Chief Willard Wells, almost always drunk--often on vanilla extract--would knock on my log cabin door at any hour of the day or night. Sometimes he had a black garbage bag full of freshly netted salmon to sell for booze money. Other times he wanted a ride into town, or back out past the marsh and down to his shack by the Fraser River. On one of those latter occasions the Chief, riding shotgun in my '54 Mercury flatbed, glanced at the stack of books between us on the seat.
“Books?" he exclaimed, running a hand through his black hair. "Books? The only book you need to read, son, is the Great Book of the Bush!" He said this with a sweep of his arm, indicating the marsh just off the road, and the Douglas fir-covered mountains rising straight up all around us in the late afternoon sunlight. Slowing down, I could see Mt Hope looming over its reflection surrounded by cattails in the marsh. Its peak, still capped with snow, glowed amidst a cluster of shimmering white clouds.
I pulled to the side of the road and shut off the engine. Chief Will rolled down his window. I rolled down mine. A breeze filled the truck with the scent of black cottonwood buds. The Chief pulled out a brown-bagged bottle, took a swig, and passed it to me.
old growth forest
each call of the raven
published in Mariposa 35 - 2016