9/08/2010

Nahalem Local Color

 A logging road often becomes the one and only artery to a piece of water that you know more than likely will bring you the biggest dividends. The repeated likelihood of siltation at certain times of the year create a gnawing anxiousness that is magnified when you look down on both sides of your truck and cannot see the dirt or gravel. Nahalem County Oregon holds many secrets or at least did when I lived there. Black bears unfortunately haunted the same woods I lurked quietly around in looking for coastal cutthroats. Some evenings my legs could not move fast enough when a nearby tree started shaking which is always terrifying to me.

It was on cool calm early evening that I was working my way back upstream in the Cascades. Earlier the same day I had seen a mountain goat dead on the side of the stream, maybe only a few days old. Hours later the carcass was gone when I came up on the same spot. I dismissed it for all of about ten seconds when across the river a medium sized Douglas fir started shaking like a molested houseplant. My boots were moving before my upper half was...cartoon-like. The clattering of my boots were noisy and awkward because I had just screwed in new sheet metal screws into the heels, and because the front screws had been worn down almost completely I was losing grip as I lunged from boulder to boulder. I did not dare look back until I was fifty or so yards away, when I eventually looked back there was a very emaciated mangy looking black bear probably about 400 or so pounds standing in the middle of the river. Many people do not realize these animals are not so cuddly looking when they happen upon them. They often smell really foul. I felt like a kind of human glazed doughnut that day in the eyes and nose of that bear. I was covered in fish slime after being out there for over eleven hours and smelled pretty rank with sweat. I’m sure he was a bit preoccupied with the goat but I was so scared I lost a box of flies that must have worked its way out of my vest. I have scared up coons, turkeys, pigs, and even hunters, but the sight of that tree shaking made the hair on the backof my head stand up.

Nahalem County locals are used to seeing elk and bears lurking about in the streets and trash bins. Sometimes when I woke up early in my little studio on the top floor of the Manzanita News Coffee House I would see elk towering over vehicles and hear the clacking of their hoofs down near the carport. These animals really were part of the local charm. I was walking to the video store one evening and took a quick detour down a side street because an elk was standing in the middle of the alley. The sheer mass of these animals are an intimidating sight. Armed only with a tattered copy of The Dirty Dozen video did not make me exactly a hostile looking contender. In my little world these animals were the neighborhood bully’s. I suppose this is Mother Natures way telling me “it’s your turn fish boy” after seemingly molesting countless cutthroat, and returning them to the river. Although molesting is a bit heavy handed, I like to think of it as an elaborate game of “tag... your it”. I miss my old neighbors dearly as well as my routine Cutthroat fishing.
~Clint