facing countless dangers, as well as met wonderful people I could have never made it without. From bullets to bears I moved through mountains of snow and across burning desert country. The end result will be a book, and the fruition of a childhood dream. This is a blog from the field with rough stories about my steps along the way.

28 June 2006

Until The Rain Came

When all was boiled down in Cajun spice, I was walking away from New Orleans. A week later I am in an air-conditioned Lexus driving myself, and my new and dear friend Robin to The Big Easy. Fresh oysters and fat shrimp fill our mouths more than once, washed over with cold lemon water and local brew. Our feet take in miles of streets that swirl us back through the same smells, the same streets. Hot pepper rolled in spice, urine, old beer, perfume on a breeze, incense, old mold on wet wood, and horseshit left behind the thin wheels of tourists carriages. The men that attempt to seduce us into their taverns that overflow with loud live music are more reserved than is their nature or that of their profession--gentle even. We are visiting a distant relative after a terrible accident by the sea. New Orleans is healing slowly in an unmade bed. At times I feel like I should whisper as I talk to Robin two feet away.
We're in a tourist store to buy a off-beat postcard for my brother. A classic great comes over the store stero speakers that I can't recall the name to now. I embrace Robin by the arm as I start dancing without a care in the world about who may be watching. Robin smiles with her blue eyes holding more light than water, guickly moving into the moment with her feet in time with mine. I'm the crazy man that danced in the supermarket back home if I liked the tune, or the memory it raised up. Now I carry my home inside so I dance anywhere. Music is a part of life, the straw in the concrete. It was there in the begining as my mother lifted her breathtaking voice over my father's guitar while I went from crawling backwards to walking forward. When I was young I believed that singing was making love. My earliest fantasy was of singing in a home with a deliciously happy woman even though we may be rooms apart. That was home to me, that was love. I still have trouble believing that it is not. Between the emotional storms of my early youth there was always music. Music was the family member that was always wanting to hold me. When my mother sang I stopped playing or teasing the wings of a bug. My lungs ceased their breathing so not one note would be left to wander vagrant in a darkened room. Music is healing. One day, when everything was broken and angry, my brother Steve, myself and mother drove away from my father. It was 1967. I never heard my mother sing again. She left behind everything. My brother and I had nothing to leave except a father that would forever be a guitar, a pistol, and whiskey breath.
I miss music as much as I acke for good food on this walk. Often I wake myself up at night singing myself through a dream. I never feel more purposeful than at those few minutes before I forget the words I was singing, and the round house they built in me. The mind gets what it wants one way or the other. In the south music is still the pulse of life, never separate. Large men with brutally strong hands come into the Birdman and talk about a poem they are writing as if it is a large rifle fitted out to take lions in Africa. I'm amazed, and thrilled by their hunt. "Real men," I remember thinking. In every corner of every coffee shop in the south there are marks where guitars have leaned in wait. Music is a pearl earring beside a southern cheek. I am afraid that in the north where I lived a good bit of my life, music has become a spectator sport, produced by the few elite so the rest of us can sit on our blankets with glasses of melot. I never subscribed to that way of thinking. If you can talk you can sing in your original key of keys. If you can walk however strained, dance is a good current away the truely living can't deny.
