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Home arrow Opinion arrow Columns arrow The salmon return (sort of), and Harry Potter departs


The salmon return (sort of), and Harry Potter departs

I’ve never landed a salmon. Well, there was this one coho that I manhandled out of the cold case at the grocery store.

But in truth the coho wasn’t all that feisty.

Although I doubt I’d be able to raise much of a ruckus either if I were wrapped like a mummy, only with plastic instead of musty canvas.

And my head and tail cut off besides.

I don’t have any real prospect of filling this yawning gap in my anadromous angling resume.

I don’t own a fishing pole, for one thing.

Or a reel.

I do have a spool of four-pound test, but I used several feet of that to sew up a gaping hole in my rainpants.

Four-pound line is a tad weak anyway for going after salmon.

Although the sutured pants seem to be holding up.

But the thing is that I could try to catch a salmon if I had the proper tackle and the wherewithal.

And I wouldn’t have to drive to Hells Canyon or the Columbia or the Coast to do it.

I could just toss a line into the Powder River, which flows a mile or so from my house.

That this opportunity is an artificial one doesn’t make it less interesting to me.

The Powder’s salmon “run” is nothing of the sort.

The 200 or so adult spring chinook that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is releasing this month in the river below Mason Dam are as landlocked as a family of guppies in a glass bowl.

These salmon will never again taste salt water, never produce fry that grow fat in the rich waters of the Pacific and then batter themselves fighting upstream in a swift, cold mountain stream to their spawning gravels.

Yet these fish are a biological link to Baker County history.

Their presence in the Powder, however ephemeral, leads me to ponder a past I never lived, an era when every year the salmon returned in their season, just as the tamarack goes orange in its season, and the buttercup blooms yellow in its own.

I have read much about that era, and I wonder whether some of the salmon-related anecdotes were apocryphal or just slightly embellished versions of reality.

The most common of these stories involve fish being so plentiful that people used shovels or pitchforks to pluck them by the dozens from small streams.

Whether such a method was feasible around here, I don’t know.

But certainly Salmon Creek, a prominent tributary of the Powder that flows from the east slopes of the Elkhorns, came by its name honestly.

Also, in contrast to a fishing rod, I actually own a pitchfork.

And, when I have them rounded up, three shovels.

.        .        .

About the time these words are wedged into your paper box or tossed onto your porch, I hope to be sitting in a cushioned seat inside the Eltrym Theatre, my fingertips shiny with the “butter” from a bag of popcorn, and an ice-chilled soda parked in its plastic holder on the arm rest.

Harry Potter returns today to the big screen.

For the last time — at least as portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe.

These sorts of cinematic (or televised) swan songs, like all farewells, are tinged with melancholy.

I still remember quite vividly, even a dozen years on, how disappointed I was when the final episode of “Seinfeld” aired on NBC.

The miracle of syndication, of course, ensures that that series, and many others, will live on forevermore. Yet I can’t help but feel a little sad when I know I’m watching a fresh, new episode, one whose jokes have not yet given me a bellyache from laughter, for the last time.

This of course is a trait common to all good fiction — that the story and the characters are so compelling and so familiar that you regret their absence.

One significant difference between “Seinfeld” and the Harry Potter series — well, besides the absence in “Seinfeld” of a character named Voldemort — is that the Potter movies were based on novels.

Quite fine novels too, in my estimation.

And on my personal disappointment scale, watching the last installment in a movie or TV franchise ranks well below turning the final page on a literary epic.

The latter experience cleaves much closer, in the way it burdens my heart, to waving to a loved one as I walk into the tunnel to board an airplane at the beginning of a journey to a distant land from which I won’t soon return.

I well remember reading the last scene in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” when the Potter and Weasley families, many years on, meet at the train station and put their children on the Hogwarts Express.

I remember how empty I felt as I closed the book, knowing that this was likely the last I would ever hear from this cast of characters. The sense of loss was quite palpable as I watched recede in the figurative distance these people who I had followed for so many hundreds of pages, over so many dozens of hours while I lay beneath a blanket on a frigid winter evening or reclined in a lawn chair on a balmy summer afternoon.

The book, of course, is just as tangible and persistent as the movie.

I can extract the volume from the shelf in my living room any time and revisit that ultimate passage.

But I already know the words.

And through that familiarity they’ve lost, irretrievably, some of the power, some of the magic, that J.K. Rowling gave them.

This is, I suppose, the curse which accompanies the blessing that is a good tale, well told.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.

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