John Ruskey Lectures Delta Psi Fraternity at Ole Miss

May the river be with Alex Borst!

Quapaw Canoe Company founder John Ruskey surprised by arrival of Magical Madge at Delta Psi fraternity. Photo by DB

Quapaw Canoe Company founder John Ruskey surprised by arrival of Magical Madge at Delta Psi fraternity. Photo by DB



Was I reading my email correctly….? Quapaw Canoe Company‘s John Ruskey was speaking at a fraternity house at Ole Miss? Yes! Just so happened my wheels were taking me in close proximity to the campus that same day and hour. This I had to see!

The look of surprise and joy on John’s face when I showed up unexpectedly was priceless. It thrilled me to know he was about to share his river tales with a cluster of University of Mississippi Delta Psi fraternity men. Me thinks they hadn’t a clue what and who they were about to witness. John Ruskey–the renaissance Davy Crockett Mark Twain Herman Melville Meriwether Lewis Walter Anderson Skip James kinda man that has no equal.

How did this come about? Who had the foresight and wisdom to reach out to the Riverman to expose his brothers to the wilder side of life–life on the magnificent Mississippi River?! Sophomore Alex Borst from Madison, Mississippi, deserves a shiny medal, a beer or four or some such accolade for setting up this presentation. mm

Today, Ruskey at the Delta Psi house.
Tomorrow, Ruskey at the Gertrude C. Ford Performing Arts Center?

The following is an apt description of the presentation on Wednesday, February 11, 2015. Fascinating reading.

By Guest Bohemian and River Guide Braxton Barden

John’s invitation to be a presenter at Delta Psi’s Lecture Series was a result of a serendipitous encounter between John Ruskey and Alex Borst from the University of Mississippi Outing Club.  Alex came to the Mississippi Delta to check out the many offerings of our lovely little town (Clarksdale) and more specifically to search out John. 

As Alex arrived at the front of Quapaw headquarters at 3rd and Sunflower he must have surely thought no one is home, however, he called the number listed on the pane of painted glass in hopes of reaching someone. 

Even during this holiday season while most are off from work, John was in the cave putting some miles on his keyboard applying the final edits of the St Louis to Caruthersville section of the River Gator project. 

River Gator, what in tarnation is that?!  River Gator is a mile-by-mile paddler’s guide written for canoeists, kayakers, stand-up-paddleboarders, and anyone else plying the waters of the Lower Mississippi River in human-powered craft.  So it’s a water trail?  Yes, it’s a water trail for the Lower Mississippi River which creates the longest free-flowing water trail in the continental United States, 1155 miles from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico.  Not only is it a long water trail, it’s a passage that rises and falls 50 feet throughout the year. 

Upon learning this information, Alex knew he had found the answer he was searching for “What will pry university students from the typical Spring break misadventures?”  Alex decided the best person to make this hard sale would be the old river man himself.  This lead to John presenting the River Gator as part of the Delta Psi Lecture Series on February 11th which included a small crew consisting of Jenn Ruskey and Braxton Barden to back him up in case things went south at the frat house.

As the crew arrived, Alex met them in the parking lot and gave them a hand with their gear.  The crew was a little early for the event and the brothers of the fraternity were finishing their evening meal.  Alex invited the Quapaws to have a meal prior to the lecture.  As expected, river rats are alway ready to eat.

It was a fine meal consisting of tilapia, roasted potatoes, asparagus, and freshly brewed community coffee.  The Quapaws were a little upset that the coffee was missing the grounds in the bottom of their cups, which is considered a treat by the river rats.  Groundless coffee is just one of the many pitfalls of sivilization.

Prior to John’s lecture, Braxton gave a short presentation on a Quapaw partner, 1Mississippi.  1Mississippi’s River Citizens program works to unite people and organizations to speak up and protect the river.  River Citizens are people who want to clean up and protect America’s greatest River. Whether in arm chairs or wading boots, River Citizens protect the River by speaking up on its behalf and caring for it in simple ways that make a big difference. Together, we can protect the River for future generations. Braxton encouraged the crowd to become River Citizens too.

John’s presentation captivated the crowd with his visual presentation and stories from the river.  If you haven’t seen John speak about the river, you are missing out. 

There is a difference between preparing for a lecture and presenting your life’s work.  John’s presentations roll as naturally as the river through the muddy landscape of the Delta. 

The students were intrigued by the amount of land that is drained by the Mississippi River, 44 percent of the continental United States.  The pictures provided by Ralph Pace Photography (☚☚☚click on that link–you won’t believe the photographs) shot during the Vicksburg to Baton Rouge River Gator expedition, delivered a spectacular visual for the students!  Between John’s stories and Ralph’s photos, the students were able to have the next best thing to actually floating down the Mighty Mississippi.

VIDEO from WJTV NEWS features Quapaw Canoe Company
WJTV News Channel 12

VIDEO from SPRING INITIATIVE featuring Quapaw Canoe Company
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  1. Great job team! Sorry I had to miss it! Mark River

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