After a few seconds, Robin Marshall sees that I'm not about to stop groving by the island of rubber alligators and Cajun salt shakers. Robin takes my shoulders and waist to cradle in time until the singer completes his hold on me. I am being silly really, at least I was when I began, then it became real and deep. Perfectly. "This is New Orleans," I think with peace on my mouth as my foot swings hip over knee. We will pass by miles of blue tarps before we are back in Saint Francisville. We will hear broken glass under our feet, and smell the gray wings of decay as soldiers from the national guard nod past, yet you have heard all those words before. Right now we are dancing on a jewelery-box as the postcard rack spins on it's own, and people with shopping bags heavy with Nawlins nicnacs gather near the t-shirt isle to stare.
What I hear the loudest when the locals speak is the gentle soft unspoken thank-you that is a hand under yours when you recieve your change. In so many voices, in so many eyes as transaction's are made I see a tender nod, however slight. Those with wisdom know that it is the return of tourists, fresh blood that will help New Orleans onto it feet, and out of bed. It will help. I always return their thank-you's implied with my sincere thankfulness for their letting me experience their lives in the rebuilding. It is an extension of my gratefulness to America for allowing me back stage. New Orlean's streets are quietier now in the evening. In the early morning at Cafe' Du Monde it does not take long for your morning delight to be delivered to your white table cloth by a woman that will smile as she takes your picture. "Get closer." Click.
A palettable hush still resides even in the loudest instrumental riff on evening air. One handsome black man sings from under a shop window on the sidewalk, his body molded over his guitar as if he is talking over a sleeping lover's hip, while his elderly blind partner hums along on his separate microphone, harmonica at the ready between pinky and ring finger. We talk between songs written before so much loss came, but his eyes are everywhere working the streets to put money in his box. "You can come closer", he calls to people that want to listen and still not be expected to make offering to the box. The dollar I put in his black garbage bag lined cardboard box allows me to take their picture between songs. Robin drops in another dollar, so I click the camera again. No complaints.
Robin and I wander on to see more of the streets littered with plastic beads, and the palette of pastel shotgun houses that wind off away from the center of town. Robin is my guide having been here many times before, but in the end the map guide female voice coming out of the Lexus's dash tells us how to turn our wheels. The voice is so real that I feel bad when she(the dashboard) tells me to turn and I ignore her to catch a sight. As we walk, and drink too much coffee, I keep hearing the soft sweet voice of the steet singer putting his Cajun beads tight around my heart and pulling hard.
"When the rains came I never told my woman I cared...I never told her I loved her, before the rains came. Before the rains came I never said those words I mumble now, until the rain took my baby away."
For hours into days, I talk with Robin as if I am trying to fill inner skin bottles with something that won't leak out. In the end we can only eat so much food. Ears tired, we can only take in so many words no matter how desperate the heart. As we drive the miles out of soiled city the smell of leaving those I love is on the roof of my mouth.

