Taylor Morris and three of his friends pledged themselves into the New Orleans rite of teenage passage—they would become men only if they swam across the Mississippi River and lived to tell about it. They lived to tell about it and Morris, the writer he became, wrote about their adventure in a hilarious episode of his latest book All the Clouds'll Roll Away
Recently, a son of one of the swimmers got in touch with Appledore Books for a copy of Morris' book. He wanted to read about his father and the other wild and wooly pre-adults challenging the adult world so they could join it.
The Great Mississippi River Swim in Chapter 18 of "Book One: New Orleans" is part of the trilogy All the Clouds'll Roll Away
, Morris' wide-sweeping autobiographical novel of early hey-day New Orleans. This is a book turning out to be a heart-warming record of deep New Orleans life pre-Katrina.
In the book, Morris writes that the four Big Muddy challengers calculate all sorts of swimming power scenarios, including this one: "If Johnny can swim two miles an hour and the current is five miles an hour, how long will it take him to get to Chicago?"
Finally, the courageous four stride into the thick swift waters and, no matter how hard they swim, the far side keeps looking the same distance away. They keep at it, knowing they will be unmanned if they return full of chicken-fear. Then triumph! They touch the New World! They are men!
Suddenly, from out of the woods a stranger on a levee yells at the naked four of them to get away, there's a Girl Scout Camp here. So they hurry away and, yes, they curse back at the stranger. Wrong! The stranger pulls out a .22 rifle and fires at them.
Into the Great Muddy they run for their lives and swim back to their clothes with rifle shots pinging the river left and right of them, only now comes a Mississippi freighter into menacing view. What is the rusty monster doing here on Saturday? Heading straight for them!
They swim frantically with the rifleman pinging one bullet after another off the devil river with devil river shrimp nipping at their heroic heels. The hideous monstrous freighter closes in by the second and the river barge captain blasts his fire-breathing horn at them.
Twenty perilous minutes later, they reach a different shore with their clothes another hour walk away. Decades later, Taylor Morris writes this and many more episodes of the early New Orleans life he lived head on and captured so well.
Morris is also author of Message from the Sparrows
, The Walk of the Conscious Ants
and many other writings.