Monday, June 30, 2014
Somerville Writer Mitch Evich: A Geography of Peril: Essays About Growing Up in the Northwest.
By Doug Holder
Somerville writer Mitch Evich has lived in our burg for many years, but he is originally from the Pacific Northwest. I had the pleasure of interviewing him years ago about his novel The Clandestine Novelist. Now Evich has landed with a new collection of essays. A good portion of his collection deals with salmon fishing, and its trials and tribulations. I must admit that my extent of knowledge of the heroic salmon is limited to the Nova on my morning bagel. But after reading Evich’s A Geography of Peril… I have a better idea of what the agonies and joys are of the life of a fisherman. Evich grew up in Washington State in the 60s and 70s, worked on his dad’s boat the Independence and was privy to frustration of the oh what a tangled web we weave of fishing nets, the endless repairs of the ship, the diminishment of the fishing industry due to the successful claims of native Americans for 50% of the overall catch from salmon runs, and the endless uncertainties of making a living from this seasonal and mercurial business. Here is an evocative passage in which Evich describes his memory of the boat, his dad, the unraveling of the nets, and the fish when he was a mere lad of eight:
“When I awoke…it was to the grind of machinery, the clanging of brass rings, and the squeak of corks as the seine spooled around the enormous steel drum, seawater pattering against the drum’s drainage well. My dad served as a spotter as I climbed the ladder at the back of the cabin, and then he positioned me, with my legs dangling beneath a very low railing, so I could safely watch the machines and the men at work. The oval-shaped ring of corks, longer than a football field, slowly shrunk. After a while a row of the brass rings emerged above the surface of the water, and two men struggled to thread the cluster of rings with a large steel contraption shaped like, and called, the ‘hairpin.’ Once the rings were out of the water, whatever salmon were in the net were trapped. Some minutes later, twenty or thirty of them landed, flapping and gasping on the fish hold covers.”
Evich goes into his family history, his high school football career, his forays into journalism after college—and all of this is informed by the siren call of his boyhood home.
**** A Geography of Peril is published by Village Books in Bellingham, WA.