View Full Version : middleton
07-27-2010, 11:30 AM
has anyone read the new book by harry middleton,is how was it???
07-27-2010, 12:24 PM
I have read the new book. I really enjoyed it, but if you are looking for just fishing stories, you might be a little disappointed. Be prepared for stories about crows etc. For me, even those were interesting. Of course, they were all well written and insightful.
07-27-2010, 02:49 PM
I enjoyed the book. Again it was not all fishing but the stories were all in the Middleton style. It was like meeting up with an old friend that you had not heard from for a while and listening to their latest tales.
07-27-2010, 08:46 PM
Lauxier--I read it with care, thanks in part to the fact that my next "Books" column in Sporting Classics is on this book and Harry. I knew Harry quite well and had read most of these pieces previously, but it was good to get a refresher read. That in turn led me to re-read an extensive file of correspondence I exchanged with him for a portion of the decade before his death. As I think I may have said on this forum at some time in the past, he wrote letters in the same expressive fashion that characterized his published work. He was a fascinating figure in a lot of ways--couldn't fish a lick but loved wild streams and wild fish, suffered from severe depression, and had a truly rare talent. Harry left us far to soon and we are the lesser for him not having had more years to write more words.
P. S. Other than the geographical information, I think everything in On the Spine of Time if fictional. I know the N. C. side of the Park and the people around it well enough that I'm pretty sure I would have heard of the various "quair" characters he presents in the book.
07-28-2010, 08:24 AM
Harry's characters may have been figments of his fertile imagination but I still listen for the sound of bagpipes every time I have fished Hazel Creek over the past twenty years.
Every time I have fished Slickrock Creek I have kept an eyeball skint for a tall gaunt fellow wearing a hat and fishing a cane rod.Never have seen him but one time I did see a green Land Rover parked in the lot by the bridge below the dam where the fugitive jumped.
Harry's books about fishing in the Smoky Mountains compare the others on the subject like Musashi's A BOOK OF FIVE RINGS compares to an Army field manual when the subject is warfare.
I'll take a poet over a tour guide every time,even if the poet fishes a 7 and a half foot rod and can't make a decent reach cast.
07-28-2010, 11:12 AM
mora521--Harry would have liked that, and you've pretty well gone to the heart of what he was all about. It was the aura of fishing and what the Smokies did for the soul, as opposed to the simple act of catching fish, which stirred his inner being and served as his muse.
07-28-2010, 12:47 PM
Hope things are well with you. I am glad someone has some personal knowledge about Harry. I have read all his books except the one that now runs in excess of $1,800. I have done some research on the web and seen some indication that The Earth is Enough may have contained a good deal of fiction as well. