Early in the Civil War, western Virginia was the hot spot in the east. No matter the division already in place between old Virginia and the Virginia beyond the mountains, there was war. The many stories that relate West Virginian verses West Virginian during that war further cement the American Civil War as cruel, devastating and sometimes meaningless. Organized warfare gave way to guerrilla tactics or just plain murder as early as 1862. It might not be too much to say that old family rivalries were settled under the black cloak of war. Warfare by commissioned soldiers usually consisted of ambushes, small raids or robbery.
In March of 1864, Confederate cavalry of Col. John Imboden's command had spent some time in Barbour County trying to harass Federal wagon trains. On their way back to the South Branch valley, thirteen men robbed David Wheeler's store in the Holly Meadows. Wheeler's was a popular target of the Confederate cavalry. They were pursued up Shaver's Fork and Dry Fork by Capt. Nathaniel Lambert and his Union cavalry from Tucker County. Ten of the Confederates were over taken by 53 of Lambert's men at the Sinks of Gandy. The men were sleeping by a campfire at the time of the attack. One man, Oliver Triplett was killed instantly. Eight men ran into the thick woods and made good their escape in spite of some leaving there boots near the fire. Two men fell wounded and thought dead. Two men, fearing such a night ambush, spent the night about a half mile away. Hearing the gunfire, they escaped also. Another man, named Weese, spent the night at the home of a Mr. Teter. Weese was captured the next day at Teter's home. Teter was arrested also, but released when it was determined that he was not a soldier. Weese spent the rest of the war in Camp Chase Prison in Ohio. Anthony Triplett and Lorenzo Adams were the wounded men thought to be dead. While trying to remove their boots, the Union men discovered life in the two men. They were clubbed with gun stocks until they showed no more signs of life. After the Tucker cavalry left, Adams tried to walk, but fell into the fire. On top of his wounds, he was burned badly. The same Mr. Teter found the two men the next day and took them to his house. In spite of being burned, clubbed and shot 18 times, Adams recovered in time, as did Triplett. The men in either command were mostly Randolph-Tucker natives.
A botched Indian raid on St. George resulted in the death of the namesake of the mountain and stream we know so well. Peter Shaver was a German immigrant, Revolutionary War soldier and credited with being the first settler in the rich and wide Tygart Valley. He settled there in 1772. He also kept a cabin near Collett Gap, north of the ghost lumber town of Gandy. This cabin was a hunting camp and hideout from the Indians. Shawnees from Ohio would raid the settlements west of the Alleghenies with regularity. The fore mentioned raid on St. George resulted in the Tygart Valley massacre of April 10, 1781. Every settlement in the valley between present day Elkins and Huttonsville was destroyed. The settlers were either killed or driven east to safety. Just a few years after Randolph County was formed, the entire population was gone. Many fled to the safety of Fort Westfall, now Beverly. Most were killed within sight of the safety of the walls. One was a woman named Baker, ironically enough, who refused to leave her house while she was baking some corn pone. Peter Shaver, his wife and his brother were not at their cabin on Shaver's Run, near Valley Bend, at the time of the raid. They were visiting east. Returning that day Shaver rode ahead, always aware that Indians could be in the area. His wife and Brother caught up with him in time. He was found mutilated. His scalped and bloody body was laying across the path leading home. He is buried at his outpost cabin site near Collett Gap.
Ah, the wild grape! Food for turkey, grouse, many other birds and wildlife, the wild grape in West Virginia consists of eight species, any combination of them found statewide. Most of the time, all we see is the lower vine. The foliage and fruit are out of sight in the forest canopy. I know of one vine that is easily 24 inches in diameter at the base. This vine winds and twists among at least one hundred trees or more. This grapevine is just one of the dozens of botanical marvels around our mountains that have graced themselves to all of us.
Grapevines also have another use. This use has a long history. Some of this history might come from the readers themselves. Who hasn't cut a grapevine and done some grapevine swangin'?
The use of grapevines as recreation usually starts with swinging on flat ground. In the primitive stages, running hard, swangin' aloft in a short arc for fifteen feet or so and yelling like Tarzan was enough. When our voices changed, so did the swangin' stakes. We discovered we could swing over creeks. We had our fair share of soakings. Sometimes the grip on the vine was not right or sometimes the vine would give out. Give outs usually happened mid-stream. The resulting fall, arms and legs flapping, was only funny to the one on the bank. Slow, smooth slide-ins were funny, too. They always provided a shower of branches of odd and every sort of weight.
