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Showing posts from May, 2009


Just down river from here, there was a horseshoe structure of waterfalls where American Indians fished for over ten thousand years, establishing a trade center that stretched from Alaska to California.

By the time Lewis and Clark sailed through here in dugout canoes, vast Indian populations had already been decimated by European diseases. If it wasn’t the end of the world, it was, at the very least, the end to their world.

The sound of the falls was silenced by 1957 with the completion of The Dalles Dam. The water backed-up and rose and changed the shoreline of this island. The river itself became an artificial sequence of controlled lakes, put to work turning turbines and diverted into the desert to grow crops.

Today, windmills creep westward down the sides of the gorge, even as far as this island. Time can be told not only by the position of the sun or moon, but by the regular passage of rumbling freight trains.

But the passage of time is still marked here by the passing of the seas…


My friends who hunt with bows and arrows sometimes speak almost in poetic terms about the contest of wits between their ‘game’ and them. Unfortunately, a time honored tradition among hunters states that, “What happens in Elk Camp stays in Elk Camp” (unless Cousin Joe starts drinking too much and starts blabbing), so I’m a little sketchy on all the details. It is hard to imagine that bringing human weapons technology (state of the art carbon fiber compound bows, GPS positioning devices, two-way radios, house-size 4-wheel drive pickups and generous aliquots of ‘synthetic?’ elk urine) to bear on grazing herbivores can be considered a fair contest.

However, once, while in my canoe, I surprised a herd of elk coming to get water at the side of a lake and I’m pretty sure I caught the members of that highly organized gang “talking” to each other. The elk sentries, who hadn’t expected a threat to appear from the water, bugled a short series of commands in an efficient battle language, and sudd…