Monday, June 3, 2013

A Chance Meeting and A Thank You

On the way home from the Hiawatha Rally this past Sunday, Dave and I stopped for a late (for me) breakfast, once again in Alma at our favorite place.  In addition to the fine meals, they have other things are for sale; smoked meats, cinnamon rolls, T-shirts, hats, other knickknacks, local books about history and/or the Big River.  Besides the trains that rumble only a few feet away from the west wall of the restaurant, the river and Lock and Dam #4 are only a matter of yards beyond the shore-hugging railroad tracks.

There's a bookshelf in the corner that more times than not, contains books by local authors; one author in particular himself drops the books off when he ventures in to town or stops by for a meal.  His name is Kenny Salwey though more people know him as the Last River Rat.  I own a copy of every book he's written, each of them autographed by him and all of them purchased from that little bookshelf in the diner.

Until Sunday morning, I'd never met the man even though he feels like an old friend from long ago.

Image courtesy of Amazon

Dave and I were mostly finishing up our omelets when I saw a couple walk in, the man instantly known to me; his hat the giveaway though I'd have known him without it.  You should know that my heart started pounding and I suddenly couldn't wait to finish our coffees and get up from our table.

They had sat down only a table or so away from us and after begging their pardon, I looked both Kenny and his wife in the eye and said, "I want to thank you both for your books and to let you know how much I treasure them".  Kenny writes or co-writes, his wife often does the illustrations.

Kenny shook my hand, his eyes sparkling and told me how much it meant for him to hear that.  He right away wondered where I was from (a nearby River town) and when I told him, he nodded and it looked like he could instantly tell that I was someone, though in a different way, that felt the river as he does.

I never even told him my name and then apologized for interrupting their meal, leaving them to finish theirs.

The BBC filmed a documentary that played on The Discovery Channel about The Last of The River Rats.  I've not seen it but will someday.

If you're interested, here an Ames, Iowa newspaper columnist explains Kenny much better than I can.

Late Sunday, before falling asleep, I pulled out one of my very worn copies and read two chapters.  I fell asleep refreshed and renewed, almost always a cure for whatever might ail me.

The signed note in my book.......
May the Spirit of the River flow through you always.......The Last River Rat......Kenny Salwey


  1. Coop:

    You were so lucky to bump into him. I can't remember if I have ever bumped into anyone worth mentioning.

    You should have bought another book and have BOTH of them sign it in front of you with a personal greeting

    Riding the Wet Coast

    1. Bob,
      Too bad you weren't there to help me think more clearly. On that particular day, I don't think there were any books for sale, not sure why.

  2. Now that is cool to meet someone you so admire. I am sure you will treasure the meeting as much as the books.

    1. Trobairitz,
      I've seen him at the pumps filling up his old car and I've seen him once in the diner, but the place was packed, the wait staff almost too busy and others were speaking Kenny. On Sunday, nothing was going to make we leave and then wish I'd stopped by.

  3. Those are great moments, especially when you admire someone as much as you do this man. And you get points for taking time to acknowledge him and share your thoughts. He may have driven home thinking "This is what makes it all worthwhile".

    1. Martha,
      I think his wife said as much, both to Kenny and to me. He was a reluctant believer in sharing once upon a time, that is until he discovered that he had so much to share.

  4. That is awesome! Where can his books be purchased, or can they? I am very interested...

    Guys like him are living at what I call the "genuine" level. Deep down genuine.

    Thanks for posting this. I enjoyed reading about your encounter.

    1. I just ordered mine on Amazon!

    2. Deb,
      I'm excited that you were interested enough to order a copy. This one is my favorite and hope you find it a pleasure to read. I was born less than 1000' from the river and all my life there's been a bit of it flowing through my veins. Sounds like you may have a bit of the Ohio running through yours.

    3. Oh, yes. I have always lived along the Ohio River. I understand the connection to living the simple life, connected to nature and the land. I am eagerly looking forward to getting my book!