Andy at Mississippi River

Who could read Mark Twain’s Huck Finn or Life on the Mississippi and not dream of boating down the Mississippi? As ten and eleven year olds, my sister, brother and I were so inspired by these books that we determined to build a raft. Of course we would not be able to navigate the Mississippi River but thought we might try floating the nearby Shellrock River. We diligently scavenged the local landfill for Clorox jugs, or as we envisioned them, raft flotation devices. Our next step was to collect raft boards. No one was willing to part with new boards, so we had to settle for weathered castoffs. Progress was being made. After joining enough boards to form a raft, we tilted it on an angle so we could reinforce the underside and attach the Clorox jugs. Unfortunately, my sister slid down the raft and encountered a nasty splinter that embedded itself deep in her leg.  Minor surgery was needed to remove the splinter. Our father confiscated the splintery raft for reinforcing the well pit. Still, the dream of river travel persists…

Steamboat mooring CassvilleSteamboat travel has held an allure since its inception.  During the early 1800s, local newspapers announced the impending arrival or passing of steamboats. When its calliope was heard, folks would grab a picnic lunch and run to the riverbank to wait in anticipation of the boat rounding a curve in the river.

Steamboat viewing may no longer be an option, but the opportunity to share a picnic along a lovely stream or river may be equally enjoyable. What can be more soothing than listening to gently flowing water while lazing on a sun-warmed grassy hill or sitting on a flat rock being mesmerized by a lovely waterfall? Here’s to finding your perfect picnic spot!


The items on this menu are reminiscent of what might have been enjoyed along the banks of the Mississippi or Ohio Rivers or on the canal systems in Wisconsin and upper Illinois.

old fashioned picnic

Mississippi River picnic

Menu Suggestion

  • Salted radishes and green onions
  • Watermelon pickles
  • Oven fried chicken (can be made with gluten free all-occasion flour and dried gluten free bread crumbs or crushed corn flakes)
  • Corn bread in a frying pan (gluten-free option by using all-purpose gluten-free flour)
  • Green tomato pie

 Watermelon Pickles Recipe 

watermelon pickles

watermelon pickles

  •  Rind of one watermelon (approximately 4 cups if small melon is used)
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 ½ cups white sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 lemons thinly sliced
  • 1 orange thinly sliced

Brine: 2 Tablespoons salt dissolved in 1 quart water

Slice washed melon. Remove the pink portion, dice and enjoy before proceeding with pickle making. Peel the outer dark green rind off watermelon and remove any remaining pink portion. Dice rind into 1 ½ inch chunks and add chunks to brine. Refrigerate watermelon rinds in the refrigerator overnight. Drain the brine, rinse the rind thoroughly, and drain.

Mix the sugar, water, vinegar and spices in a large kettle and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the rind and continue to simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until all the rind is semi-transparent.

With a slotted spoon, place now-pickled rinds in three hot sterilized pint jars. Pour the hot pickling juice over pickles until they are covered. Seal with jar lids and rings. When the jars have cooled, refrigerate.    Yields 3 pints