Wild #003: John / by Boyce Upholt

Friars Point, Mississippi

Friars Point, Mississippi

John, 52, River Guide

When you walk through a city park, it’s pretty. You hear birds. But when you walk across a sandbar in the Mississippi, you’re dwarfed by the scale of things. For me it’s a humbling experience, a painful experience. Sometimes it’s a frightening experience.
— On the wildness of the Mississippi River

John Ruskey has almost certainly spent more hours paddling on the Mississippi River than any other human alive. More than thirty years ago, Ruskey and a friend sent out on an ill-fated float down the river that ended in a near-drowning -- but rather than being terrified by the wild landscape, Ruskey fell in love. Based out of Clarksdale, Miss., Ruskey is now on a mission to help other Southerners find what he calls "the wilderness within" -- within the degraded Southern landscape and within our souls.

This spring, I spent three days paddling and camping with Ruskey on an expedition. Check out my profile of Ruskey at The Bitter Southerner.

We are so good at creating our environment. That’s been the secret to our success, being able to manipulate any environment to make it hospitable. We’ve forgotten that it’s important to not be in control... That’s very good for the ego because it stays deflated.