This has been the longest break of the walk. It will be a total of two weeks before I am walking again. My feet are eager fools. They have not been eager in a month. All of a sudden they are as brave again as they are hungry. I am back in Saint Francisville awaiting a pie eating contest I have been invited to on Saturday. Live music follows the mashing of faces into pie tins. This will be my Fourth of July. Come Tuesday I will think of my cousin Scott slapping at bites on his legs as he fills the sky with a small fortune of fireworks torn from red tissue paper. I will miss his yearly salute of corn on the cob, burgers, three generations of family salads, and a sence of home. Come Sunday I will watch my shirt gather road dust into sweat stains again. Come Monday I will question if any of this time in St. Francisville really happened, and acke to turn back my ship toward this shore. Good towns have a way of stalling the feet. Good people have a way of holding on without any hands.
I look at my heavily tanned legs and put worry out in a sigh.

25 June 2006

Walking Through Books

It is when I stop that I think of you. When the watch I never put on my wrist puts both of its hands over its groin, I know that these are my best walking hours of the day. The morning's are usually cooler, but they are bent over with the tax of walking enough, drinking enough, or eating enough pan bread or cans of spinach so that I do not walk directly on my stomach, seeing nothing else except my feet, and searching for a market for a fix. All of the day's hurry and urgent wanting is spent by early evening. The teenager has become an adult. He is nervous, cranky too perhaps. Still the calm of having met the days miles lets all urgency slip away. Legs and arms are still moving, only now I am a clock on the mantel just keeping time while carelessly watching the room. In an hour or two I will be under trees, or in a crease of a field thinking about your separate world I passed through when leaves were a million hints of red, or when I was walking toward you in snow under a gause covered sun toward you as you smile out words. Now I wait for the air to get thick with changing light, milk being removed from coffee. When it is dark I am safer, and yet not.
The tall hard grasses no longer concern the tender backs of my legs as I sit against a backpack that wants nothing more than to lie down. I chew flat a blade of brown green grass just the way my grandfather does in the locket I carry sewn inside my shirt. I wonder if your angry lover has returned, or was it your red dog with one short leg that wouldn't bend, did he ever come home ashamed of his leaving? Do you still smell morning soaked with the oil of a thousand thousand black beans jawed into powder and scent, and is that old rusted lantern with red glass still waving through the window of your barn like a home-sick boy leaning over the railing on the back of a train? So many lives have been opened to me, so many separate books. I am given double spaced pages to read when I meet you, all the words that you say, and don't. Your beautiful cast of characters spill out from behind your bright curtain to shake my hand at dinner over warm baskets of bread, and sterling flatware you always use. We drive to Rock City to eat rich food among boulders that are sitting just the way God left them. We dangle our beer bottles from two fingers over a city where lights are coming up to me for the first time. It is ladies night, still I am asked to stay. Even though I smell like old leaves in damp grass I am handed a second cold green bottle and shrimp beside a fire that hears everything we say. In another car you tell me about a friend who rode a horse across America because his father pulled the wings off his back when he was little. I see myself riding hard, but with a new forgiveness.
Early morning finds another town. My journal is on the table with vintage seedbeads from Tombstone holding down my words under buffalo skin and thousands of miles of patinia. I tell you the story of young Alex Dunn telling me through his mother Anne that if anything matters in all that I carry or decorate for the walk it is that journal that I will pull from my pack a million times. It will be morning soon. The heart of the she-bear is freshly buried under a tree in the back yard. I smile at Alex as I begin to sew the heavy leather, knowing the boy is tenderly wise and is always watching. Alex hangs boyishly from his Huck Finn rope ladder his mother rigged from an old beam in their kitchen like it is the most normal thing in the world. I love that completely. She honors him with her listening. I smile at him until his cheeks are red as I cut thread from my needle. I put down the knife I use instead of sizzors when I see some of the bear's blood still stains my wrist.

22 June 2006

Mississippi Burning

The days have lost their gradual movement from cool earth kissing sunrises moving gradually into a batter ready pan by 10am. Now as soon as the sun cracks an egg over the horizon there is a sizzle to be heard. Lynn Wood that owns the Birdman Coffee Shop offered me the guest apartment so I can experience the local music come Friday night at her sister Robin's Magnolia Cafe' next door. My flesh has been making its own prayers requesting a few days of rest and healing while I was legs and poles moving through the heat. The answer to those inner prayers arrived. It is impossible to work on a vehicle while it's running down the road pedal to the floor. Every part of me sighed out load at the offer to rest up before the river crossing of the Mississippi River; a crossing that is said to instantly change people, music, food, and culture. My pack sighs over its own pleasure in a corner of the coffee shop, while I contemplate this wealth of healing days that will be over before I can consider getting lazy. For now Saturday is a river raft three towns away, drifting slowly south.

Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians came to local stage last night. It was a dress rehersal for tonight's opening. In response a personal invitation from the director, and members of the cast, I was warmly recieved as if I walked four thousand miles just to be there. In a real way, I did. I was excited, silently hoping my only shirt was clean enough. I thank myself for buying a Realtree camo pattern shirt with the intention of disappearing into the trees at day's end. The shirt hides stains like a dream. Before I got to my front row seat many hands were in mine with a collection of names and details I tried to jot down in my head somewhere between "Thank you", and, "Hope you enjoy the show." Everyone is extremely polite, humble and wonderfully real.
The Saint Francisville Transitory Threatre blows life into the production that takes place Market Hall, an old red brick and wood building that still has an ancient eye painted high on the second floor wall from its long ago mason days . Having not seen a movie in a very long time, the play carries me along with total rapture. When a cap-gun goes snap, I hear a pistol. When an actor says there is blood, I see iron red everywhere. It is a time before television, before books. In my mind we are sitting around a tall fire full of wellfed flames as a once distant tribe tells me a story that makes my heart race, fall, and applaude....not just because I am supposed to. I want to slam my staff into the dirt over and over again with all the extra energy that is stirring in me.
After the production we talk for a while as props are tweeked, and timing is adjusted for a lamp, or a sound effect. Soon Robbie,Andrew, Adam, James, Jessie(Jess), and myself are walking off into the dark streets of St. Francisville to explore, and offer up our own stories. We decend dark stone stairs into a field overgrown with plants where ballgames were once held. Without a machette, we stand at the bottom of the steps as if we found a gator pond, yet we still wanted to swim. It is so dark that every thing with a sharp edge has been made round--or is stolen till dawn. We grab one another to save falling into holes where steps have broken away, or falling into plants that we are sure will eat us.
Now , streets away, we have climbed to piggy-back a caboose that the town has perserved for tourists up the hill from the famous river. From the roof we tug at stars while discussing lightning bugs in the same breath. We talk about flying, or was it falling? I tell Robbie that if we fall off the back side of the caboose, high above the sloping hillside, we wouldn't hit until Tuesday. Robbie laughs, "I like that. I gotta remember that." I smile invisably in the dark. We can't come up with a pencil stub to record our names written small under the hign roof cap. I hope we remember tonight. Is that it? Is that why people paint their names vibrantly across cinderblock buildings and waiting trains, to be remembered? We are all so desperately alive in this life, or dull in sleep. I understand that hunger to be really alive more than ever have. We nose our feet down the steel rungs of the train car with our hands holding tightly to the rungs above us until we hear our shoes moving gravel under our feet.
We are no longer trying to read names on the side of a train by the light of a cell-phone when we get to the gothic church surrounded by a great welded fence of rusted spears. Inside the fence are countless rows and formations of gravestones we read as we aim for the front of the church. We work the gate latch knowing music should be playing. It is so cliche' that we laugh--dryly. Churches are left open all night around here. In the belly of the great church, Andrew toggles the lamp dimmer switch near the door until the illumination is equal to a box of small candles. We all navigate our bodies speachlessly like moths to the pupit. I could sleep here, I think out loud. In my head I see myself with a good run of drool in a/c delighted slumber as a local cop pushes the beam of his flashlight under my eye-lids. I shake my head, no thanks, and I begin singing a song from Queen out loud. "I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me." In seconds we are all singing. An unseen hand turns up the volume, making the ribs of the great body hum above us. Somebody laughs at me,"See what you started?" Even though it is weak in the gause of light, I smile. I smile because we have moved past my wisps of gray hair to a place we are are all the same age--or ageless. We are all equally hungry and alive. "Easy Come, Easy Go, go, go , go!" The song is illrelivant. We are all opening on stage where we are actors and observers both. There is no time clock, or anyone reaching to know the hour. Eventually James mentions his mother's kitchen, making us all walk like good mice seeking cheese to the side door to begin a maze of movements that will reward us. In a cough from the fish we are all back into the graveyard. Beards of moss breath down on us. A marble life size sculpture of Jesus glows ahead in the starlight from atop a building made of graves. We walk slowly past bright fresh flower vases and names in stone, our stomachs hurry us to the road.
As Robbie drives us all in his mother's carefully detailed S.U.V. He sing's along with a compact disc, rather yelling along to a song about cake and ice cream. The song is catchy. Robbie is a riot as he bobs and dances with just his head and neck, while still staying perfectly in between the lines. The Freshney home is expecting us even though it is near midnight. Mrs. Freshney played the cook in the play. She is still in character. Kitchen island, counters, and the stove are covered with enough flavors to sooth a hungry soul, or six of them. If eating is work, we work hard to the smiling praise of Jame's mother. In a hour or two I will be delivered home to the Birdman with healing hugs from everyone that go spine deep. For now we talk about last years play, the Tempest, and wade deep in a moment of a house smelling of toast, the tart flavor of cranberry juice, and the sound of laughter I try to save.