As the years went on, vines became more of a science as we figured out ways to overcome give outs over water. We even had names for some of them. The knee tuck, the kicker and hand over hand scramble we basic moves. When air borne over the water began to tire, we moved on to height and distance. That meant moving from the creek to the mountainside. You had to find the choice vine and the steeper the mountainside, the better. There are two reasons for that. On really steep slopes, trees can be sparse. Still a forest, but thin. Even better, on the steeper hills you could run down the hill, swing out and be fifty to sixty feet above the ground at apogee. Re-entry was often times sloppy, but most of the time you could lead with your feet to come home safely. Give outs were not much of a problem. You just landed somewhere downhill.
There were some dream vines. One on Pheasant Mountain and one above a brookie creek.Everything was right about those two vines-- steep hill, open forest, long vine. Pheasant Mountain was just a one day affair, but the brookie vine lasted for several months before giving out. I'd be lying if I could really tell you how high off the ground those vines' rides were.Oh, the things we did for fun.
In desperate times, one must draw upon experience. When we left our camp and drove to another stream for a day trip, we knew it was going to rain. We just didn't know how much. Hobbs and I got a few hours of holler fishin' in before the skies opened up. By the time we go to the truck, the creek came up a good foot, it was still raining and we were soaked. The heat blasted in the truck and windshield wipers flapped on the way back to camp. There was no conversation.
Getting back to camp would not be easy. We pulled into the wide spot in the road along our creek. It was flying-- bank to bank. Our camp was secure, with plenty of dry wood under cover. We were sure of that. The problem was we were on the wrong side of the creek. On the other side of the stream was a rock face that ran about a quarter mile upstream, kissing the stream the whole way. On our side of the stream, the old railroad grade ran along the right bank and crossed the creek, so to speak, just after the rock face petered out on the other bank. We were camped just above the old crossing and just upstream from the rock face.
Hobbs scratched his head, "Well, let's go up and have a look."
"It is very nice in here, Besides it is still raining."
So we waited a while and the rain let up enough for my taste. We changed into dry clothes and headed back to camp, if possible. We left the rods in the truck, but took the wading gear. We also knew what we would see before we left the truck. Over yonder was our food, warm sleeping bags, cooler and other important things. Between yonder and here was a raging mountain torrent, unfishable, looking very sinister, and not wadeable. For several long minutes,it might have been the Blackwater Canyon.
Chelsea ran upstream on the high bank for several hundred yards, jumped into the flood and reached shore as close to camp as a surveyor. As the sun broke through, she shook off, sending thousands of sparkling diamonds into the forest. Then she sat down and waited for her cook and driver. The ol' girl looked like she had done it all before.
"Looks like we have to cross now."
"That's some dog you have there! She showed up the way to cross! You first."
"She beats everything,' Hobbs said as he leaned against a hemlock tree. A grapevine tapped the bill of his hat. Hobbs spun around, holding the vine like a big pepperoni and shouted, "HERE is the other side!"
The creek still looked like the Canyon, but it was the only choice short of a long, cold swim or a drowning. While we skillfully measured our cut, pulled on the vine, put both of our weights on it and otherwise tested our transportation, Chelsea had fallen asleep on my sleeping bag. Our tests looked good. Tests in the lab do not always match the results in the field. But, being veterans of many a swangin', we were confident of our results.
"I'll go first", Hobbs volunteered.
" She's your dog, but..."
In a mighty run, Hobbs took off screaming, "You're the cooooookkkkk!"
For a split second, his swing looked good. I couldn't see, but I'll bet his eyes were, at least, as big as mine. Ten feet into his swing, the vine gave out about four feet. Hobbs performed a perfect knee tuck. In fact, it might have been the first full all body tuck in swangin' history. His feet were high in the air. It was a wonder to watch. As graceful as his move was, for about six feet, just about one inch of his butt grazed the water. Not only was he on the other side, but he had a witness.
I elected the downstream leg kick move, since the vine had already given out. Instead of swinging straight across, I ran downstream and hoped for a wide arc on the now longer vine. All that worked well until near the end of the swing when I was horizontal and looking down on the stream. When the vine gave out , I only remember hearing foliage crashing, feeling what felt like iron rods hitting me everywhere, seeing green, but still holding on to Hobbs' pepperoni.
