By Dan Bodine
Yeah, it was one of those “moments you’ll never forget!” A “grown man cryin’ in his beer!” His name was Darrell. A salesman of some sort. And an obvious recent transplant to hot, ugly Texas. During the Sunbelt Era.
He was sitting on the barstool on my left at what was then the dearly revered Flagon Lounge, just off I.H. 35 in Central Texas. Heaving heavy sobs.
Temple, Tx, 1976. This was the year all journalists in the state got sick of writing “Holy Cow” stories in the nation’s year-long Bicentennial Celebration.
Maybe the confluence of these two sad streams is why I remember this death-of-salmons incident so well. As a long-sobered alcoholic now.
We’d each had a few beers by then, yes. I lifted and extended my left arm some, to put my hand lightly on his shoulder — hoping to comfort Darrell a bit, I guess.
But with it, words just started spewing out of his mouth — like a stoppage suddenly being cleared from his throat.
Words of a Lost Cause?
Yes! Immediately, His! And his family‘s. And friends‘.
From Way-y-y out Northwest somewhere, along a Salmon Run.
Words sounding like a “Clamuth River” — actually, Klamath River — and a Lost World, are among an image that was seared in my head.
This, I’ve argued since — a typical microcosm drama then of an environmental degradation loss in full bloom — represented America’s 2nd Lost Cause.
And yes, the nation’s “degradation” didn’t stop there!
Today’s GOP’s wailing by White Supremacists, i.e., of a feared cultural takeover by Latinos and African Americans amounts to the 3rd! Meaning, for consolation to them, ‘ya gotta git in line!
“It was all those different things about Life then!” Darrell blurted out — between sobs, yes.
“Now, EVERYTHING’S GONE!!! With the fisheries, the salmons WERE our life! That meant our churches and schools, all our rich cultural activities! EVERYTHING!!! Gone now! Vanished overnight!”
And it was all because of the construction of the river dams. Increasingly cutting off the salmons from their spawning grounds further upstream.
And that’s why — as poignant and terrible as this was all those decades ago — news I read Friday that those dams are to be removed next year, hit me like a runaway avalanche on the ski slopes.
Restoration of the Klamath River Basin is part of President Joe Biden’s recently approved infrastructure act.
“Whoa! Will the salmons come back, ‘ya think?!” is everyone’s typical reaction, I imagine.
“Who knows?!” you gotta answer. “But…Hell’s bells, they might!”
Thus, like Ponce De Leon’s enigmatic fountains-of-youth search — the proverbial, leftward-bent foible that mankind continues to live by Mañana’s Hope — is substantiated once again!
Gracias a Dios! We ain’t dead, yet.
Years ago, following a beat-up newspaper career, often I wrote about the effects of social minimalism, the particular offshoot disease of radical capitalism washing across our Great Society.
Killing off Pacific Northwest salmons with huge dams — so giant mega-corporations could build bigger, faster airplanes, i.e., as well as plusher homes for their employees — is one prime example of it, too.
Talk about shooting yourself in your ass!
Thousands of people along that river then simply lost their rights to exist there, and were forced to relocate to find work! Darrell was one of ’em.
But was that all a price, too, for something else?!
Today, what’s emerging in political currents is the irony of ironies.
Republicans in Washington — current behemoths of radical capitalism for business — bemoan former President Trump’s election loss in 2020 to President Joe Biden like it was the original Lost Cause across the South following Civil War defeat!
Nyet!!! We’re caught up in tailwind drags marking cultural losses here, folks! Git ‘ya balance! Let’s wait ’til the air clears out some more before we play Taps anymore on our civilization, OK?
Hell, moving to hot, ugly Texas ain’t the worst thing that can happen to ‘ya!
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