20 June 2006

Your Words

Crow Dog, my pack, slumps by a rusted glider couch under an old oak that drips with Spanish moss soundlessly. We have seen alot, this pack and I. My hands move sweat up through my hair. Is it thinner I wonder. Does it matter anymore I think to myself; hair, skin, clothes. Everything has become words, words on their way back to dust. Words have become the ruining sun that weakens the threads of my shirts until they are rags I iron with my hands like crazy people do. Words are the police that rest one hand on their pistol, as they wait for me to save myself with a tongue that has done nothing but lick sweat off of my top lip for the last three hours. Words are the folds of the umbrella that keep me from trying to beat the heat off myself with a claw hammer when the burning skull drags itself straight overhead and then just stares. Words are the offerings of a kind hand under my ribs, telling me it will all be alright, even though I am tired as death with no place between root or thorn growth toss my tent screen. There are some nights that I lie in my tent waiting for the air to cool just enough to let me slip into sleep. Some nights I wait for hours as a trickle of beads carry salt to my back. I should write I think to myself. I know that I can not bear it though. The thought of my hand sticking to paper, pen dragging ink like a dog trying to clean himself on grass, sweat moving fingers over my skin with the feet of ants I always have to hit before they bite. No. This is the time I think of you, and all your words that talk me down from the ledge, and the sweet sick bridge of too much self. It is rare that I can sit with computer keys under my fingers for hours clicking on comments that you send from all your separate worlds. Yet when I can, for a little while there is no staring of my feet at the door. For a time this is all that matters. We are teacher and student both. No, not today. Today I am a walking canvas throwing paint on myself. It is the sound of bone hitting bone this turning around when all that I want to do is visit a New Orleans that is blankets to neck sick in bed. To be strong sometimes is to admit that this road in front of me is beyond me. There will be enough threat and bullet to face reguardless of the road I take, without throwing myself on a knife rusted by saltwater.
Thank You for your kind comments. Tonight I take off my boots seeing some threads have broken that hold leather to leather on my boots, leather to sole. From the inside of my Tilley hat I retrieve a curved needle, thread it, and talk myself calm. Tomorrow I'll cross the Mississippi with all your eyes, and we'll drop round stones in the brown water together from a ferry that hums words I don't know.

Walking Away

After a day of walking until the sun is in my head kicking at something hard that I think I need, or might need later, I am back in St. Francisville smelling of sweat mixed with old soils of the road. My shirt has become oil cloth. My morale is somewhere near boot-top because I have turned my back on New Orleans. I am not lazy for the sun. The fear of miles to walk after the local police pull me over yet again to run my name just because does not still my feet one step. Two hundred troops are moving into the New Orleans area to establish some kind of order. I have been told thirty six deaths have taken place there sence April. Six people were killed there this past weekend with New Orleans police holding their hands in the air as they shug shoulders over what happened. I don't envy them. A woman named Zola at the Choo-Choo Junction hands me a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade on the house. The sun is all over my face although I'm in the shade. Zola looks alot like my mother, and litterly begs me to turn back from my course. "Call home, wherever your home is. Have your mom send money for a ticket, or a car. Call somebody. Whatever you do, promise me you won't go any farther toward New Orleans. People are killing each there. Please, tell me you'll stop this foolishness?"
No matter how old we get, or how bumpy the flight getting to where we are was, the reasoning voice of a parent still can alter the course of blood in our veins. It is my mother I see standing in this burger stand, pleading with me to take the gun out of my mouth. I hear her well enough to give pause. My map is tossed on the shaded picnic table as I chew ice, my finger moves over roads that will take my legs weeks to repeat. In a half hour I approach a man at the gas pump driving a worn white pick-up. He doesn't smile but agrees to take me up the road I just walked down. In minutes I'm in the pick-up going back to where this morning held me. I walk every step of this journey. I don't have to walk miles in a direction I'm not going. I tell myself this as road rewinds.
The ride back to Saint Francisville is an eraser on the pencil of my feet. Sadly I watch from the truck wimdow as all the miles I walked become weaving undone. The man driving put it this way, "You've come too far to throw it all away just so you will be able to say that you were stupid enough to walk into New Orleans all alone, no cell phone, no real weapon, nobody to call for help. Now it's a national police city, that at the very least puts all that you carry at risk to complete the journey, being searched and re-searched. Some things may not find their way into your pack again. A fool would keep walking to New Orleans. I know of a group that went over to help with the clean up a while back. They slept in a bus. The National Guard patroled the vehicle all night for their protection. You sleep outside right? Get across the Mississippi, and come back in a couple of years when they get their shit together. If they get their shit together." We both stared ahead at the road coming at us fast.
From the moment I awoke this morning until now I have had to complete the call of nature six times. My own nature is telling me something. I have been preparing for battle inside. The postcards I put in the mail today sounded like I was writing my last words. I was. It was all that my hand would put down. I wrote anyhow thinking that at least I was getting out last thoughts. When we just shut up and listen we can hear the counsil of our hearts. In blogs before this one told you that I was just a man living a dream. Sometimes I have to admit that the course I planned when the sun was shining through autumn leaves a year before Katrina I made a sketch. This is no reason to walk roads police don't comb without guns, body armor, well supplied cars, and back-up. Tomorrow I will cross the Mississippi with my feet aimed for the gulf via Layfaette. Louisiana has so much to show me before I rise my hand up her ankle in leaving. I don't have to die for it.
Tonight Lynn Wood, owner of the Birdman Coffee and Books in Francisville, hands me the key again to the small apartment beside her store. I have rested here for two nights as a gift from her. She smiles a huge grin when I walk into her coffee shop a bit tossed from my travels. I am safe again. Lynn and I have become good friends over coffee and stories, and art. I am deeply honored to be a friend she'd like to keep.
This morning Lynn mentioned as I prepared to leave that her insides didn't sit right with me heading to New Orleans. Tomorrow I leave again with new wind in my sails, with my feet eager for fresh earth. Even the walk wants this journey to live.