As he came running up wild-eyed and wet-assed, he shouted,"Oh, man! That's the best size nine crotch entry into a rhododendron move I've ever seen! Up there about six feet! Good job! See you in camp when you get outta there. What's for dinner?"
During its' boom days as a lumber town, Whitmer was wide open. A friend of mine, as passionate about local history as me called Whitmer the roughest town in the east. All boom towns had their fair share of fights, beatings, rapes and murders. Whitmer was the sight of a sloppy lynching. I think Doug was right in his assessment of Whitmer. Joe Brown was a big man, and he loved trouble. He caused trouble when he was drunk. Brown had a reputation in the Dry Fork valley and other places. It was said that he had done time in Virginia and West Virginia for murder. In 1904, just outside of Whitmer, Brown beat a 70-year old man nearly to death. The town was in an uproar. An eighteen man posse chased him down. When called on to surrender, Brown refused and someone fired a shot. The bullet creased his temple. No one took credit for the shot, but Brown swore it was Scott White, the sheriff. Brown went to prison for four years.
After serving his time, Brown came back to Whitmer for revenge. After drinking most of the day, he went looking for White.
Everyone in town was afraid of White, including Scott White. He could have done the whole town a favor and shot Brown in the back when he had the chance. Instead, he stood up to Brown. Brown shot White in the face. The town went wild again. With White's ghastly wound, it was believed he would not live. This time, a fifteen man posse, ordered by the justice of the peace, headed for the hills to hunt down Joe Brown. He was found hiding in the brush, shot in the arm and hauled back to town.
It was an ugly scene in Whitmer that night. The members of the posse and other men in town spent the afternoon drinking and celebrating capturing Brown. Bolstered by cheap whiskey and whipped into a frenzy, the broke into the town jail, pulled Brown into the street and lynched him. The drunken mob did a sloppy-drunk job. The noose was against Brown's face. He lived for hours hanging in the street. A sock was stuffed into his mouth some hours later when it was discovered he was still alive. Evenworse, as he hung there, his pants began to fall down, so he grabbed his pants and held them up with his good arm. He eventually died of slow suffocation. The public was outraged...the public outside of Whitmer, that is. The Governor tried to prevent sale of the picture of Joe Brown hanging in the street with a sock stuffed in his mouth, holding up his pants. It must not have worked, for I saw that picture some years back. It is a pitiful scene
No one was brought to trial for the lynching. Three men were indicted, but there was not enough evidence, so the whole thing was dropped. Whitmer was glad to get rid of Brown. Anyone who knew the lynchers kept quite. The lynching was just what the dry movement needed. Two months after that sloppy murder, Randolph County was voted dry. Coming in from Maryland by rail, beer and whiskey still flowed in Whitmer. Whiter's ills were not solved, at least, Joe Brown was gone.
Scott White recovered from his face wound. He had trouble with one eye the rest of his life.
The perfect crime was formulated in a rainy camp. There was no trout fishing to be had. We spent most of our time stacking wet West Virginia wood on the smoke, passing the time early with coffee and cold ones late. Next to the "fire", most every problem of the world was solved in lengthy and arm waving orations. The only problem not solved was Ginger or May Ann... Trout talk spent some time in camp. Since the creek was roaring bank to bank all there could be is talk. That was fine. We ate well, in spite of the fire, but we were wanting for a few trout... just a taste... not wanting to waste all the ramps on spuds and eggs. In mists or torrents came the mountain rain. What wood gathered was getting wetter. The cheer of the fire was reduced to fierce plumes of eye-searing steam with a rare flame.
Driven wild-eyed by the smoke and steam, I came up with a no fail plan. Something had to be done, for we were down to Martha Washington or Dolly Madison. As Hobbs fumbled with the idea of Martha or Dolly, the idea seemed more and more rational. Another beer, some one thousand cubic feet more steam in the eyes, and I was sure.
The plan was simple. The weather had to be perfect. No problem there. It had to be snowing sideways and up a tall Indian. Visibility must be just below zero. Somewhere around three in the morning, in a blinding snowstorm, the caper would be pulled. Dressed in the bobcat hunting whites, I would scale the fence, white net and white trash bag in tow. A few scoops in the run and there would be trout for days! Over the fence, into a waiting vehicle and off to Kroger to buy butter.
Obviously, it was the perfect crime. Hobbs was horrified by the entire thing, including calling such fish trout. I had to remind him that, not only was it his turn to get wood, but two days and nights of his verbal wanderings might be as aggravating as the steam and smoke. We mulled over the plan, finally making a game of it. In the game the perfect crime fell apart.
