By Justin Florey

June 7, 2021


The Army Corp of Engineers lowered the water level of the Mississippi River below St. Anthony Falls so they could inspect the locks. My wife took the kids down there at my suggestion. Children frolicked in areas where, in any other circumstance, they would surely drown.

They discovered abandoned rental scooters, junked bicycles, a few fishing lures, and some rail spikes from those lost days when actual trains rumbled over the Stone Arch Bridge. I missed out, but I’m glad they got to explore this facet of the river’s mystery—its ordinarily concealed snags and catfish hangouts. My eldest son took one souvenir home, an iron shovel blade worn thin and pocked with holes by the river’s current.

My mother collects old, rusted things like that. I took a picture before my son drew his graffiti tag on it with paint markers. He might be the next Jean-Michel Basquiat or he might not. I will keep the shovel after he tires of it just in case.

Whatever ore we rob from this Earth gets reclaimed one way or another. This blade the river takes, unless the cycle is interrupted by a boy, with iron in his own blood, who wants it for himself.


Justin Florey grew up in South Dakota and has worked as a letter carrier in Minneapolis for the last fourteen years. His memoir, "City of Crows," was named a 2017 Many Voices Project finalist by New Rivers Press. His creative nonfiction has appeared in Atticus Review, Beach Reads: Lost and Found, Gray's Sporting Journal, High Plains Register, Junto Magazine, and Nowhere Magazine. More of his writing can be discovered at


Picture courtesy of Dreamstime


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