PASS THE PADDLE: Mississippi Dreamin’ Come Hell or High Water

Gerald Schumm will be at the Aitkin Library to discuss his book PASS THE PADDLE: Mississippi Dreamin’ Come Hell or High Water.

Nineteen years ago, the Aitkin Independent Age covered the Mississippi River adventure of a Florida pastor as he passed through Aitkin on his trip down the entire river.

On Tuesday, Sept. 3, Jerry Schumm and his wife, Jeanne, will be in Aitkin to share his experiences and reveal the book, PASS THE PADDLE: Mississippi Dreamin’ Come Hell or High Water. The public is invited to the event at noon at the Aitkin Public Library. Books will be available to be signed and Friends of the Library will provide refreshments. (Those who miss this event can catch the Schumms at the Brainerd Public Library at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 4.)

Schumm had talked about paddling the entire river when he was but a Boy Scout. Many years later, he was granted a three-month sabbatical leave from Coral Gables Congregational Church in Miami where he worked in youth ministry. That’s when he began to prepare for this journey. The planning took him one year, nine months.  

The trip began in August 2000 at Lake Itasca. It took 113 days and covered 2,205 miles of Mississippi. The trip was divided into 21 segments ranging in distance from less than 30 miles to more than 200 miles.  It ended in New Orleans in December 2000.

Authors Gerald “Jerry” E. Schumm, Jr., John Maybin DeFraites, Jr., and Jeanne Shay Schumm said the book is relevant for outdoor adventurers, young and old, planning an extended excursion.

The book is Schumm’s (aka The Paddlin’ Pastor) memoir of his journey down the Mississippi River. It is the story of how his life-long dream to canoe the length of the river became a reality. It was an excursion like no other. Jerry never paddled alone. Friends and family members signed up to journey sections of the river. A ceremonial paddle was passed from one canoeist to the next – a giant relay.

For fellow adventurers, the book provides a day-by-day documentation of the Mississippi River voyage from the headwaters at Lake Itasca to New Orleans. It also is the story of family, friendship, spirituality, and the goodness of folks met along the way.

“I was not particularly concerned about how my trip might be exceptional,” said Schumm. “Some have paddled to break a record of distance or time. Some have paddled for a spiritual awakening, to transition from a traumatic life experience such as the death of a loved one or divorce, or to raise awareness for a particular cause or issue. My motivation was simple – having the chance to fulfill a life-long dream.

Through this memoir, readers will learn the importance of building relationships, dreaming big and planning meticulously, and having the personal persistence and support from community to overcome inevitable hurdles.

The book is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Rev. Dr. Gerald E. Schumm, Jr. is a retired United Church of Christ minister and Dade County public school social studies teacher. Jerry and his wife Jeanne (now married 50 years) have always had the bug for travel adventures. This has included many trips abroad and setting foot in all 50 states. Jerry is most comfortable in the out-of -doors, e.g., canoeing, sailing, boating fishing, camping, golfing or simply working in the yard. John Maybin DeFraites, Jr. is a geospatial information manager for the city of New Orleans. He is a skilled “map maker” who studied both landscape architecture and urban planning. John is married to the Schumm’s daughter, Jamie, and father of grandchildren Jack and Sophia. Dr. Jeanne Shay Schumm is professor emerita from the University of Miami. Jeanne tells her grandchildren she had the best job in the world – as a professor she got paid to learn. She is the author of multiple textbooks, books and articles based on her research on struggling readers.

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