Imagine, if you will, that you are staying in the River View RV Park in Vidalia, Louisiana. Your companions are your wife, Sandy, and one of your dogs you’ve chosen to bring along on your trip – a little yellow-brown mutt named Pippin. It’s been a busy morning working inside your trailer, so the dog needs a walk. He’s an old dog – almost thirteen years – and he needs his exercise. Lately you’ve noticed how he’s changing. His muzzle is turning gray, and he can’t jump down from the higher places anymore. And his legs shake sometimes like he is shivering. For the umpteenth time you think to yourself, “He’s got Barkinson’s Disease!” and you smile to yourself because it is so typical of your jokes. Not too funny… and told way too many times. You can hear your twenty-something daughters groaning within your head. “Failboat, Dad!” You are embarrassing them again – and they aren’t even here.
So, you bundle up, knowing it’s cold outside, and decide to take him for a walk.
You hike across a field and straight up the levee to the river. Well, not just any river. THE River. The Mighty Mississippi River. And today it is looking very mighty indeed. Looking across nearly half a mile of fast running water, you can see Natchez, Mississippi on the other side. The water itself is cresting at 56.6 feet today. You know this because every day the digital sign next to the bridge shows the water level. You also know that this is eight feet above the flood level of 48 feet. The Mississippi is swollen and deep and angry. Large logs and other types of flotsam rush past, and what shoreline there is, is covered with branches, leaves and the trash of humans. The river barges fighting their way upstream look like they are hardly moving. If you walk upstream you can actually walk faster than the barges can move under the Natchez-Vidalia Bridge far above you.