Hastings Star Gazette: California artist in shantyboat stops in Hastings during Mississippi River tour

Hastings Star Gazette/Pierce County Herald
by Chad Richardson

Wes Modes and Kai Dalgleish are pictured inside their shantyboat while moored at the Hastings public dock on Thursday, July 31. Star Gazette photo by Chad Richardson

It’s not uncommon to see boats moored on the public dock in Hastings. There’s not much common about the boat that Wes Modes and Kai Dalgleish are traveling in, though.

Their unique boat, which was parked in Hastings on July 30 and July 31, drew all kinds of gawkers to the Mississippi River waterfront. Inside, Modes and Dalgleish did their best to answer the questions that came their way all morning long Thursday.

Modes is an artist from California who is traveling down the river and interviewing people along the way as part of a project called Secret History. Dalgleish, an ecologist, is along to help out. Hazel the dog is also along for the ride.

After they left Hastings, they planned to stop in Prescott and then press on toward Red Wing.

The pair figures they’ll likely be able to get about as far as the Quad Cities near Davenport, Iowa.

“We don’t have a destination,” Modes said. “We just have some time and an ongoing project.”

About three more weeks remain for the voyage.

The project

Modes is a Master of Fine Arts student at the University of California, Santa Cruz and is working on a project called Secret History. It’s an archive of stories relating to the river and the people who use it and live along it.

While in Hastings, Modes planned to interview a local woman who has kayaked the river from Lake Itasca to New Orleans. He is filming the interviews and posting photos and videos online so that they can be viewed and shared by those interested and other researchers.

Their progress can be charted online at http://peoplesriverhistory.us/ or on Twitter at @wmodes.

Much of the project has been funded through a Kickstarter campaign. The pair has also done everything they can to keep expenses down. The boat was cobbled together using discarded or salvaged material. Much of the wood in the structure comes from an old chicken coop that they found falling apart at a farm. A friend donated the motor and the decks on the bow and the stern are made from an old fence.

Rough patches and smooth patches

The trip hasn’t exactly gone smoothly. Their truck broke down as they were leaving California, then it broke down again in Salt Lake City, Utah. They eventually found a new one and managed to get to Minneapolis.

While there have been some bumps, the journey has been filled, they said, with several kind gestures already. Friends they had just met in Minneapolis and St. Paul threw them a going-away party, Modes said. Another gave up a fish he had just caught.

Then, after staying in Hastings overnight on July 30, they awoke at about 5 a.m. on July 31 to the sound of someone outside their boat. That someone stole one of their five-gallon gas cans and left.

By the time the two left, though, a Hastings resident delivered a new gas can to them.


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