"OK, so you get over the fence with the fish. When you do, there will be six or seven cars that show up, and YOU are the hatchery truck."
The perfect crime was never pulled. There were no trout harmed in the writing of this story.
On the way home from a snipe hunt, Hobbs went on about farm ponds. It was hard for him to imagine anyone who did not learn to fish on a farm pond... plenty of 'gills and bass. That big largemouth is finally hooked. That first big bass becomes a lifelong memory, and fish, any fish, becomes a lifefong passion. Somewhere along the way, with ducks, sunsets, snappers and mosquitoes, Hobbs mentioned bullfrogs and their coarse message... the bigger the frog to more baritone to bass the croak.
"I love frog legs," I interupted.
"Oh Son, I didn't know you gigged!"
"Never haved, but I bet I can cook 'em."
With his captivating grin, Hobbs pontificated about the fine art of gigging. We planned to meet the next saturday at a pond near Leading Creek. Hobbs would bring his canoe and gigs. I assured him that with some garlic, butter and a fire, I could simmer up some fine legs. It was settled.
Saturday could come none too soon for me. Armed with three Marshall Tucker Band tapes, a fist full of garlic, a pound of butter and eight Miller ponies, down Backbone Mountain I went.
The ol' boy was unloading the canoe when I drove up. Chelsea was tail waggin' up a breeze, looking like a grinning veteran and knowing she was the anchor of logic and intellegence of the trio. We passed the time until dark gathering some firewood for our fresh frog leg feast and casting into the pond for a bass or two. Well past dark, Hobbs said, "Let's go!"
Hobbs had some nice 10' bamboo shafts tipped with gigs of his own making. Everyone has seen those blue ones in the stores. Mr. Smith's gigs make those look like Nerf toys. They looked like something from a medieval torture chamber. It looked like he meant business and knew what he was doing or was taking me for a ride like that bow fishing for carp fiasco back in '95. I just wanted to cook up some garlic legs about midnight.
It turns out he did know what he was doing. I paddled first and used the light as Hobbs took point. He would spot a frog and poke it before I knew or saw anything and I was holding the light. He would unload the frog, slap the amphibian's head on the side of the boat, cut the legs off with pruners, throw the rest over his shoulder and toss the quivering legs to me. "Skin em!"
Never had I skinned a frog leg, much less while trying to paddle a canoe and trying to work a light.The occasional two-legged frog slapping me in the face or landing in my crotch did not help. For a while, it was quick work in front of the boat. I may have caught up with the skinning, dropping the legs in an open cooler full of salted ice.
I think I was having fun. I know Chelsea was. With every leg set tossed or frog fragment thrown, she would take a swipe at it and make that dog chomping sound. She may have caught a leg or two. In the flashlight, Hobbs was grinning like a possun eating cheese. The whole round, too, not just a few slices.
When It was my turn to point the boat, it wasn't long before we knew the frog man was in the back of the boat. I managed to spear a few. One never forgets his first frog. Soon enough, about the time the gig was working for me, we called it quits. On the shore was the firewood, a few cold ones and, most likely, a feast.
Fire lit, butter melted, garlic softened, frog legs golden brown.
"Let's throw the canoe in the back of the truck while the leggins cool off."
While we were strapping the canoe in the truck, Chelsea came running up and jumped into the open truck door.
"She must have already eaten and is ready to go home," I said.
"Let's just eat!"
We turned around to our fire, about 30' away, and there was a skunk circling the hot frying pan. Instinctively, Hobbs picked up one of his gigs and heaved it with everything he had. Sure enough, he pinned the skunk by one of his front legs. After an instant of surprise on the skunk's part, and while we were deciding what to do next, ol' Mr. Skunk starts flailing around wildly trying to free himself and pi##ing on everything--the fire, the open cooler, the beer, the frying pan, the frog legs.
"Well, I'm full."
"Think Wimpy's is still open?"
"Chili dogs again?"
We were always looking for new and better ways to enjoy the out of doors. On our way back from the West Virginia Spam eating contest, Hobbs and I configured a forma table carp bow fishing rig. Our new plan delighted us both. We would use a cross bow and attach the bolts to a fly rod. You know what they say, "huntin' and fishin'." We were so high on sodium at that point that the legality of our gear never came to mind. Being young and invincible, of course, does not hurt.
