一个人的密西西比

 

One Man’s Mississippi

RedRocks

 

当贝尔206直升机终于飞到密西西比河出海口的时候,我忽然不再听见头顶发动机的轰鸣,周围的一切都渐渐寂静。透过机身下的透明观察窗,涛涛大河在这里分成了三条支流。支流继续分叉,散开,如一株横卧巨树的无数枝桠。河岸不再连续,断成了一串串小岛和绿洲。不知觉间,我顺流而下数千里的大河竟悄然化入无形,消失在一望无际的海洋。飞旋的螺旋桨搅动着空气,海天一色。顺着大河流来的方向,路上的日日夜夜,那些城市,那些乡村,一个个地名,一张张笑脸,三年光阴,快镜头般在脑海里闪过,定格在4千公里的北方。那里有森林环绕中的一汪湖水,和从湖中流淌出的一道小溪。大河的故事,就是从这条深不过膝的小溪开始。

 

从小飞机上俯瞰密西西比河源头的冰川期留下的湖泊和绿野中的小溪。

It all began with a tiny trickle of stream in Northern Minnesota in a lake called Itasca.  I flew in a small Cessna over the forest-covered area.  The pilot’s mission was to watch for any signs of forest fire. Mine was to see the headwaters of theMississippi.  The land below the wings was dotted with countless glacier lakes and meandering rivers.  Lake Itasca is one of those lakes – unnoticed for most of its life- only to be discovered by a man called Henry Schoolcraft in 1832.  The name ofItasca came from a combination of two Latin words, meaning “true head”.

 

诞生不足100米的密西西比河

 

明尼苏达的向日葵

The river starts at a man-made stone footbridge at the mouth of the lake.  Here, it is only several meters in width.  A 6-year old girl can wade across the Mississippi in only ankle-deep water.  In less than a hundred mile, the river becomes navigable with canoes and small boats, great for paddlers seeking quietness away from busy city life.  A new bridge is being constructed at the city of St. Cross to accommodate ever-increasing traffic. In a nearby park, a long bench waits for picnickers to show up when the summer evening finally cools down.

 

 

密西西比河的上游河道畔长满了印第安人视为宝贝的野生水稻。

 

The twin cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul lie across the river bank.  A cascade of waterfalls and torrents that completely blocked river traffic a hundred years ago has become a well-controlled flow of water and a lock.  Old stone and modern steel brides connect the cities into one large metropolitan scene.  Skyscrapers now fill the entire skyline along the riverbank, where Native American tribes used to settle. On the river, people of different ethnic backgrounds gather to celebrate life along the river.  A young couple exchanges their vows at the grand St. Paul Cathedral. 

 

曾经的一段66号公路

 

大瀑布城是密西西比河上第一座有些规模的城市。

Small towns dot the riverbank.  At Wabash National Eagle center, an injured eagle has been kept in captivity for treatment and rehabilitation, and serves as an example to educate people about the great Mississippi flyway where millions of birds of various species migrate annually. Roller dams were built not to control flooding but to make a series of “lakes” that are deep enough for commercial navigation of barges and tug boats.  Recreational usage of these lakes is extensive, and the river is much smoother here than what it is to become.

 

越过密西西比的新桥

 

圣保罗城郊区

La Crosse, on the Illinois side of the river bank, claims to have the world’s largest 6-pack.  The huge containers painted as beer cans hold a grand total of 688,200 gallons of La Crosse Larger, enough for a beer lover to have one six-pack a day for 3351 years.  Not too far from the 6-pack are the old battle fields where a tribe of Sac Indians was slaughtered 160 years ago. On a stone memorial erected in 1930: “of the 1000 Sacs crossed river from Iowa in Apr 1832, no more than 150 survived to tell the tragic story of Black Hawk War”.  Without the dam, the river was not as wide then, but even then many were driven into the river to drown.

 

连接明尼那波里和圣保罗双城的大桥

 

游船上的随机人物

Across the river into Iowa, endless farmland stretches over the rolling hills. Old cemeteries with fading tombstones silently tell the story of the old settlers of the region. The decisive victory of the United States against Black Hawk secured this part of the country for future settlement. On a bluff over looking the river, I watched, from the balcony of the Four Mounds hotel, the river flowing quietly into the evening.  Life has become very peaceful along the river, where children can experience river culture and nature in close proximity.  A cruise boat sails into the setting sun with a third-generation river pilot at the wheel.

