Earth Quotes: Roderick Haig-Brown’s ‘A River Never Sleeps’

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Prolific fishing author Roderick Haig-Brown was a conservation pioneer, spending much of his life in Campbell River, B.C. (Courtesy Museum at Campbell River)

Why should we all speak up to restore our river’s natural habitat in the face of redevelopment plans that put everything but the endangered southern steelhead  first?

Perhaps, because of the recent shrinkage of two treasured national monuments, despite an outcry by millions of concerned outdoorsmen (and women). For an eye-opening read, check out What Would Theodore Roosevelt Do?IMG_1028

Perhaps, because of goverment-mandated cutting of the two most important words of this century — “climate change” — from documents produced by the beleaguered Environmental Protection Agency and other federal authorities.

Perhaps, because of the devastating climate-fueled conflagration we all recently witnessed here in our own city, to our north, to our south and to thousands of acres all over California.

Or, perhaps, because it is simply the right thing to do.

When does the misuse of what we’ve been freely given end? A former wild river now encased in concrete is as good a place as any to take a stand. Today, when I wade the soft-bottomed sections that remain, fly rod in hand, birds overhead, I feel that fragile sense of hope return. Hope begins as a small thing, like a faint cry you can’t quite make out. But, given time, and especially nurtured by like minds and hearts, it grows and spreads. Hope becomes a powerful force.

In these depressing times, we all need sources of inspiration to nurture that hope.

Consider the 1946 masterpiece, “A River Never Sleeps.” Its author Roderick Haig-Brown lays out his best-known book’s chapters by months. January is reserved for steelhead.

The English Haig-Brown included in this chapter drawn from his experiences in a logging camp in Mount Vernon, Washington, his praise for American openness to immigrants because we are a nation of immigrants:

“When I had been in camp only a week or two, a little old Irishman whom we called Frank Skagway showed me the strength and passion with which America grips her immigrants. In the bunkhouse one evening a few of us were talking of Europe and America and the differences of the life of the two continents.

Probably I said my say for Old England — I don’t remember now — but being only two or three months away from her, I must have. Frank had been listening without offering a word, but suddenly he looked over at me, his lined and long-jawed Irish face serious as I had never seen it.

‘Lad,’ he asked, ‘do you know what country this is?’

‘No,’ I said doubtfully.

‘It’s the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ “

See you on the river, Jim Burns

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