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.

Wild #001: A Boy and His Snake by Boyce Upholt

Lake Washington, Washington County, Mississippi

Lake Washington, Washington County, Mississippi

This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done.

I didn't get a name or age, but this young man was a participant in this year's snake grab rodeo, held annually on Lake Washington. Teams compete to see who can grab the most snakes over the course of a morning, and who can grab the largest snake. This snake, an entrant in the latter category, failed to win the prize.

Canadians fascinated with this strange American past time can watch snake grabbers at work on reality TV.