 

爱荷华州的百年墓地安葬着早期移民,他们的后代许多依然生活在这儿的农庄

 

 中游的船闸

瓦萨奇城附近的秃鹰保护地里有几只受伤后无法在自然界生存的秃鹰。

Quad-city is a general name for several regions which congregate along the Mid-Mississippi Valley of Illinois and Iowa. In one of the towns, Molin, the John Deere factory has been producing farm machines painted bright green for over one hundred years.  Even with global commerce and many of its production lines residing overseas, including in China, the factory here still is the most important driving force of the local economy. In nearby Davenport, a small French ice cream parlor started by the grandfather of the current owner is still in operation and called by locals the best ice cream place in the world.


 

 

John Deer农用机械厂曾是世界最大的农机厂。现在在中国也有了分厂。

小镇一角。

 

I crossed the river again on an old ferry boat near CantonMissouri.  The town of Canton has nothing to do with the southern province in China. The word Canton might be traced

to its French-Canadian origin meaning “township”, but the place sure has a strong Scandinavian heritage.  An 80-year old lady told me that her grandparents emigrated here from Switzerland by traveling up the Mississippi in a steamboat a hundred years ago.  A few hours south, I came upon the town immortalized by the great American writer Mark Twain. The town of HannibalMissouri retains the culture and flavor of the steamboat era. Statues of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn stand at the end of the main street.  The Mark Twain house had its fence freshly painted, but probably not by Tom’s buddies from yesteryear.

 

水轮船不再是密西西比河运输的主力,马克吐温时代船夫的后代成了游轮的船长。

 

一系列滚水坝的修建对防洪没多大作用,也不发电,但能让主航道的水深全年保持在八尺以上。

Steamboats are long gone.  Today the river traffic is mostly replaced by a grid of interstate freeways that has turned the main commerce flow of the country from south-north to east-west. River traffic is still important for transporting grains and ores, but barges pushed by diesel powered tug boats cannot compete with railroads along both banks of the river where speed is concerned.  

 

马克吐温的故居小镇汉尼拔。镇头站立着哈克贝利芬和汤姆索亚的塑像。

 

密西西比博物馆门口的马克吐温像。

 

 

鲶鱼(猫鱼)是密西西比中的主要鱼类之一。

The Arch of St. Louis is a tribute to the westward expansion of the United States of America. With the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleonic France, the United States almost doubled the area of its territory.  The great explorers Lewis and Clerk started their trek from this city. It is only from the top of the Arch that one can truly appreciate the greatness of this city, once on the American frontier. Eads Bridge was completed in 1874, and at the time it was the longest arch bridge in the world.  Amazingly, the bridge is still in use after 130 years and numerous modifications and has become a favorite crossing point of the river for motorists and pedestrians.

 

圣路易斯拱门象征着美国开发西部的起点。
从拱门顶俯瞰圣路易斯城。下面的拱顶是老法院,在这里,黑人第一次通过法律手段取得自由。

 

河道上的驳船通常成纵三列,主要用来运输谷物。

 

 

 密西西比河上最老的渡口依然在使用中。

夕阳里的游轮。

The city’s nickname of the “Mound City” arose from the mounds built during the pre-European Mississippian civilization. These mounds were built so that the native peoples could escape seasonal flooding of the river. Even with modern engineering techniques, the river is not to be tamed and can flood mercilessly. The worst flood of recent history took place in 1993. Nearly a mile away from the river, a man stands near a pole that marks the water levels of various floods. During the flood of 1993, the top of this pole was below the surface of the water. On the Illinois side, a great mound over 100 feet in height gave ancient Mississippians shelter from floods like this, and at the same time, become a monumental statement of the chiefdom.  St. Paul is home to many great works of architecture, including the first skyscraper designed by the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  The St. Paul cathedral has the most elaborate mosaic decoration in the world.  

 

密西西比河畔冲积原上的”金字塔“是先民筑造的高台,是祭师和首领们生活祈祷的地方,也许能为村民们在大水时提供一个逃生的高地。

 

内战时开始的士兵公墓里,已经有野鹿在黄昏时悠然走过。

河畔的退休工人,他的家在大水中被淹三尺。

 

Europeans came to the Mississippi valley with hopes of prosperity and religious freedom.  In Alternburg Missouri, I was surprised to discover that this little town was the origin of all North American Lutheran development.  Since their ancestors landed at the nearby Grand Rock of the Mississippi River in 1839, more than 6 generations have past, but the original Saxon heritage remains strong. 