18 June 2006

Saint Francisville,LA-- BEFORE A WALK IN THE STORM

I am not miles into Louisiana before the police car is hitting me with it's lights. It is daylight. Still I feel it. I give my identification card. That is enough until the corporal sees the tribal tatoos on my arms and legs. "You better give me that lisence too," says the officer in a voice that is not as southern as the moss dangling from the trees. He is polite, and professional. "Welcome to the world of cell phones," he smiles with half his mouth. I am still suspect. "Now we get calls for everything under the sun. Suspicious man with a load on his back walking down route 61 into LA. Could someone check him out? It can be a real pain." Even the mindless can dial three numbers while swapping at their kid in the backseat, and knee steering so they can tear a bigger hole in the top of their hot moca-java on their way to Tai Chi classes. I stand on the shoulder where rock mingles with grass as I ask if I can set my pack down before the sun eats a hole in my head.
As we talk, the officer becomes a man that is doing a hard job under a livid sun. I become part of a book to the police officer. What is ink on my skin, long hair in a knot tight to my head, and a burdened back bent like a kokopelli becomes pages blowing old words down a burning street that just might hold something worth hearing. No memory came to him of any stranger ever walking with leather ties fluttering from a bundle as big as a army trunk sewn to his back, or of old silver coins drilled through making sounds like words coming up from far away, and feathers combed into his side pocket just like a map.
As we stood in front of the cruiser I asked about New Orleans. I was asking about truth. I was asking in respect. I was climbing over my gear to stand shoulder to shoulder with the officer to know if he would warrant advice to a brother or friend on weather or not to go to where the water has taken more than life, left more than death. "It is like the old wild west down there. You be really careful. While your in this area I'll post your card so your not bothered and we'll all keep a look out for you."
I don't remember if we shook hands as we parted because I was already in an imagined shoot out on the road in front of the French Quarter while some pretty woman in a big foofy dress clutched an old column desperate with all her concern for my saftey. If we did not shake hands, we thought it happened. Different lives, same respect.

At the Birdman Coffee & Books where I rest, and try to understand maps that seem to lie, I meet a sweaty group of bike riders from New Orleans. They are still love with their soiled city with all it's broken plates. We talk through our coffee. I am a paratrooper again at a table of other jumpers. I may be nervous, yet I know that I have door position soon. Soon I will be alone. I will hear the knawing wind of the open door on the C-130 prop engine plane. The houses will all be so little below me running fast as my eyes try to out focus fear. The round light by the door will blink to green as the jumpmaster yells GO GO GO! For a hundred and twenty miles I will be falling alone toward homes that have already fallen. I cannot not jump. All around me my eyes will be troopers falling everywhere afraid to land. At my side there will be no M-16 loaded and exposed. Falling, falling, falling until I am a child safe on the ground again looking up at all the umbrella's in the sky.

