The Army Corp of Engineers lowered the water level of the Mississippi 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, junk bicycles, a few lures, and some rail spikes from those lost days when 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 oldest son took one souvenir home—an iron shovel blade worn thin and pocked with holes by the Mississippi’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.

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