 

圣路易斯郊外的高速公路。

 

Earl铁桥曾是世界桥梁史上的里程碑。百年老桥在多次修复后依然承担着两岸的交通。

 

The flooding of the Mississippi has destroyed numerous towns and villages along the river.  At the confluence of theMississippi and Ohio rivers is Cairo, a city built to rival Chicago. The master plan failed completely due to both economical and geological reasons. Today, the town stands lonely, in miserable conditions, a bold statement that misfortune does happen in America.  Nearby, Cape Girardeau beat her odds against the river with a colorfully painted flood-wall and levee system, and has grown into a local economical and cultural center.

 

曼菲斯城畔的密西西比河暮色。河畔停泊的是疏通航道的挖泥船。

 

东曼菲斯经济远不如它的辉煌时代。但如果你注意看,依然能见到人们脸上友好的笑容。

Memphis is a colorful city in both appearance and heritage. Martin Luther King Jr.  and Elvis Presley are the two kings dominating the image of the city, yet it has far more content to offer.  The rebuilding of Beale Street after the assassination of King and its aftermath has proved to be a complete success.  Music and laughter fill every corner of this historical district every night.  Tourists come in from all corners of the world, filling every bar and restaurant.  Downtown Memphis has returned to its former glory with the revival of the glamorous Peabody hotel where ducks fluff their wings in the marble fountain of the lobby, and there are an array of museums associated with the rich cultural and musical  heritage of the city.

 

 曼菲斯是音乐之都,每一个酒吧,入夜总是民谣和蓝调的世界。

 

曼菲斯街头街舞的孩子,他的梦想是一日代表美国去参加奥运。

Deep within the city, there are still deep-rooted issues to be addressed.  Surrounding Stax Studio, south-side Memphisused to be a rich part of the town.  With the revival of the downtown area and the economical decline in the area, many financially well-off citizens chose to leave, resulting in an ever-worsening situation.  With few employment opportunities and a climbing crime rate, a sense of desperation can be sensed on the streets. Across the river, the situation is somewhat similar.West Memphis is surrounded by flood plain farmland.  Without many opportunities for local residents, it is more or less a truck stop.

 

昔日的黑奴现在也有自己的一片土地经营。

 

不知道这些国人是如何来到这里,又是因为什么把苍老或年轻的生命长眠在远离家乡的土地。

 

The Mississippi Delta is a piece of myths.  For some strange reason, there are two versions of the Delta.  One says that the Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg; yet the true river delta  is hundreds of miles south where the river flows into the Gulf of Mexico.  The better-known version of the delta is a great flat plain – “as flat as the table in front of you” , as a local gentleman told me.  The area used to be a vast production ground of cotton in its old plantation days.  Now, with the shift of the economy and demand for alternative fuels, many farmers grow corn.

 

巴顿鲁斯的密西西比河大弯。

从小飞机上俯瞰密西西比河曼菲斯城南的Delta地区.


Where the Delta district ends is one of the most important battle fields in American history. In Vicksburg National Military Park, at the site of the decisive battle between the Union and Confederate armies in 1863, 1,325 historic monuments and markers now stand to commemorate the historic event and nearly 20 thousand Union souls resting in the national cemetery. Restored cannons now sit quietly, facing the rolling hills from which enemies used to emerge.  The dead soldiers on the Confederate side were buried in the old city cemeteries.  Due to their political stance, they were not considered American citizens at the time. Now, the old Confederate flag flies over their graveyard – not as a political or military statement  – but more to remember what had happened here and what should never happen again.

 

 内战时代留下的战炮。国家公墓里埋葬着联邦的阵亡士兵。南军的阵亡将士安葬在离开这里不远的城市公墓。

 

伊利诺伊斯州出资为他们的捐躯将士修建的纪念堂。

Deep into former Southern plantation lands, great plantation houses still exist, if not destroyed during the Civil War or by the forces of nature.  In Nottoway, a plantation near Baton Rouge, the famous white palace built in 1859, the once-grand view of the river is now blocked by the levee built after the 1929 flood. Yet the glamour of the house and elaborate Southern lifestyle has been fully restored for modern tourists.

