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    Posted July 9, 2014 by
    Richardson, Texas
    Related to: My trip down the most endangered river in America
    CNN's John Sutter took a three-week trip down the most endangered river in America: California's San Joaquin. See the tweets from his adventure.
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Your favorite river



    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     alansand2 lived along the 'Eden-like' Little Wabash River in Olney, Illinois, for 20 years. 'When I was a student at the Uuniversity of Illinois, I could go to the cabin on the river and be in an alternate universe -- a billion miles from papers due and midterm exams,' she said.
    - katie, CNN iReport producer

    My parents were just a half-generation away from being pioneers--my father lived briefly in a log cabin after his birth and my mother travelled by covered wagon from IL to AR at age 2 with her parents and siblings. Being outdoorsy wasn't a lifestyle choice for them. It was everyday life.
    They built a cabin on the banks of the Little Wabash River, a tributary to the Wabash, in 1935 or so. No electricity or running water (except what was in the river) meant that staying there was primitive. Raised in town in the 1950's, I had a love/hate relationship with bathing in a basin. We'd get really dirty clambering up and down the riverbank and fishing and gathering wood for a campfire. At the end of the stay at "the cabin" a bath back at home in Olney, IL was delightful.
    But the inconveniences were surpassed greatly by the hooting of the owls at night, the tug of a catfish who had just become dinner, and the freedom of rowing my boat up and down the river taking my cousins or friends to see where a big turtle lived in a hole in the bank, or where a nest of ducklings were being overseen by momma and poppa duckling.
    And that freedom to move about easily under my own power was heady--I had had polio in 1952 and walked assisted by heavy metal leg braces and crutches. My crutch-strengthened arms made me a hearty and tireless boat-rower so I had an area where my skills made me uniquely successful: I could propel a rowboat like a grownup and was given the liberty to take a friend and explore the river.
    We'd name the snags, "Leopard Leap" (The nearest leopard would have been in the St. Louis Zoo) or the river's curves, "Big Bend" and felt akin to Lewis and Clark, whose epic journey began only 100 miles away, when we'd struggle through a river blockage of felled trees to "see what was on the other side".
    Determination, a try, try, try again spirit, and physical strength engendered by those rowboat trips up and down the river serve me to this day, ass do the deeply engrained sensitivity to and appreciation for nature. Need a morale boost--take a walk and listen to the Mockingbirds scold a squirrel they think is jeopapordizing their nest of young 'uns. Watch ants struggle with a hornet carcass--what a windfall to their lives! See the direction fish orient themselves in the neighborhood creek after a rain. My life, now lived in a wheelchair, again a liberating vehicle which my healthy arms can propel to allow me to see the world...
    If I had a wish--It would be to have a "cabin on a river" to get mosquito-bit, find an axehead from long absent native Americans, ponder what they ate when the river was low and fish weren't biting--our cabin sat at the location of an ancient Native American camp--sit on a tree-trunk leaning way out over a flooded river and read a comic book, hurry back to town because rains meant higher water was on its way..showing a teenage boyfriend from town the river's delights of fishin' and explorin'..if he "got it" he might be a "keeper".
    Who I became is intrinsically tied up with my life rowing up and down the Little Wabash. How I would love to break that rule: you can never go home again.
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