their shoulders the job of making the Mississippi over again--
a job transcended in size by only the original job of creating it.
They are building wing-dams here and there, to deflect the current;
and dikes to confine it in narrower bounds; and other dikes to make
it stay there; and for unnumbered miles along the Mississippi,
they are felling the timber-front for fifty yards back,
with the purpose of shaving the bank down to low-water mark
with the slant of a house roof, and ballasting it with stones;
and in many places they have protected the wasting shores with rows
of piles. One who knows the Mississippi will promptly aver--
not aloud, but to himself--that ten thousand River Commissions,
with the mines of the world at their back, cannot tame that
lawless stream, cannot curb it or confine it, cannot say to it,
Go here, or Go there, and make it obey; cannot save a shore
which it has sentenced; cannot bar its path with an obstruction
which it will not tear down, dance over, and laugh at.
Mark Twain writing in Life on the Mississippi in 1883.