Relay of Voices: The Great River Run is an expedition connecting the voices of the Mississippi River region through shared movement and listening. In a research partnership with the Water Institute of the Gulf, the Relay team set out to gather the voices of landscapes, communities, and people to explore the rootedness and resilience of lives shaped by the natural resources surrounding them.
The Great River Run began in July at the Headwaters of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca, Minnesota. Each day the group has traveled approximately 20-40 miles to reach the next location and will end up visiting 104 communities along the way downriver.
Carla Rivet, Paul Juneau and John Goode
The Morganza Louisiana Cultural District, along with Old River Landing, hosted the Relay of Voices team on October 15th. Locals gathered to visit with the team and share stories.
Below is a write up from Victoria Bradford Styrbicki, organizer of The Great River Run.
DAY 99 - TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15
BLACKHAWK TO MORGANZA
We started our run at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and got immediately on top of the levee. The rain was holding off this morning, making for a refreshing run toward our landing spot at Old River Landing near Batchelor, Louisiana. Less refreshing was the terrain—thickly paved with large, loose rock, the levee path was a chore for my quads and my ankles, footing a bit unstable, and speed entirely unachievable today. Along with this physical drama came a psychological one. As Tom got midway through his run, he noticed a white vehicle following him along the route—that’s right, we were being watched as we stumbled along! Well, watched, filmed, droned (if that’s how you say it)… turns out it was Christopher Lecoq of Bayou Wild TV taking pictures and drone footage of Tom and I as we ran our way toward Old River Landing, but boy was the pressure on when that little insect plane was flying overhead of you! Oh but it gets better! As I was making my last leg into Batchelor, here comes a vehicle on top of the levee buzzing toward me, waving LSU flags out the side and cheering—it’s Mayor Clarence “Woots” Wells, Carla Rivet, and “Sugar” in a golf cart coming to escort me in the last mile or so. Now “escort” is a kind way of maybe saying “heckling” as they rode behind me cheering or jeering me in! It’s debatable. I was just trying not to fall over on those rocks! In the end, we all made it safely to solid ground alongside Old River for a warm welcome by not only the golf cart crew, but many others as well.
As we got dried off and recovered from the run, we finally got to meet the man behind the drone! Chris took us aside for a few minutes to add to his footage with a direct interview with me and Tom. Afterwards we all went into the restaurant, meeting owner Jacques LaCour and a few other locals on the way in. We had a bit of lunch while visiting with Lyle, Carla, Brenda and others. Then it was time to board the boat for our next adventure. The boat in question was quite unique—a double decker paddle wheel with a sort of pontoon-style operation and scale. We piled about 10 or 15 on board and headed out onto Old River for some stories, a blessing by Father Babu of the local Catholic Church, and a memorial to Brenda and her brother’s father who died in 1973 working on the Old River Control Structure. The rain we had beat out in the morning finally made its grand appearance, though, coming down in sheets and keeping us from returning to land for a short while. Eventually Captain Paul found a way to navigate back to Batchelor, and we made it home not so dry but safe and sound. Much to say about all the conversations on the boat this afternoon, including the urgency of dear Father Babu needing to get back to land for his Mass at 4:30 pm, but that’s for another story.
We decided to warm up back inside Old River Landing with Carla and a few new friends, who included a bottle of Budweiser and a glass of wine. With these refreshments warming our cool bodies, we started to get ready for the evening’s program that Carla had planned. The evening’s agenda included musical entertainment by Taylor Frey and a very talented sixteen year-old violinist. Russell Beauvais of the Army Corps of Engineers also made a presentation about the Morganza Spillway and other control structures and levees in the area. To close out the event, we were treated to a sort of “fireside chat” by Mayor “Woots” Wells, telling tales of Morganza, Louisiana from times passed. As he shared his recollections of growing up in the Village of Morganza, it was so clear how everyone there knew him and he knew everyone there.
Once the talking was over, the music really got going, and the mayor took center stage once again, grabbing up Mrs. Carla for a two-step (or was it a three-step?!)… Some little bird told Woots I liked to dance as well, so he wouldn’t let me leave without a turn on the dance floor, and forced Taylor into another upbeat tune so we could do a jig or two before she turned over to ballads. After this spin and hoof, I was sheer tuckered out. Thank goodness Carla and Ricky Rivet were tuned into our exhaustion and let us bow out before the party really wound down. We headed back to their home, keeping the conversation going before tucking in. It was hard to say goodnight, but finally we did.
The following day, they woke up early to head to the Village One Stop to have breakfast and visit with Adele Robillard, Bae Landry, Lyle Brown, Mayor Woots Wells and the Morganza ladies who came by after church. A contribution was collected among the people who were present. They then went back to Old River Landing to start where they left off the day before and were followed by a police escort through the Village of Morganza as they headed towards New Roads on LA-1.
Siblings Brenda Goode, Levi Kimble and Craig Kimble paying a special tribute to their father Joseph Kimble who died in 1973 working on the Old River Control Structure.
The Morganza Cultural District would like to thank Jacques and Telly LaCour, the staff at Old River Landing, Chris Lecoq, the Pointe Coupee Sheriff’s Office, Dillon LaCour, Fr. Babu, Brenda Goode and the Kimble Family, Paul Juneau, Russell Beauvais, Mayor Woots Wells, Taylor Frey, Lily Martinez, Hair Bear and everyone else that helped give such a special welcome to the Relay of Voices team.