Pirates of the Big Muddy

By Matt Seek | June 1, 2013
From Xplor: June/July 2013

Ahoy, me hearties! Unfurl the main sail and cast off those lines. We’re set to weigh anchor with a crew of young pirates as they search for adventure and booty — that’s pirate talk for treasure — on a sandy island in the middle of the Big Muddy. Arrr!

The Missouri River, nicknamed the “Big Muddy,” prompted writer Mark Twain to say, “The water is too thick to drink and too thin to plow.” Although he might be right, few pirates can resist the river’s cool, wet mud squishing between their toes.

Not all treasure lies buried in the sand. Maggie captures a monarch butterfly that touches down on the sandbar. After a close inspection of the monarch’s jewel-like wings, she lets the butterfly flutter away unharmed.

If you anger the captain, you pay the price — especially if the captain’s your sister. Gabe discovers that below its sun-scorched surface, sand feels wet, cool, and refreshing. Maybe being buried isn’t so bad.

The river washes ashore all sorts of things for pirates to pluck from the sand: petrified wood, nuggets of milky white quartz, Indian arrowheads, even bones from woolly mammoths and other creatures long since gone.

Mermaids they’re not. Maggie mans a magnifying glass to contemplate her catch. About 60 kinds of fish live in the stretch of Big Muddy flowing through Missouri, including thumb-sized minnows and trashcan-sized catfish.

The river holds many treasures — if you know how to find them. Mack and Maggie use a net to seine tiny, silverly fish from the muddy, brown water.

Only scalawags — that’s pirate talk for bad people — leave litter behind. Maya and Quincy scour the beach for bottles and other trash. When they’re done, the only thing left on the island is footprints.

A day spent plundering makes the crew hungry. Roasting hot dogs over a driftwood fire cures growling stomachs and grumpy pirates.

Loaded with loot, the pirates sail off. Nora Grace relaxes on the voyage home, tired but happy from a fun day of treasure hunting.

And More...

This Issue's Staff

David Besenger
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White