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Yes, the river knows

M.L.D. Griffin / Special to Red Dirt Report
The Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Mississippi in July 2016.
Fertile Ground Compost Service
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OKLAHOMA CITY – A little over four months ago, I wrote an interesting “flood-related” Dust Devil Dreams piece titled “How high’s the water, mama?” where I talk about a massive flood and a visit by Johnny Cash, an angel dressed all in black.

It was a dream and a piece that stayed with me because it was specific and seemed to continue my dream trend of flood dreams (stretching back to 1993), of which I’ve been having a lot in recent months.

So, while on a recent family vacation to Florida a week or so ago, I opted to take a little bit of a longer trek home, this time via Memphis, Tennessee, so my son could see Graceland and Sun Studio and learn more about Elvis Presley and early rock n’ rollers and blues artists like Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Howlin’ Wolf and, of course, Johnny Cash, who has been on my  mind quite a bit lately.

Graceland was … well, Graceland. It’s worth a visit. Hard to believe tomorrow it will have been 39 years since Elvis died there in his room.

It was interesting to note the television sets playing Dr. Strangelove on repeat. Elvis reportedly loved Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film, and also loved 2001: A Space Odyssey, using Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” also considered the theme to 2001, as his theme music before the beginning of one of his concerts.

Heading toward downtown Memphis, we made our way to Sun Studio (aka Memphis Recording Service, aka Sun Records) on Union Avenue, you know, where Elvis made his first record and the careers of many early rock n’ rollers began.

Arriving at 2 p.m., we had to wait until 2:30 to make the next tour. After a $7 milkshake (yes, I made a crack about it being more expensive than the $5 one served to John Travolta and Uma Thurman’s characters in Pulp Fiction – by Steve Buscemi, dressed as Buddy Holly, no less …)


While looking at pictures on the walls, the stacks of Sun Studio merchandise, old records and images of U2 when they recorded there in the late 1980’s. So much history in that little building. You can feel it. Literally, it would seem.

So, standing with my back to the far corner (away from the main door) and my son standing nearby, no one was behind me.

… until I felt a tap on my left shoulder. Seriously. Tap-tap-tap. It happened three times. It startled me, of course, and my son saw no one near me. But the tapping happened three times right there in the Sun Studio gift shop and café, which was once Taylor’s Restaurant.

I looked around. Nothing. I tried to make sense of it and told myself it was a muscle twitch in my shoulder.


But this strange little experience left me with a  sense of wonder, not fear or apprehension. It was as though the musicians of the past – and most specifically, Johnny Cash – were just letting me know that they were still there, in spirit, and to keep rock n’ roll alive. After all, the Mississippi River, upon which the musical cities of Memphis and New Orleans and St. Louis and Minneapolis are perched, plays such a key role in American history, and as I have noted, in my dreamscapes. It keeps calling to me, that "big river."

So, when I crossed from Louisiana into Mississippi at Vicksburg, on I-20, I took a picture. And when I crossed from Tennessee into Arkansas at Memphis, on I-40, I took another picture. It seemed important. 

I started thinking back to my April post involving a great flood and Johnny Cash. And I noted, at the time, “Big River,” Cash’s song about the Mississippi River.

And I followed you, big river, when you called,” sings Cash on this classic rockabilly number. So true.

And so now we see the catastrophic flood news coming out of Louisiana, where the Big River ends her journey before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. 

And thinking back to my dream in April and seeing the images coming from a state that is still dear to me, I feel sadness, especially since I lived there during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and saw the devastation those storms caused, before I made my way to Oklahoma.

And it seems that climate change is really taking hold, if the meteoroligists are correct (and they certainly appear to be, calling it another "500-year rainstorm").

The photo below, with the woman outside of her flooded trailer really got to me.

A Zachary, La. resident, Joyce Causey, says her trailer is "totaled" after recent flooding. Caroline Ourso / The (Baton Rouge) Advocate

These "weather events" are troubling. Rivers rise and fall and dreams come and go. We can only pray and hope that better days are ahead.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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