"wild and wide are my borders, stern as death is my sway; From my ruthless throne I have ruled alone for a million years and a day; Hugging my mighty treasure, waiting for man to come, Till he swept like a turbid torrent, and after him swept... the scum.
This weeks writing prompt asks us how we feel about the proposed pebble gold mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay, Well cop a sqaut and I will tell you a little more about who the Riverkeeper is. 23 years ago I was just 17 and a high school drop-out, my life was going nowhere. My Father a veteran of the Vietnam war decided that I would join the military and become a responsible young man.. I had other plans. I borrowed $300 from my best friends mom and caught the next flight to Dutch Harbor Alaska, the plan was simple, get a job on a fishing boat, make a grip of cash and head into the interior and look for gold. I wasn't green by any means to prospecting, both of my grandfathers had made a respectable living at it in Idaho and Nevada and had taught me much about it... fishing I was green at, and it took me 2 years to make only 30 thousand dollars.
"No theres a land have you seen it?
It's the cussedest land that I know,
From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it, to the deep death like valleys below.
Some say God was tired when he made it;
Some say its a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there's some who would trade it,
for no land on earth-and im one.
4 years later I was working on a combination vessel trawling flatfish and king crab fishing, and knocking down 6 figures in 8 months a year. Sounds good huh? well the 30-50% by-catch rate trawling was taking a toll on me, and I found myself having too many beers one night and contemplating the fact that my soul was in danger. I made a comment to a federal observer that "why shouldn't I do it.. its legal, and someone else would just take my place.. me taking a stand means nothing" he placed his hand on my shoulder, smiled and said, "every snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty" The next morning I headed to the airport after quiting a job that made me 4 times the money my own father made a year. At the airport my flight was delayed, once again drinking like a sailor I struck up a conversation with another patron, told him my story and whoes... and flew home. 2 months later the same guy called me at home and offered me a job as a sablefish and Halibut longliner.. a sustainable fishery he called it.. I took it, now Im a member of the crab coalition, and the deep sea fishermens union and I am politicaly active in protecting the fisheries from others.. and myself, I work 4 months a year and unless the sky falls will be retired at 45 years old. I did not speak with my father for 13 years, and now he is proud to claim me as a son. Alaska has given me a life, futer, friends a home, and redemption, it is my real home.
"lofty I stand from each sister land, patient and wearily wise,
with the weight of a world of sadnessin my quiet, passionless eyes;
Dreaming alone of a people, dreaming alone of a day,
when men shall not rape my riches, and curse me and go away;
Making a bawd of my bounty, fouling the hand that gave-
Till I rise in my wrath and sweep on their path and stamp them into a grave
Alaska and her fisheries have given me everthing I have, I worked my way from a "neck-down unit" to a citizen in my industry. I owe Alaska for everything I am, my character, values, and the ability to call myself a man and an outdoorsman... she is like a mother to me... You ask "how I feel about the pebble mine and what it will do to Alaska"... my name is Brad Melville, and I AM Alaska- ( a special thanks to Robert service for my shameless use of his prose)