Eighty years ago this thing would’ve been rolled and stowed neatly in the coffin-shaped jon boats endemic to the region, past Blasingame and Radical and Marmaros, through shoals and chutes with undoubtedly colorful local names now lost to history.
He was an obstinate cuss, the first owner, from what I gather. Folks would call on the party line and arrange a trip downriver, he’d send them a list of everything they could take along. Anything brought which wasn’t on the list was pitched into the weeds before launch. Didn’t suffer fools. If the water-stained grocery list tucked into the stake bag is any indication they were bare-bones trips: boiled ham, beans, apples, coffee.
In 1956 the dam went up and the river went under in the name of progress, to provide power and flood control to the dirt-poor people of the Ozark highlands. The tent was rolled and neatly stowed somewhere dry where it wouldn’t mildew, forgotten until a neighbor dusted it off and sold it to me. It has been places I will never be able to venture, places erased from the landscape. An artifact from a world I’ll never see.