Carole Ann Borges’ memoir Dreamseeker’s Daughter recalls her family’s unusual journey down the Mississippi River on their way to the South Sea Islands. A truly unique view of America in the 1950s, Dreamseeker’s Daughter will make you laugh and cry on the same page. Wally Lamb says, “Borges has a poet’s voice and a sailor’s ability to spin captivating yarns.”
♦ Carole Ann will be signing books at Knoxville Soap, Candle & Gifts‘ “Small Business Saturday” at 4889 N. Broadway, on Saturday, November 30, from noon until 3:00 p.m. ♦
Just before Grafton, Illinois, Mom asked us kids to join her on the stern of the boat. Sitting cross-legged on the deck beside her, we could tell by the trance-like look on her face, something exciting was about to happen.
“Any minute now,” she said, “we’ll be entering the Mississippi River. I just want to remind you kids to be careful when you’re out on deck. The eddying pools in this river can suck things down in them. They say an extra big eddy once swallowed a steamboat so fast, when she went down her smokestacks were still spitting sparks.”
Timothy shifted his butt closer to Gale, but Mom just squared her shoulders and smiled, “Dont worry. That’s not going to happen to us. If we pay homage to King Al, the big black alligator that rules over the river, we’ll be fine.”
Mom’s eyes scanned the river nervously.
“King Al wears a golden crown and smokes a white clay pipe. If he gets mad, he can whip this river into a fury, making those eddies swirl. That’s why the slaves used to pay homage to him. They knew King Al had a strong hankering for tobacco, so they used to throw plugs of it into the water. Every evening at sun-down, King Al comes to the surface of the river to see who is traveling down there. They say you can tell when he’s around because the water turns purple. If King Al likes your tobacco, he’ll sink back down into his parlor to smoke, and the river will grow quiet again. He has a big red throne-chair there.”
Ordering us to stand, Mom rummaged around in her jacket pocket a minute, then pulled out three paper packets and handed each of us one. “We’ll be coming to the Mississippi River in a few minutes, ” she said. “Some people think King Al is just a myth the slaves made up. We, however, are not going to take any chances.”
A few minutes after Mom’s speech, Dad shouted, “There it is! I can see the buoy now. The start of the Mississippi is straight ahead.”
When Mom saw a slight change in the color of the water, she held her hands out straight in front of her. Her body shook and her fingers fluttered. “Okay, kids. Throw your tobacco now!”
As we watched our little packets float astern, Mom cupped both hands around her mouth. “Please listen, good King Al. We are here to pay homage to you, to ask permission to travel on your river. We’re just a hardworking little family hoping to make it to the South Sea islands. Please enjoy our tobacco. Consider it a token of our great admiration. We’re asking you for safe passage.”
“Do you think he heard us?” Tim’s eyes were glued on the river.
“Of course, he did,” said Mom. “Didn’t you hear that big thump under the boat?”
When Gale let out a loud snort, Mom glared at her. “Please don’t make fun of King Al,” she said. “This is serious business.”
© Carole Ann Borges, 2013.