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What Is It About Rivers?

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Hannes Zacharias
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The Arkansas River bed in southwest Kansas in 2018. Photo: Hannes Zacharias

Rivers. Perhaps it is the fact that the river of my childhood is but a memory today -- the dry riverbed a place for noisy 3-wheelers -- that brings such fascination. Or it could be harsh lessons taught by our river’s dry, sandy bed juxtaposed with the memory of sand being stuffed into bags...

Rivers. Perhaps it is the fact that the river of my childhood is but a memory today -- the dry riverbed a place for noisy 3-wheelers -- that brings such fascination. Or it could be harsh lessons taught by our river’s dry, sandy bed juxtaposed with the memory of sand being stuffed into bags days after my high school graduation in preparation of the 20’ wall of water that became the Flood of ’65, jumping the bed, coming clear up to the courthouse.

Or perhaps my fascination lies in memories of happy hours spent around a carefully contained campfire, talking with friends – one an older high school boy who insisted that the Beatles were a passing fad – contrasted with my fear of ticks, crawdads, and quicksand.

Whatever the explanation, I confess to a deep and profound love for flowing water, to having made many trips to Colorado to allow the cold, mountain streams wash over my feet, to experience the life-affirming fun of white-water rafting where the river carried away the detritus of live making room for new experiences, having refreshed my soul in the rushing, flowing water.

I’m Kathleen Holt in Cimarron, forced to be content today with the knowledge that my river, the Arkansas exists, underground, flowing beneath the sand, formerly lush groves of shimmering cottonwood trees a memory. Perhaps, just perhaps that’s why I’m so looking forward to the High Plains Public Radio Readers Book Club’s 2021 Fall Read Rivers – Meandering Meaning.

Of course, today, the rivers often bring a flow of people like Max McCoy, author of our first book Elevations: A Personal Exploration of the Arkansas River or like book leader Hannes Zacharias who’s made two sojourns down the Arkansas.

In McCoy’s work, you’ll follow the historical dramas that occurred along the river’s banks and will understand not only the river, but those who lived beside. To prepare, I heartily recommend that you check out the Radio Readers Book Club page where you’ll find a reference to a two-part You-Tube recounting of Hannes Zacharias’ journey – and more since he’s studied the river for years. Perhaps you’ll even develop your own idea about whether the proper pronunciation is ar-KANSAS or Ar-KIN-saw.

Speaking of controversy, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is our second selection. Dodge City book leader Jane Holwerda is perfectly suited to lead the discussion on this controversial work, although for the life of me, I can’t figure out why those amongst us insist on rewriting literature to fit the politically correct mores of today. I, for one, read to understand others’ experiences – others’ points of view – and I never considered my job to be that of editor or revisionist. That said, having spent part of my adult life on the Mississippi in New Orleans, I can testify to the mighty impact such a river plays in the lives of those on and beside it.

Last in our series, Francisco Cantú, a third generation Mexican American and former border patrol agent explores the river of humanity cross the U.S. southern border river in his book The Line Becomes a River. A journalist, he took a job as a border patrol agent seeking a deeper understanding of what drove the river of humanity crossing into the U.S. while acknowledging that he was stepping into ugliness, testing whether or not he could observe without participating.

There is much to ponder in these books. We hope you’ll listen to what Radio Readers have to say by reading along and tuning in for Radio Reader BookBytes each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or by listening to BookBytes posted on the HPPR Radio Readers Book Club page under the Features menu at hppr.org.

A special thanks to our sponsors Lon Frahm of Colby, Lynn Hewes of Cimarron, and Lynn Boitano, formerly of Garden City Kansas.

I’m Kathleen Holt for the HPPR Radio Readers Book Club.

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The Arkansas River flooded in 1942 and again in 1965, overflowing its banks nearly three blocks into the town of Cimarron. Photo: Chuck Hoskinson, www.cimarronkansas.net , circa 1965

REFERENCE

Hannes Zacharias Arkansas River Presentation Part 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCBgasRX0gg

Hannes Zacharias Arkansas River Presentation Part 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5H2ZsGZMJc&t=537s

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Fall 2021: RIVERS meandering meaning 2021 Fall ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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Kathleen Holt has served High Plains Public Radio—in one way or another—since its inception in 1979. She coordinates the HPPR Radio Readers Book Club.