|Urness, Kayak In New Orleans|
Day 2 (4/29/14)
Over a year ago I had started blogging about Al Urness, an artist, adventurer and world traveler that I had happened upon by accident. Since we shared a last name and a love of art and kayaking I had decided to spend a little time in the winter looking into his life and adventures. I had gotten three installation in to it when I started to bog down and run out of information. I sent out emails to all the historical societies and museums along his route in hopes of perhaps finding some images of his art work or even more information on his trips. If the emails were answered at all they had little or no information. In some cases they had other avenues I could try but these too usually were dead ends. To my surprise since that time I have actually been contacted by three people who had encountered Al in his journeys that come across my blog. For this reason I am going to try a couple more installments. For anybody who did not read the earlier blogs, in 1952 Al Urness started on a journey, in a homemade kayak, up the Yellowstone River from Billings, Montana to the Missouri River and then down to the Mississippi and eventually to New Orleans. His original plan was to then install a sail and continue on to Florida. If you are interested you can go back to my January 8, 2013 “In Search of Al Urness” and the next two blogs for more information. In these blogs I got as far as his journey to Cairo, Illinois on the Mississippi where he stopped for the winter in 1954. On Feb 14th 1955 Urness takes off from Cairo and gets as far as Memphis, Tennessee before heavy flooding makes him hold up for a while to do some repairs and some paintings. It seems that he did this quite a bit and at one point painted a mural for the museum in St Josephs, Mo. I have tried unsuccessfully to get information from the museum on any mural he might have done. From this point my information gets even sketchier. I do know that in 1956 Al joins up with Captain Henry C Muirhead on a 46 foot sternwheeler “Gay Rosie Jane” designed and built by Muirhead to cruise the inland waters of the Gulf Coast. On this side trip he gets as far as Brownsville, Texas before resuming his journey. The next and last article I find on him from the, “Billings Gazette” Sept 2 1956, does confirm that he indeed does make it to New Orleans almost four years later.
Urness estimates he has covered 4,000 miles along the Yellowstone, Missouri and Mississippi rivers, although he by-passed some of the Yellowstone after initial troubles Included 21 spills. Outriggers, new paddle design and other innovations helped lessen the dunking’s. He has passed 95 cities in 112 days of actual travel. Most of his summers have been devoted to sketching marine, wildlife and other scenes, although he frequently paints a mural or portrait to finance expenses. He hopes to have a one-man show eventually of more than 300 oils of the trip.
I have never been able to find any information on whether Urness went on to Miami or not. From one of the people that I corresponded with I was led to believe that he didn't. I have still only found one of his paintings and I will have more on that in my next blog. As I said, I have heard from some people who have seen my blog that knew Al and I am waiting for some images and more information that they said they would be sending.