Friday, October 14, 2011

O.B.N writing prompt "save Bristol Bay"

"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)


  1. Brad... beautiful. Just awesome. I wish there were more out there like you who would stand up for the fish, the culture ... and the long-term renewable economy of Bristol Bay.

  2. Wow! Powerful stuff. I not a big fan of poetry but that Robert Service could turn a phrase. I've both lived and traveled in Alaska. This Pebble Mine stuff is just idiocy.

  3. Similar things are happening all over the world even with our northern friends who are not the enemy here, what is it to gain the world if it cost you your soul? Solidarity!

  4. Wow awesome post Brad!