That winter, we made our own bolts. We made a few and tested them by hooking it all up and shooting the bolts and fly line into a snow drift. After many prototypes and failures, we had it. By increasing the spin of the bolt, the line would come off the reel and rod easier. We had to build our own fletching tool to make it work. We used duct tape and empty Span cans. It was a beautiful thing and it worked like a dream.
Our secret laboratory was the garage at my folks' house. Back in the day, it was the bank for the town of Pierce. There was a coal stove in the corner that heated our lab. Back in the day, it might have heated the bank. Perhaps everything was better then, or the building more functional. No matter how red hot we burned that stove, it was freezing in there. It did not help that the work bench was on the other side of the building. Within a four foot halo of the stove, it was lemonade and sunscreen, but beyond that, Backbone Mountain winters demand more than a leaky old brick building. There was talk of moving the the bench, but we remembered setting fire to it two winters before, when the bench was near the stove. The bench stayed. We worked, hugged the stove a while and went back to perfecting our 7-weight harpoon.
The dust had to be shoveled off our rig by summer. Lessons learned shooting at the snow bank had been forgotten. Firing this thing was a two man operation. One shot the weapon and the other had to stand behind and point the rod in the same direction to assure ease of line delivery, thus accuracy. Looking back, I think we might have needed one of those man-made Olympic Whitewater runs in the old bank. What Hobbs didn't plan for was operating out of a canoe. A bolt shot into the air can almost spool an old Medalist reel, including backing. Soon enough, either one of us could hit water AND fish. With a good hook up, it was some red hot "fishin'". Some of the fish were strong enough to pull Hobbs, Chelsea and I through some slow currents. A new sport was born.
We would float the shallows for carp whenever we got the chance that summer. Some evenings, when everything was right, the numbers of carp we would see would be horrifying. One particular afternoon, as sad as it sounds, every element on earth seemed carp. Both of us shot or landed some big carp. We had figured out that what we were doing was only legal in seas where whaling was still practiced, but it was too darned fun to stop. The we saw the big boy...
This carp was as long as my leg. It went swimming by while we were refitting for our next run. The best we could do was watch and calculate his path. It was just a goldfish, but we both wanted it. So we hunted that fish. We hunted like bonefishers on the flats. When the opportunity came, the hardened carpers would not fail. Best we could figure, while carefully trying not to be outsmarted by a goldfish, it would come up the riffle, drop down the other side and circle back upstream. So we waited where we were. Like any water, it was very pretty. The smooth clear flow had a bit of a clip to it, but the gentle water, as it will, took a hold of our entire selves. Sun down flashed orange, yellow, black and platinum around the peaceful bubbles. Staying cool in the bottom of the canoe Chelsea had fallen asleep long ago. It wasn't long before everyone else fell into a light, water rippling slumber.
It must be funny to watch people wake up and realize, at the moment of consciousness, that they were supposed to be doing something like hunting like bonefishers. There was a momentary shuffle in the canoe. Wide eyes turned to steel slits piercing the water like... well, bonefishers. About ten minutes passed by and the point man spotted the fish.
"Here he comes! I mean, thar she blows!" Hobbs had him just like he thought. Broadside he came. "If you miss this..."
I let the bolt fly and stuck the carp in the thick of the back. That old Medalist screamed and Hobbs did too. "Get us off the rocks! Let him work the boat! OOOEEEE!!! It's big!!!"
We were off the rocks in good measure. With the rod and line on a beautiful curl, the carp pulled us up and across the river and down the other side. It took twenty minutes, but the fish did it. On the other bank, Hobbs decided to put the fish on the reel.
"Bring me back to shore."
The fish was downstream using current and bulk. Mr. Smith was having the time of his life trying to hog a hog. Backing into some shallows, I eased the canoe under some trees. You could heard one of Elkfisher's #32's drop when Hobbs' head bumped a hornets nest. It wasn't very big. About the size of Hobbs' head. Intent on the action, neither of us saw it. In an instant, Hobbs' was slapping with one hand. A split second later, he jumped overboard, rod held high, looking as if the carp had snatched him from the canoe and intended to drag him around for a while. With no other target, the hornets came after me. I soon found deep water. Chelsea, asleep along side the cooler, missed the hornets.
