The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly

tilted worldSet against the backdrop of the historic flooding of the Mississippi River, The Tilted World is an extraordinary tale of murder and moonshine, sandbagging and saboteurs, and a man and a woman who find unexpected love.

The year is 1927. As rains swell the Mississippi, the mighty river threatens to burst its banks and engulf everything in its path, including federal revenue agent Ted Ingersoll and his partner, Ham Johnson. Arriving in the tiny hamlet of Hobnob, Mississippi, to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents who’d been on the trail of a local bootlegger, they are astonished to find a baby boy abandoned in the middle of a crime scene. Ingersoll, an orphan raised by nuns, is determined to find the infant a home, and his search leads him to Dixie Clay Holliver. A strong woman married too young to a philandering charmer, Dixie Clay has lost a child to illness and is powerless to resist this second chance at motherhood. From the moment they meet, Ingersoll and Dixie Clay are drawn to each other. He has no idea that she’s the best bootlegger in the county and may be connected to the agents’ disappearance. And while he seems kind and gentle, Dixie Clay knows full well that he is an enemy who can never be trusted. When Ingersoll learns that a saboteur might be among them, planning a catastrophe along the river that would wreak havoc in Hobnob, he knows that he and Dixie Clay will face challenges and choices that they will be fortunate to survive.

Written with extraordinary insight and tenderness, The Tilted World is that rarest of creations, a story of seemingly ordinary people who find hope and deliverance where they least expect it – in each other. (description from publisher)

Flood Footage

Want an idea of how bad floods can get in this area? Take a look at some of these dvds and videos….

Fighting the Floods WQAD’s coverage of the June 2008 floods has footage of the floods in Iowa and Illinois, including Davenport, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

Illinois Valley, Historic Flood of 2008 footage of the September 16th flood along the Illinois River.

’93 Flood This video was aired live during the flood and aftermath; it contains aerial footage of the flooded Mississippi River.

Fatal Flood A 1927 Mississippi River flood killed more than a thousand people and destroyed the homes of millions from Cairo, Illinois on south to New Orleans. This a PBS American Experience program – which are uniformly excellent.

Flying Feast

If you spend a little time in the regional news, you might know the spread of the Asian Carp has reached epidemic levels.  It has the discriminating diet of a billygoat and the reproductive powers of a bunny rabbit.    It is a hearty old beast, reaching up to 40 pounds apiece by eating nearly half their weight in plankton to the detriment of all the indigenous species.  One characteristic trait of the flying fish is its utter bewilderment by boat motors, causing them to leap out of the water and strike passengers.

How did we get them?  These bottom feeders were imported to Arkansas in a contested decision to have them clean out the waterways.  A flood deposited them in the Mississippi where they have proven quite hearty in a variety of water temperatures.

An estimated 20 million pounds of asian carp are in the waterways where the Department of Natural Resources is taking drastic steps to keep them out of Lake Michigan.  Ideas are in the works to harvest as many as possible for homeless shelters, prisons, and even to be ground into fertilizer and animal feed.

Outside of some pockets of Chicago’s Asian communities, there doesn’t seem to be a market for commercial fishermen to sell this catch.  This confuses the USGS’s Duane Chapman, who has put a very informative how-to series on youtube on how prepare the asian carp, which he feels yields very tasty and high-quality fillets despite an undeserved bad rap.  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Fact:  There once was an ugly and plentiful fish no one would even consider eating called the Patagonian Toothfish. Some savvy marketers got together and it now commands a high price on restaurant menus under a different name… “Chilean Sea Bass.”

Eagle Watching

One of the (many) great things about living in the Quad Cities is the Mississippi River – its beauty, its recreational opportunities and its wildlife. January and February are prime time for eagle watching. A lot of Americans have never or only rarely seen a bald eagle in it’s natural habitat, yet for Quad Citians they’re a common sight in the winter. Attracted to the open water of the river near the dams, hundreds of these magnificent birds congregate along the river during the coldest months.

Fight off cabin fever and take advantage of some of the great programs and viewing opportunities including Bald Eagle Days (today through Sunday) at the QC Expo Center, eagle watches at the Mississippi River Visitors Center on Arsenal Island (reservations required) through February, and the LeClaire Eagle Watch, January 24-25.

For more information about bald eagle events and watching, including a list of the best viewing areas in the Quad Cities, be sure to visit the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau website.

Want more? Check out these books from the library:

The Bald Eagle: Haunts and Habitats of a Wilderness Monarch by Jonathan Gerrard

Raptors of North American: Natural History and Conservation by Noel Snyder

The American Eagle: a Photographic Portrait by John Pezzenti

Return of the Eagle: how America Saved its National Symbol by Greg Breining