2007.03.01: March 1, 2007: Headlines: COS - Nigeria: Travel: Amazon: Nigeria RPCV John Violette rafted down the Mississippi in "Down the river"

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nigeria: Peace Corps Nigeria : Peace Corps Nigeria: Newest Stories: 2007.03.01: March 1, 2007: Headlines: COS - Nigeria: Travel: Amazon: Nigeria RPCV John Violette rafted down the Mississippi in "Down the river"

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-249-83-39.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - on Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - 11:53 am: Edit Post

Nigeria RPCV John Violette rafted down the Mississippi in "Down the river"

Nigeria RPCV John Violette rafted down the Mississippi in Down the river

John Violette served in the Peace Corps in Nigeria (1963-65) and afterwards returned to Nigeria on a Ford Foundation grant to develop an English language program for Nigeria, under the aegis of Southern Illinois University (1966-68). Back in Maine, he worked in a development situation in the Postal Service for fifteen years. He retired to Saco, Maine..He was one of the rafters down the Mississippi narrated about in the book "Down the River."

Nigeria RPCV John Violette rafted down the Mississippi in "Down the river"

John Violette served in the Peace Corps in Nigeria (1963-65) and afterwards returned to Nigeria on a Ford Foundation grant to develop an English language program for Nigeria, under the aegis of Southern Illinois University (1966-68). Back in Maine, he worked in a development situation in the Postal Service for fifteen years. He retired to Saco, Maine..He was one of the rafters down the Mississippi narrated about in the following book:

A unique book of wry humor, it is a weave of literature and history, travel and adventure.

Down the River
by Loren K. Davidson (Ph.D., Duke University, 1959)

Inspired by Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, three young scholars decide to raft down the Mississippi River in the summer of 1957 and see for themselves what a 20th century version of Huck’s trip would be like. Pondering over beers in a local bar the mandate to "publish or perish," they were struck by inspiration:

"It was during some talk of the voyages of Ulysses and St. Paul, during the sipping of brown, muddy liquid, that the glistening, brown worm crawled forth, fixed itself upon our minds, and in the air of day cracked and let the double-winged dragonfly free. One of us had lamented that the New World lacked any voyages comparable to these in speaking of the journey of our native souls, when one or perhaps it was two of us suddenly recognized in Huckleberry Finn's voyage the parallel we thought we did not have. Here was no doughty warrior, no learned evangelist, but an untutored boy, much like ourselves. And so the odyssey began, the missionary journey to convert the waterprints of Huckleberry Finn into academic gold."

The dragon fly is Loren Davidson’s emblem in Down The River, a memoir that takes us down through relevant American history and literature, as well as down America’s great waterway.

In sharp focus, is the story of three rafters have many adventures and misadventures–whacking together a raft from a sodden old dock, and then pushing off onto a calm surface only to be suddenly embraced by a strong current taking them completely off course, and in subsequent days, being swept along through searing heat, drenching rain, wild hurricane winds, and swarms of mosquitoes. It’s about getting hung up on wing dams, about colliding, or nearly-colliding, with channel buoys or swiftly-propelled barges, about often rowing like crazy madmen to avoid some horrible unanticipated obstacle and when luck held, being saved in the nick of time by a johnboat or a lone car on a back road which just happened to be in the right place at the right time to spare them certain disaster. It’s about making arduous treks in the night searching for food, getting lost in darkness, stumbling through cornfields, or perhaps kneedeep in gumbo in ditch bottoms alongside the river, while carrying cameras, sacks of groceries, water jugs, and other purchases, and unable to find where the raft was moored, and about encountering a host of pleasant and helpful as well as unhelpful riverfolk. Also, it’s about the male menus that the three rafters devise. And sometimes, it is about the "sociable" moccasin, "the inquisitive black snake, and the agile rattler," which wanted a lift. And it is about wondrous landscapes and sunsets, and peaceful encounters with the past, made possible only by this river

. At the beginning of the trip, in a wonderful allusion to Huck Finn, he writes,

While picking up sticks for a fire, I crossed the head of the island. It was almost dark now and I looked across to Hannibal, where lights shone cheerily. I suppose my mood, like that of the gregarious Huck, should have been a little wistful, but instead, the sense of adventure, of reliving in a small way the marvelous joys of Huck's real fiction, made the contrast between my feeling and his, great. The air about me contained a host of witnesses. The real island and real Hannibal were suddenly and without effort the idyllic, fictional Eden of boyhood, and across a shining river lay St. Petersburg. Something had begun, the end of which we could not see.

Accompanied on their raft, The Mysterious Stranger, by the lore of an assortment of travelers who preceded them in past centuries–explorers, Indians, pioneers, and military generals, artists, and novelists–the three professors are never deserted by the spirit, wisdom, and humor of Huckleberry Finn and his creator, Mark Twain. Loren K. Davidson possesses the uncanny knack of alluding to and quoting the right traveler at the right bend in the river, and weaves a gorgeous tapestry of multiple threads–the personal with the scholarly. With its breadth of knowledge and profound human insights, the book is a unique and significant contribution to the genre of Mississippi River travel literature.

At the end, the three young men give their beautiful friendship the acid test before wending their solitary ways back to Ohio University. They fail the test

Loren K. Davidson was born in 1922 in Two Ridges, Ohio, the son of a Presbyterian minister. Inducted into the Army in 1943, and serving in the Aleutians and the European Theater, he was discharged as Captain in 1947, but was recalled to active duty during Korean War during which he served in Europe (1951-1953). He retired from the Army Reserve Corps as full Colonel, Infantry, in 1976. He received his B.A. from Asbury College, Wilmore Ky. (1943); M.A. in English, University of Kentucky (1950); Diploma in English Studies, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland (1953-54); and Ph.D. in English with a dissertation on Walt Whitman
’s Song of Myself, Duke University (1959). He taught undergraduate and graduate English, specializing in American literature and civilization, in Ohio University in Athens, Ohio; the American College for Girls and Istanbul University in Turkey, and University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University in Pittsburgh from 1956 until he retired in 1987. His primary field was American literature. He was Senior Fulbright Professor, Universidad Catolica, Santiago, Chile, for a year and a half (1975-76). He traveled widely in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and UK, and South America. He has five children and resides in a post-Revolutionary ancestral stone house outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The other two raftsmen, Dr. Robert Hogan and John Violette had long noteworthy careers in higher education. Hogan was scholar and writer, chiefly at the University of Delaware, and Violette served in the Peace Corps and later returned to develop an English language program for Nigeria, under the aegis of Southern Illinois University.

Down the River
* by Loren K. Davidson Trade Paperback; $20.99; 148 pages; 1-4257-0075-6; Cloth Hardback; $30.99; 148 pages; 1-4257-0076-4b To request a complimentary paperback review copy, contact the publisher at (888) 795-4274 x. 472.

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Headlines: March, 2007; Peace Corps Nigeria; Directory of Nigeria RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Nigeria RPCVs; Travel

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