When I came out of the water, I saw Hobbs waist-deep downstream, still working. Without our big asses, the canoe had started downstream. Heading for shore was out of the question. The area around the nest looked like a G-spot tornado. After the canoe I went aswim. The canoe was slipping around the bend and Chelsea was two paws deep in the cooler. I never saw the carp landed. Hobbs swears it was forty inches long. No reason to doubt him. We all paid for that fish. This time I go off easy. I just had to get the canoe. Chelsea ate our Gino's Italian subs and got sick. Hobbs' head looked like a pineapple. What a great day!
Oh, the West Virginia Spam eating contest? I think I was doing mighty fine until I saw Hobbs, in the waining seconds, stuff a whole 12 ounce can in his mouth. I laughed so hard, I threw up and was disqualified. Hobbs came in third.
Salvelinus fontinalis. That sort of rolls off the tongue, much as the water in a narrow, deep run slips quietly past on its way from riffle to pool to riffle. Even the name biologists use to designate the brook trout has a certain poetry about it.
The brook trout is the most colorful of fish-indeed, the most beautiful fish created. Henry David Thoreau used thirty-two colors in describing it. Thoreau was and remains one of the greatest nature writers in American history. His discourses on nature and his powers of description leave most outdoor writers breathless. Thirty-two colors!!! Why that's half of a box of sixty-four Crayolas! Anyone who has cradled a brookie in their hands for that brief moment before releasing it will agree that Salvelinus fontinalis is the champion of color.
Historically the brook trout enjoyed a much larger range than it currently does here in West Virginia. Now, reproducing populations are largely confined to the mountainous headwaters of drainages. It once naturally grew to twice its current average size in streams that now are largely reduced to put-and-take fisheries. Some of these larger waters still sport the occasional brook trout near the mouths of colder tributaries, but they are generally rare in the larger flows (hooking one in lower Dry Fork or lower Shavers is quite a prize). Yet they are found at times hugging the invisible colder flow issuing from a cold tributary that is likely their true home water.
The brook trout has a reputation among some for being easy to catch-gullible, stupid. It is often described as fragile. These ideas can be argued over many a campfire. I would be the one on the other side-defending my beloved brookie, discounting those claims until the fire was out, the wood depleted, and the ashes cold. History would be the card I would play, a card as wild as the brookies themselves.
I would agree that the brook trout, the only salmonid native to our waters, is easier to catch than its west coast and European cousins. But though there are places here where the rainbow and brown grow wild, they are not the products of these mountains. The brookie, forced into the headwaters by its biological requirements for cold, clear water, has become a product of that environment. The small creeks where the brook trout now lives are not as fertile as the slightly warmer waters of the lower valleys. Hence, brook trout have become opportunists. Yes, there are hatches, rough fishes, and other foods available to the brookie, but they are limited and in proportion to the size of their water. The brookie must make the most of its chances for food. Quite simply, it is predatory aggression, not stupidity. In the human world, perhaps those words are almost interchangeable, but in the case of the brook trout, aggression is and must be a trait of survival. This makes the brook t!
rout above all a survivor, which may be its finest trait of all in my book, surpassing even its colors.
Imagine your favorite trout stream. Imagine it two-hundred years ago. Chances are, if that stream holds rainbows of browns now, it held brookies then. Once the original forests were timbered, the larger streams, sometimes choked with log jams or ice jams, flooded constantly. Then the railroads snaked up every hollow, bringing out logs, removing the cover. Engines took water from the creeks and belched coal-fired soot into the naked air. Worse, the lines were usually built right next to the streams, back and forth up the mountain. The silt, soot, and grime inflicted on these streams was tremendous (you may want to throw in some early acid drainage from mines as well, to add to the environmental dangers). When all was said and done, the virgin forests were gone, and in many cases the land was burned and eroded down to bedrock. Whole counties were reduced to stumps. What wasn't burning was flooding. Boom towns tossed their rubbish and raw sewage directly into the streams. For a!
ll intents and purposes, the destruction was complete. A once untouched mountain wilderness was gone.
But somehow, the brook trout survived. He is now hunkered down in the highest and purest headwaters. Slowly recovering from the destruction, the wilderness is returning. The landscape is has regained some of its despoiled magnificence. And in the bottom of the deep, dark hollows, underneath the canopy of rhododendron and hemlock, dances and laughs the brook trout, still at home in the center of it all.
It is a great privilege to be able to visit the home of the brook trout. I am forever grateful and always deeply touched each time I walk along a brookie stream. Lipping a fish of thirty-two colors never leaves the eyes begging. Add a fishing chum and a campfire and there isn't much better. I suppose it's a church of sorts, gathered in praise of the brook trout.