In 1933, Clarence Jonk, full of youthful naivete and an urge for adventure, decided to build a houseboat from scrap materials and float it the length of the Mississippi River. In the tradition of Huckleberry Finn and Henry David Thoreau, Jonk recounts a first-person tale of high adventure complete with wry and lyrical observations on life, love, and nature that capture the beauty and harshness of existence along the Mississippi River. Hoping to live rent free on a St Paul lake in hard times, Jonk, a carefree college student and would-be poet, cobbled together his own houseboat from empty oil drums, scrap lumber, and two old Model T engines. Then, evicted by the local authorities, Jonk hauled his rudderless craft through city traffic to the Mississippi and boldly set out from Minneapolis bound for New Orleans in the chill month of October and into the teeth of an early winter. Accompanied at times by his sweetheart, friends, and a dog, Jonk fell overboard, was almost capsized by a blizzard, encountered hostile moonshiners, and fled angry farmers while scrounging for provisions on shore.
Inexperience, hasty plans, and little cash made the journey a harrowing yet entertaining one as the boat reached La Crosse, Wisconsin, before being locked perilously in shifting ice for the winter. RIVER JOURNEY is as much a portrait of a now-vanished era as it is about a free-spirited man's attempt to find escape from mundane responsibility during the Great Depression. It is a story that begins in delight and ends in wisdom.