December 1996

Root Page of Article: Going Into the Woods, by Christine Boese

A Flooded and Muddy Midwest

I don't know why I make so much of landscape. What does it have to do with my story?

I have taken Interstate 40 from Memphis to Nashville under a full moon and Beale Street blues and imagined the stars were magnificent pieces of the former student I had lost that spring to an accident, further north, on the same highway.

I knew how the radio changed from redneck rock to R&B hiphop from Chattanooga to Atlanta as I drove through mountain fog, trying to avoid Semis with burning brakes, closing on the turn-out ramps.

And I-35 running straight up the middle to Wisconsin was as familiar to me as the Alaska Highway, I had driven it so often.

I like to think of Road as Place. I spend my best thinking time on long drives with no radio. Antenna busted off in a car wash years ago.

And then the landscape turned alien. Water reordered it. I had to rethink my approach. All bridges across the Missouri River were out, and the river sliced Missouri horizontally. I called highway patrols, Triple A. It seemed all bridges were out EXCEPT in Kansas City, which is where my path crossed.

I never thought that something as simple as a river could become The Woods, could keep me from my appointments and travel plans.

I called ahead to some newspapers up north, to see if they could use some exclusive shots of the flood. I couldn't believe the mass of water passing my windshield, and I wanted to venture off the path and engage the landscape, to explore, find stories, collect narratives of how people's lives had been disrupted by the tragedy.

My former journalism school classmates at the various newspapers up north all told the same story: "No, it's too far away. My editor won't pay for it. We'll just use the stuff from AP."

Associated Press. Corporate Chain Journalism. Pravda Old Style. Master Narrative versus the world of of Hyperfiction. Thank God for the Internet. But don't get me off on that tangent.

In Iowa fields of mud flanked the Interstate. Above Des Moines the land had recovered. The grass in the center median grew long and waved saucily. Unusual for August, saplings with late growth bent over from the weight.

Take me home, country roads.

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