OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 2005, I set out on a punk rafting journey, driving cross-country to Omaha, Nebraska, building a raft out of found and scavenged materials and floating for a week, Huck Finn-style, on one of the largest fastest rivers on the continent, the Missouri River. We barely lived to tell the tale, and so year after year, we took longer and longer adventures, floating many major American rivers on completely ridiculous homemade rafts. After that first single raft trip, we invited others, launching with whole punk raft flotillas. IMG_1570 It changed the way we saw the world, opening us up to new possibilities.

We were doing something extraordinary not just for our unusual crafts, but for our use of the river itself. The towns had turned away from the river, sometimes creeping miles from their origins. For those places where the river still cut through the center of town, access to these rivers was often cordoned and restricted, or at the very least unseen and inaccessible. These overlooked waterways, so forgotten that the people who lived in the towns from which we launched often argued with us about where the river went, where it came from, whether it was navigable or safe, and even what direction it flowed. 073 - rafting at night in lantern light In spring 2012, I began building a homemade shantyboat — that is, a rustic houseboat — from scratch, recording every step in the build process with digital photography and narrative, presenting the chronicle in a Shantyboat build blog.

Wes Modes' homemade shantyboat, 2014

Wes Modes’ homemade shantyboat, 2014

Because of my Shantyboat Blog, in 2013 I was approached by a New York production company in pre-production for a reality television show centered around people living and adventuring in homemade boats. They were interested in the possibility of mine being one of the principle stories that they developed on the show. (One working title I overheard was clearly going for the rugged manly demographic: I assured them that “Shantyboat Men” was likely to turn off at last half their potential audience including my talented and tough female associates who were better boats-persons than myself). This DIY voyage, filled with meaningful and honest stories is my answer to the entertainment worlds of New York and Los Angeles. 2006 Punk Rafting 132

2 comments for “Beginnings

  1. June 17, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Joni Mitchell

    I picked the morning paper off the floor
    It was filled with other people’s little wars
    Wouldn’t they like their peace, don’t we get bored
    So we call for the three great stimulants, of the exhausted ones:
    Artifice, brutality and innocence……
    Last night I dreamed I saw the planet flicker
    Great forest fell like buffalo, everything got sicker
    And to the bitter end, big business bickered
    And called for the three great stimulants……

  2. cody hildebrandt
    December 17, 2014 at 5:34 am

    This awesome, beautiful thing you guys have done is inspiring to me, personally. I grew up on the st. joeseph river in a lil town, called st. joe, indiana. Its a small river, but as kids, me and a few other boys at our age, did our research, figured out a river system, if you will, to reach the ohio river system. Ultimately reaching the mississippi river. Im only 29 years young and spent whole summers living down by the river. Not because i didnt have anywhere else to go, but because thats where i wanted to be. This way of life you guys have done your research on has peaked my interest to further chase my childhood dream and for that, i thank you from my inner most being. Thank you very much

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