Saluki Marooned by Robert P. Rickman

Southern Illinois: Quiet, Bucolic…Treacherous!

Garden of the Gods, Shawnee National Forest. Courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism.

It's beautiful country isn't it?  Gently rolling hills, cliffs, forests, swamps, rivers and farms define southern Illinois.  Looking at the above photo of the Garden of the Gods, one would find it hard to believe that the most violent earthquake in the history of the lower 48 states, shook those rocks more than two-hundred years ago.

In the following excerpt from Saluki Marooned, Marta a hippie student, is sitting across from fellow student Peter Federson, and  gazing out of the dining room window of Lentz Hall towards the dam on Campus Lake at Southern Illinois University.  It's the Spring of 1971.

The 1811-12 New Madrid earthquake changed the course of the Mississippi river. From a woodcut.


"―Think about it, brother, one of the worst earthquakes in US history was right here in 1811," said Marta.




"In 1925, a mile-wide tornado crossed both the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. The thing was on the ground for three and half hours and moved at an average speed of 65 miles an hour. 300 mile-per-hour winds destroyed 20,000 homes and killed nearly 700 people in three states, including 260 people in Murphysboro. Hell, all told, 2000 people were reported missing—2000 people! It was an F-5, a once-in-a-thousand-years occurrence, the worst tornado in history…shit!"

"But what do those disasters have to do with anything?” asked Peter.

"Power, incredible power, has been released in this region from time to time!"


"This power does something to the people who live here: blood feuds in Williamson County, the Herrin Massacre of 1922...

...and the spring riot season in Carbondale."





"There is some sort of raw energy here in Southern Illinois that lies latent for years, then–

BOOM! explosion in the New Orient Mine or, BOOM! 

Old Main is torched...

Old Main on the SIUC campus burned nearly 40 years ago, and the case remains unsolved. (The Southern File Photo)









Survivors in the wake of the tornado that hit Murphysboro, Il. in 1957




the 1957 Murphysboro tornado, or...






General John A. Logan persuaded the secessionists not to leave the union.


Williamson County attempts to secede from the union...




"Okay, I get the idea," said Peter.

"Think about it, man! Have you ever wondered how SIU became one of the 25 largest universities in the country when it‘s located in the middle of a bunch of cornfields and woods? Then there are those UFO sightings, the Big Muddy Monster, the Hundley House murders, and reports of people disappearing into thin air, most of it probably bogus, but still—"

"And added to it, the Federson time warp," Pete chimed in."

"That‘s what I mean. Maybe somehow, some of that power passed through you."

Marta lazily tilted up her watch so she could read it. Then she performed what came to be called the Marta Leap. She jumped from the table with an expletive and loped out of the cafeteria, leaving Peter to eat his tapioca pudding with thoughts of time travel, earthquakes, tornadoes, and mine explosions churning in his head.

And in Recent Times:

In May of 2009, an inland hurricane, or  derecho, destroyed most of the trees on the left side of this path over the earthen dam at Campus Lake. .

The inland hurricane was one of many fantastic events that have occurred in Southern Illinois over the centuries


During  the summer of 2017


Magnitude 3.8 earthquake
7 miles from Albion, Illinois · Sep 19, 6:47 AM


More on


Anything can happen in southern Illinois, and in Saluki Marooned, it does.

Marta and Peter were sitting at a table in Lentz Hall, located at Thompson Point on Campus Lake.






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