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One of the Toughest, Smartest People I Ever Met

I met Lucille Keil when she was a spry 84-year-old museum guide. She was my docent at the Young Museum in Bellevue, Iowa, leading me around the house filled with souvenirs collected by Joe and Grace Young during their world travels. During that first tour, she scowled when we reached a glass cabinet near

By |2019-06-30T11:28:17-05:00June 30th, 2019|Characters|2 Comments

Best of the Upper Mississippi: Dining with a View, 2019 Edition

It’s been six years since I posted my first list of the best riverside dining along the Upper Mississippi River. It’s time for an update, especially since a few places on the first list have closed, and new places have opened. A reminder about how I select places: the restaurant must have a good

By |2019-04-27T09:26:23-05:00April 27th, 2019|About the Mississippi Valley|0 Comments

An Immigrant Orphan and His Overachieving Family

Gerhard Gesell emigrated to the US from Germany in 1863, an orphan eager to start a new life. He was the first generation in a family of high achievers in the United States. Patriarch Gerhard was a gifted photographer; son Arnold was a well-known child psychologist; and grandson Gerhard a respected federal judge. Their

By |2019-04-01T17:58:14-05:00March 30th, 2019|Characters|0 Comments

Buzzing About Mosquitoes

It’s almost spring in most places along the Mississippi Valley, and I’m already itching to get out on the river…itching and scratching as I’ve been reading travelogues from river wanderers who can't seem to write enough about mosquitoes. I understand the impulse. Mosquitoes are nearly as much fun to talk about as the weather,

By |2019-05-31T18:44:01-05:00March 14th, 2019|Features|0 Comments

Putnam Gray and His Castle on the River

In the late 1800s, an eccentric inventor and long-time riverman built a home next to the Mississippi River near Minneiska, Minnesota. Putnam Gray's home  was so unique that people talked about it for decades, and people like me are still fascinated by it today. Gray was born in Ohio in 1833 and began working

By |2019-02-03T16:50:52-05:00February 3rd, 2019|About the Mississippi Valley|0 Comments

Illinois’ Little Egypt

The most southern portion of Illinois has been known as Little Egypt at least since the 1820s, and maybe earlier. Many early European settlers viewed the Mississippi River as America’s Nile, which, coupled with evidence that the area was inhabited by an ancient civilization (earthen mounds that often looked a lot like pyramids) probably

By |2018-12-08T17:36:14-05:00December 8th, 2018|About the Mississippi Valley|0 Comments