13 June 2006

Old Trace Reflection

Another day over 100 degrees. Two butterflies of the same make have found each other in the sun. There are days that I couldn't even find my red t-shirt behind a pair of socks. It is Sunday. I think about making love as if it were a movie that I saw long ago. The camera relied on music, and lighting, and perhaps the lenses moved in on a burning candle as sounds of liquid warmth fill the mind's eye. Can a mind swirl like that? It was forever ago it now seems. Could there have ever been so many hands moving between two people, clawing to gain ground at that invisable summit, where both parties are hoping to fall with toes bent back like pages of a good book? Is this lack of rain all over the world? Shadows of the day that now speak of evening arrest my thinking about these flying wisps of paper, and the heavy smell of freshly cut grass. I have been alone a long time.

With a mind still hovering around butterflies yawning fresh from cacoons broken, I now know the turtle before me is to beautiful to eat. There are others. The snake I have found decides I am too big for it's jaws. I study it's coil and determine it is too much meat for my pot. We both ease off our intended strike of force to seek smaller prey. In a creek that I swam until all light rose up into the trees, I have found many catfish with fat bellies that taunt my flat pan. With dental floss tied to my walking staff, a hook, a small sinker and bobber, and a few hyper worms I found under the first log I rolled, I am already slapping my red legs at bugs I can not see on the way to the water. An hour ago I found lion prints in the sandy shore feet from where I stand waist deep in 85 degree water. Some say that they don't exist here in spite of my tracks. That's a relief, I laugh. I look for gators, but it is a bit late for that. My eyes are everywhere but on the catfish that won't bother my line. My skin is a formation of every bug that bites. My stomach tells me to swat and fish at the same time. I'm wishing that my stomach never saw those catfish all lazy in the sun.
The adventure asked for this. My stomach concured. The idea of fresh fish rolling up their battered sides wet with olive oil on the sizzle of my pan pulled me from the insect world of my tent. I watch the bobber. No, I watch the shore. I forgot my blade. This morning a wild boar sniffed past my camp. Tonight?
My worms out last my nerve. It was an adventure I tell myself as I look into the trees not seeing, or knowing of a house light for miles. On a bank sick with posion ivy my feet opt against the wet foot sock dance. I shove my water logged feet into floppy boots that are afraid to get wet. One foot is still in the water. I hear the music from Jaws. My boots won't hold still. My right foot knows that it is a goner. The music stops when my foot saddles the boot and the last of my flesh hops on shore. Hungry, but happily complete, I fall into my tent to eatbroken crackers.

I Only Have Ten Minutes--Wait--Add Thirty.

I am in the city of Natchez, with the Natchez Trace, (my trail home for four hundred miles) now completed, and behind me. As I amble back into the real world it is overwhelming. Trucks, traffic, litter, noise, and too people all flood over me with armloads of questions...or they don't see me at all. I have traded bear,and mountain cats for tractor-trailers tracks in a world of hurry. Already I miss to near sickness the world of thick forests, and nature's calm way of healing.

I met a wonderful young man doing his own traveling in an old VW bus. We shared a trail bite, and he gave me his site to explore when I can. www.fromflyoverland.com I have no time to look now but I will soon. Feel free to visit another traveler that carries a camera that is site ready.

Many storys need to be put down onto computer. For now they will rest in my journals. I am sorry that for now this is all I can do.

Jesse WhiteCrow

Base Camp is moving.

Jesse WhiteCrow
c/o Betty Dunbar
2888 Joppa Ave St. Louis Park, MN. 55416

Any letters, donations, or notes from the road can be sent to Betty and she does a remarkable job of seeing that everything finds it way to me. Thank you.