南方的傍晚

南方小镇的傍晚。

 

 

种植园主的庄园改建成了博物馆。

I stood on the bluff overlooking the great bend of Mississippi river wrapping around the nearby Southern University. This was the first educational institute built exclusively for blacks, and now, just like any other university in this country, it opens its doors to students of any ethnic background.  Creole is a big word in the area – not only to describe people with mixed ethnic origins – but also cuisine.  Baton Rouge has great good and more restaurants per capita than any other city in the world, including New York and Paris.  I had a chance to chat with the Executive Chief at the newly restored historical Hilton hotel in downtown Baton Rouge, and taste the excellent cuisine made exclusively from integrates from the area.  A famous Southern politician named Huey P. Long used this building as his state capital building.  In the room Mr. Long used to stay, one can see his political slogan and song he wrote, “Every man a king”.

 

农夫在田头用彩色水杯拼成的国旗。

When the French first founded the city of New Orleans in 1718, they made a wise decision by placing their new city on high ground.  This has been proved to be a smart choice again and again over time, most recently during the disastrous events of Hurricane Katrina. Great portions of the cities were devastated, especially in the lower areas when levees broke, washing away houses from their foundations.  The French Quarter, the oldest settled area of the city, remained in reasonably good shape. Although there were cries that New Orleans would never be the same, the old city was restored within a few years after the hurricane. Walking there, without looking too hard, one can hardly notice the difference.

 

新奥尔良是密西西比河上最后一座大城。

 

 

New Orleans 狂欢节街边抢彩珠串的游客。
 
新奥尔良是法国早期殖民地,法国文化在这里根深蒂固。

My favorite spot of the city is an old jazz club called Preservation Hall.  For a while after the hurricane, I grieved that the club would be gone. To my joy, the club opened its doors soon afterwards, with the same old fans spinning over an audience sitting on the wooden floor to listen to the old-timers blasting notes from their shiny instruments. 

 

街头的行为艺术家。 

存留堂里的老乐手。

The hurricane is not to be forgotten. A new tourism program is actually designed to let people tour the most damaged area in the lower ninth district and show how recovery is under way. A new 12-foot concrete levee is now in place where the old one broke.  The damage is still clear.  Foundations without structure lie in the earth, showing signs of yesterday’s room layout and plumbing work.  I met a group of students from Texas.  Led by their teacher, they were there to lend their helping hands to the recovery program.

 

法区里的餐厅。

 

Cafe Du Monte 不仅有一流的咖啡,还有非常美味的糖粉面包圈。

 

法区老房建筑典型的法国铸铁构件。

Most people think falsely that the Mississippi River dumps into the Gulf in New Orleans.  The great river flows another 100 kilometers or more to the south. The river deposits sediment originating along its entire length, forming a narrow band of land deep into the Gulf.  The two banks are very solid land for most of this length.  Levees stand on both the river and sea banks The land in between is quite low, meaning that any water that flows into the area will stay there. This is a huge problem for local residents and fleeing is pretty much their only choice during the hurricane season. 

 

飓风过后的居民区惨败。

河畔的流浪乐手。他说他是最后一个收拾“行李”离开的人,也是第一个回来唱歌的歌手。

I drove to the end of the road.  A sign reads, “The southernmost end of Louisiana and gateway to the Gulf”.  A small fishing boat docks next to the sign.  Beyond it, there is only waterway.  This is the very end of the great river road I have followed for thousands of miles.

 

沿河公路的终点,河道在延续。

 

这里已经是渔港,捕捞回的大虾晾在码头上晒干。

 

To my great surprise, the end of the road does not mean the end of the action.  Out into the Gulf, there are numerous oil platforms.  To supply these oil platforms, helicopter pads now dot the old fishing ports.  I boarded a Bell chopper, and in the whirling thunder of the rotor, we flew out towards the mouth of the river.  From the air, I could see the mighty Mississippifinally split into three channels, each extending its arm further into the sea, where it gradually breaks into smaller and smaller channels.  The banks broke, became chains of small islands.  Without a clear demarcation, the great river disappeared, right in front of my eyes, into the truly borderless ocean.

 

从直升飞机上俯瞰大河之终,河道散开成绿洲,分成三条支流融入海洋。
(RedRocks/红石/陈群 原创作品,未经许可,请勿转载)

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