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| Donald Worster on: The Appeal of the River
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Donald Worster on: The Appeal of the River
Donald Worster Q: He got interested in rivers early on. It seems that he was drawn to the river. What was the appeal of the river and especially someone at that time?

DW: Rivers were the great American quarters of transportation. I mean that's where movement, life, was going on in the United States, before the coming of the railroads. Commerce was traveling the rivers. Explorers were going up and down rivers reporting on them-- the Missouri, the Ohio, the Mississippi. I think he was excited by rivers for the same reason Mark Twain was excited, growing up along the Mississippi. There was life there and there was activity, there was color, there were people that you would meet. You had a sense of exploring a place that was not yet settled and you could go for miles and miles up and down these rivers and camp and build a camp fire on a sandbar, on a river bank and see fossils, plants, animals. I mean this was adventure at your doorstep. There were barges, there were steamboats by the time that Powell was traveling up and down these rivers. I'm sure, also, there was a desire to escape the humdrum life that he knew. His parents had expectations for him, as far as the ministry. They wanted him to become a Methodist preacher like his father. He didn't want to do that, so one way to get away from that, was to go get yourself a boat and just take off for the summer. Colleges that he went to later in his life, in Illinois, in Ohio were humdrum places, not very exciting places, academically for him. He was too bright for many of the courses. He knew the stuff already. So, to get out of school and go off and collect on your own was to him a passionate outlet for his imagination.

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