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The Everlasting Stream: A True Story of Rabbits, Guns, Friendship, and Family
When Walt Harrington was first invited to Kentucky to hunt with his African American father-in-law and his country friends--Bobby, Lewis, and Carl--he was a jet-setting reporter for The Washington Post with a distaste for killing animals and for the men’s brand of old-fashioned masculinity. But over the next 12 years, this white city slicker entered a...
When Walt Harrington was first invited to Kentucky to hunt with his African American father-in-law and his country friends--Bobby, Lewis, and Carl--he was a jet-setting reporter for The Washington Post with a distaste for killing animals and for the men’s brand of old-fashioned masculinity. But over the next 12 years, this white city slicker entered a world of life, death, nature, and manhood that came to seem not brutal or outdated but beautiful in a way his experience in Washington was not. The Everlasting Stream is the absorbing, touching, and often hilarious story of how hunting with these "good ol' boys" forced an "enlightened" man to reexamine his modern notions of guilt and responsibility, friendship and masculinity, ambition and satisfaction.In crisp prose that bring autumn mornings crackling to life, Harrington shares the lessons that led him to leave Washington. When his son turned 14, Harrington began taking him hunting too, believing that these rough-edged, whiskey-drinking men could teach his suburban boy something worthwhile about lives different from his own, the joy of small moments, and the old-fashioned belief that a man's actions mean more than his words.The Everlasting Stream is a funny, intimate, inspiring meditation on the meaning of a life well lived.CHAPTER ONEWalt recounts the first time he went shooting with his father-in-law, Alex, in rural Glasgow, Kentucky, during a Thanksgiving visit with his wife. I lived in Washington DC, where most people I knew believed hunters were sick, violent men.” His attitude toward his African-American hunting mates (I was white, and I figured it was going to be my worry to fit in”) is condescending as hell,” but it all turns around when he shoots his first rabbit, and surprises himself with the purity of his exhuberence when he calls out, I got him!” He discusses the repulsion over having to clean his rabbit, but when his guests act similarly repulsed when he serves them rabbit dinner, he says I think I’m going to kill some more.”CHAPTER TWOHe describes hunting with Alex, Bobby, Lewis and Carl in a gully half the length of football field. Over the years I’ve become convinced that Alex, Bobby, Lewis, and Carl have discovered the secrets of living life well,” although the idea that these men had anything to teach me didn’t come to me for many Thanksgiving vacations.” He is attracted by how well they get to know a place through hunting it: How many of us can say that about any place in our lives?” The men are like relics of a bygone era, but they eventually convinced him that he should bring his son along too. He introduces Carl and Bobby, who have retired from factory jobsthey own sixty acres together in the country. Lewis bought his own 18-wheel rig a few years ago and still hauls freight. Alex is retired and has many hobbies. The men talk in a colorful drawl about their dogs, teasing each other mercilessly.CHAPTER THREEHe talks about hunting at the Old Collins Place. Every time he comes back there, he sees something for the first time. He talks about how ambitious he was as a kid, determined to make a name for himself in journalism. He meets his wife-to-be, Keran, and works thankless 70-hour weeks until he finally writes a profile of George Bush that gets him major attention, a huge raise, and freedom to cover other figures such as Jesse Jackson, Jerry Falwell, etc.CHAPTER FOUR: BOBBY’S BARNHis son Matt catches a rabbit and gets a sip off the post-hunting bottle of Wild Turkey. He discusses his tough decision of taking the boy hunting for the first time when he was seven: Really I rolled the dice. I knew that most affluent city perople would shield their sons from such rough men and gritty settings. But after my first few years of hunting I deced that the forests, fields, wind, rain moon, stars, leaves, weeds, guns, killing, cursing, drinkingand naturally the men themselveswould be good for Matt.” He describes skinning and gutting a rabithe does it without squeamishness because it has to be done,” the same way you have to clean up a kid’s vomit.LAWSON BOTTOMHe discusses the time it dawned on him that he had come to savor thingsthe Miro painting he owns, for instance and asks himself I love my work but what if the day comes when I don’t? What happens to all of this? What happens to me? Will I be trapped in my affluence for the rest of my life?” (The climax of his career comes when President Bush is seriously considering appointing him as his official biographer, and even invites him to a celebrity-studded dinner, but eventually Bush decides the security risk is too great. Harrington considers it a blessing in disguise, thinking about all of the quality time he would have lost with his son, etc.)THE EVERLASTING STREAMHe recalls a morning of picture-perfect contentment at a place called the Everlasting Streamsuch memorable moments are like waking versions of lucid dreams. We are within them and outside them at once as they are happening.” He reflects To this day I don’t believe I have ever seen men so at ease, so thoroughly enjoying one another’s company.” He realizes he hasn’t had true friends like these since he was kid.BEHIND BC WITT’S FARMHe talks about the way that moment at the Everlasting Stream has caused him to think of hunting not just as a diversion, but to think of it off and on throughout the year. Carl takes him to the four-room shack where he grew up and Harrington is shocked by how small and run-down it is. Carl says We hunted to eat.”THE SQUAREHe describes being in the zonehunters since Socrates onward have described an ethereal hunter’s state of mental and emotional clarity. What nature writer James Swan calls the Zen of hunting--- a state of awe and reverence, which I sthe emotional foundation for transcendence.”LEWIS’S GARAGEHe talks about the joys of hanging out in Lewis’s garage after hunting. I have come to love hearing the men laugh. After all the years, if I were blind I’d still know the men by their laughs.” .. Listening to the men is like watching a pinball bounce around its board. The action is impossible to predict but it isn’t random. The point is to relax and lety my time with the men wash over me in the way that a Christmas midnight Mass with candles and organ and incense would wash over me as a boy.”
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