The stories that became Paddling South, Winnipeg to New Orleans by Canoe stem from a voyage a high school friend and I took in the fall of 1969. Although there was a forty year wait between voyage and publication, the book retains its accuracy because both John Van Landeghem and I kept separate journals.
While I was writing the book John lent me his diary so I was able to refer to both accounts. After forty years it was a revelation to see what John actually thought of the trip and me, so much so that at one point I phoned John in Edmonton and said:
“You didn’t like me much did you.”
Personal faults aside this was an amazing adventure in the Mark Twain tradition. This was not so much a man against nature saga, although there was that element, the trip was just two kids on an adventure. And it was an adventure.
We couldn’t find a place to camp so we spent three nights in The Fargo City Jail as guests of the Fargo Police.
“But you gotta be out by Thursday. We need the space. Thursdays is when we start getting our regulars.”
While on the Mississippi we almost sank a half a dozen times, we almost got swamped by a ship, a barge, waves, you name it. Getting almost killed was a daily event.
We met a collection of characters; from the merely odd to the melancholy and to the downright dangerous. It was as if Samuel Clements was writing our itinerary.
Paddling South was nominated as The Best Non Fiction Book by a Manitoba Author 2008.
And despite our disputes John and I remained friends. Hell I was his Best Man at his wedding.
“Ranson is a natural, some might say a compulsive story teller. Like a 60’s era Huck Finn, he takes readers on a trip that is at once telling, and smile inducing naive. Get in, grab a paddle, and enjoy the ride.” – Review by Colin Friesen Screenwriter ‘The Big White’ starring Robin Williams, Holly Hunter, Woody Harrelson.
“His story is incredibly intriguing & entertaining, filled with plenty of entertaining characters. A solid and hilarious story about two friends right out of high school, “Paddling South.” It’s one of the most entertaining memoirs one can find.” – Midwest Book Review.