Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cecil the Lion

Cecil, I'm heartbroken.
The world weeps for you.
When tragedy arrives, the musician turns to rhythm, the writer turns to words and the poet turns to rhyme. I wish I were a musician or a poet right now to be able to use my talent to express my deep sadness at the senseless killing of this majestic animal. An ode would be appropriate, but all I could come up with was a couplet.
Cecil, I'm heartbroken.
The world weeps for you.
I'm not going to add my words to the online rant against the man who killed him. Plenty others have accomplished that. Instead I want to address this to the guides behind this cowardly act and to those who are in the guiding business.
Since I began the fly fishermen project, I was introduced to a whole new subculture, the hunters and fishers of the southern Appalachians. The men I met and wrote about were outdoorsmen who found solace and comfort in roaming the backwoods. They are the very ones who recognized the need to preserve what they love most, nature. They organized. They advocated. They pushed legislation and they supported the laws that were designed to defend the forests and the animals that are dear to their hearts.
The guides they spoke of were equally passionate in the love of the outdoors, whether leading hunts for elk in Colorado, for the elusive trout in Tasmania, or for the hidden, known to no one but themselves, fishing holes in the depths of the cloud shrouded Smoky Mountains. I have confidence that they are trustworthy caretakers of what has been handed to them. I have to have that confidence, because, if they aren't the trustworthy caretakers who follow professional ethics, there will be more Cecils in the future.
Cecil, I'm heartbroken.
The world weeps for you.
Integrity counts, even in the backwoods.
Catch of the day,

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Visit to Charleston

Last week I posted about my plans to travel to Charleston, SC.

Been there.

Done that.

We stayed at the Hilton Embassy Suites, downtown on Marion Square, the original barracks for the Citadel Cadets. It's luxurious now, so I had to stretch my imagination to picture life as a cadet a century and a half ago.

The good thing about staying downtown, everything is right there, and if it isn't, it's a free trolley car ride away. That "everything" includes Mother Emanuel AME Church that was in the block off Marion Square on Calhoun Street, the scene of last month's tragic shooting. We visited it twice since the walk was only down the block and across the street. Both times we were greeted by church members. And tourists. And flowers. And signs. And police barricades.

I can't even begin to tell you my emotions.

One word kept running through my mind. Senseless. There is no explaining a senseless act.

And this week it's Chattanooga's turn for yet another senseless act. One of the men killed there was from Burke County, NC, the location of my Lessons Learned book. My heart breaks.

This time Peter Seeger's song from the war torn sixties ran through my mind.

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Gone to graveyards everyone.
When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

Catch of the day,


Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Confederate Flag

I'm heading to Charleston soon, Charleston, South Carolina, for a quick visit with my cousin and her husband as they tour the city. Since our son went to school there, graduated from The Citadel in 1998, we know the places of interest enough to be guides. Well, at least we know the can't-miss restaurants that serve shrimp and grits and other low country cuisine with fried fish and hushpuppies. Yum. They are in for a culinary treat.

But I wonder how different Charleston is today from the almost twenty years ago when we first dropped our son off at his barracks for his "knob" week. Or how different Charleston is today from a month ago, before the horrific shootings. More than that, how different Charleston is today from yesterday morning.

Yesterday the Confederate flag flew on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol.

Today it doesn't.

The flag is a symbol I am just now realizing.  I have no ancestral connection to it, being born in Pennsylvania to northern parents whose ancestors, I'm sure, fought against that very flag. We moved south when I was five years old and my mother tried her best to fit our family into the culture.

But, contrary to what many may think, that never included the Confederate flag. Never. I saw it rarely, if at all, during my early years. It's just not part of my past. These were the years before color TV and cable news channels and social media. We were busy growing up southern and learning to duck under desks in air raid drills and protesting the Viet Nam War and riding in buses that passed by black children standing on the side of the road, waiting for their buses to carry them to their separate schools.

The graveyard at the church I attend is the final resting place for soldiers from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, on up through Viet Nam. On Veteran's Day every year the cemetery committee places flags on every veteran's grave. American flags. Every veteran.

As I researched the Pilot Mountain School story, I ran across a newspaper article from the early fifties. The Daughters of the Confederacy had donated a Confederate flag to every school in the county. So in my interviews, I asked, "Do you remember seeing the Confederate flag at the school?" To a person, the answer was "No."

In fifty years, when an author interviews people who were the children of today and asks that same question, to a person, the answer will be "No."

My heritage and faith is to look to scripture for guidance and in the first letter of Corinthians, chapter 8, verse 13, Paul writes, "So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live, for I don't want to cause another believer to stumble." That verse on not offending others could be paraphrased to fit this situation as well, "So if what I fly causes another believer to sin, I will never fly this again as long as I live." 

Powerful words.

Catch of the day,