09 June 2006

Raymond, Mississippi ** Airport RD Exit And Go Left

At Potter's Kitchen I order the buffet. It'll be eight dollars, yet I figure I'll bury the plate thus calming the bear that is sitting up at my inner table demanding justice for miles served. The plate comes but it is served for me in little portions that are designed more for people that walk to the water cooler from their desk three times a day than a hiker with a hollow behind his belt. The hot catfish tastes like spiced butter swirling over my tongue. Three swirls and it's gone. My hand tells my mouth to chew slowly. The bear demands I shut up and eat. My legs and shoulders have become red earth and vine. I owe a tax on their purchase that has not begun to be paid. I swollow my third glass of unsweetened tea to round the edge that is still in my belly. Holding onto the ice in one cheek as I roll off a sweaty ten dollar bill from a few bills I keep in my chest pocket, I reach for the outside door, stepping back into the heat that waits on the porch like a bad mannered dog.
The center of Raymond is a cozy square, and lovingly groomed. As horrible as it sounds, I walk out of restuarant, past the flowers and fresh paint, and straight across the intersection into the Dogtrot Cafe'. The heavy bean smell of coffee grounds rise into a cape that flutters around the room as I enter. Superpowers activate, form of a hiker. I think that I am shaking, or it is the room. I am so excited to be eating again as I pull my titanium cup from it's place of honor in my pack. As I pay for the full cup of dark roast, a sharply dressed man and his friend call me to their table. What begins with a simple story of the where's and what-have-you's of the walk, it quickly has a large percentage of the room gathered around our table. A photographer is called, and notes are taken. A man I only know as Coach buy's me a piece of almond cake that melts in my mouths except for the sweet nuts that crave to be chewed spitefully between words. A lamb sandwich with cajun chips is set before me in a wicker basket. With just one smell I can hear the bear laughing as she leans back and forward in her inner chair, claws wiggling like fingers above the bounty. She won't chew on my flesh tonight.
As the people shake hands and fall away, returning to their lives outside of the Dogtrot, a warm voice comes to the table, quiet and unassuming. Mayor Isla Tullos is easy talking on a warm day; walking when the air is morning cool so that legs can be forgotten, and the whole world of trees and thoughts just float past unworried. I pull out my old map that I rarely show anyone. Our fingers move over the pen lines as pictures click, recording our conversation on film. The mayor of Raymond is what I believe they call 'Good People'. As Mayor Tullos talked and I listened , and then we traded, I felt an underlining taking place in the walk. There are times in our lives that are there to flag a warning, and then some people and things help sew wings to our feet. I thought I went into the Dogtrot Cafe' because I was still hungry. In more than one way I was right. After nearly four hundred miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway, my soul had a hole worn near through.
There are people that can live on the ocean, or travel empty lands alone until all the stars fall down, and only then look up at the night sky and sigh. I need the little towns, the easy smiles of curious strangers that want more than my appleseeds. I need people.
As I walked out of town with more caffine in my blood than I need, a 1930 convertable pulls up to me containing a proud grandfather and his three of his 20 grandchildren. The two granddaughters are in the rumble seat, and I am jealous of their moment, and happy to let it into my eyes. After the quick lines of my story are given, I am given sentence in trade from the grandfather. "Thank you for doing this, for all of us."

Nearly Natchez

At Mississippi College I sit in a library. This is Clinton, Mississippi. I have already passed here by foot. In fact I am fifty miles from the town of Natchez. Last night I met a bus full of campers. We made stuffed bananas in their fire.....yes, mine was the fattest, being stuffed with M&M's, chacolate chips, coconut flakes, and every other sweet we could pack in. The whole deal was then wrapped in foil and set in the fire for 5 minutes per side. Watch out teeth, here they come. After a day of heavy hot miles--heaven. Everyone picked on my fat banana, but I have fat banana pride. It tasted great.
Later in the evening as we slapped each others hands over a card game when we should have been slapping insects on our legs, I was invited to the Mississippi College to see what 800 campers look like. So, at 5a.m. this morning all the tents came down. We climbed into buses, and cars to headed to the college. I'll keep you posted.