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From Rut Nut to River Rat


Well, here I am writing about Rinker Buck again.* As a reminder: Rinker Buck wrote an amazing book about his adventures following the Oregon Trail over 150 years after the original trail became obsolete. Like his predecessors he eschewed modern highways (actually his predecessors had no roads to follow; they were pioneers!) in a covered wagon that he built himself with no help from modern power tools. On the trip he slept out on the ground, enduring whatever mother nature chose to throw at him. I learned a lot, and admired the independence the author personified throughout the adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, perhaps because I had studied (and traveled) the trail myself.


But it turns out that Rinker Buck isn’t just a rut nut (a technical term historians and we in the group travel business use for "fans of America’s historic trails"). He is also interested in other aspects of America’s unique history, and has now written a book about his experiences following in the tracks of Mississippi River Rats, which actually has a much longer history than the Oregon Trail. It is no secret that Rinker isn’t too comfortable staying in one place, and this time he has built himself a version of the many keelboats that plied the river in the 19th century, supplying those pioneers up and down the river with goods needed to begin a new life in the wilderness.


This time he didn’t go it alone, and the journey was far different from the dusty Oregon Trail. But it still encompassed daily challenges of the riparian persuasion, which he was not as well equipped to handle as a land journey. But his natural curiosity was still very evident in his documentation of the adventure, and had me sitting on the edge of my seat many times as crisis after crisis was overcome, or at least survived!


Once again, I highly recommend “Life on the Mississippi” (not to be confused with the Mark Twain classic) chronicling Buck’s most recent adventure, which was released just this year.



* My April 2022 Trail Talk grew out of Rinker Buck’s first book, which - alas - I neglected to credit in the piece. Hoping to make up for the omission with the following information:


The Oregon Trail. A New American Journey. Simon & Schuster, NY. 2015.


Life on the Mississippi - An Epic American Adventure, Simon & Schuster, 2023



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