November 19, 2008

Little Hands in the Sand (part deux)

Yankton Missouri River Clean-up
Yankton, S.D.
May 17, 2008

(blogmaster note: last year, Ruthie Moccia wrote a great piece about her encounter with Jordan, a young man who found an ancient tractor wheel on the Yankton 07 clean-up. This May (2008), Ruthie returned to Yankton with us and wrote this piece about her experience. Click here to read Ruthie's post from last year.)

text by Ruthie Moccia. photos by Ruthie Moccia & Melanie Cheney

The ‘08 Yankton cleanup was my first revisit to a cleanup site since joining River Relief two years ago. What made the long road trip most worthwhile this year was reuniting with Jordan who accomplished the amazing last year by persistently digging around an enormous iron tractor wheel until it was completely unearthed and could be claimed by the trash tally.

During registration I spotted Jordan and his two young brothers dressed in their heather blue '08 volunteer tee shirts. Instead of aimlessly exploring the water's edge, the boys were eagerly awaiting trash bags and gloves and it appeared Jordan had also invited several friends along to participate. Their excited faces made me proud to be the one to hand them the necessary items and send them off down the ramp.

Jordan and his buddies check out a bike they found at the cleanup this year. photo by Melanie Cheney.

Later, when I sensed my cleanup crew’s boat was nearing last year's campground I also realized that the water level was too low to dock there. I needed to see that place again. I deboarded in the sandy mud and hiked toward it by keeping the Benedictine bell tower on the other side of the river always within my view. I didn’t know the way exactly, but clearly that tower with it's marvelous tones was a landmark for me. I would know immediately when I'd reached the exact location of last year’s campsite by the view across the river.

Suddenly, unmistakable familiar shapes of landscape brought back the memories. The flat sandy beach at the river's edge where the water had risen overnight to cover our cookware, a triangle of driftwood logs where we sang hilarious songs and played music around the fire, a flat space between two cedars where I had pitched my borrowed tent, the tip-top grassy edge of a dune I had climbed to scavenge an abandoned bracelet made of wooden beads and twine. It was a wonderfully nostalgic moment.

Overall my warmest memory of Yankton, however, is Jordan. What is it about a friendly face in a far away place? I threw the bead bracelet away many months ago, but Jordan's excited smile will stay with me.

Here's Jordan in 2007 excavating the old wheel he found. photo by Ruthie Moccia.

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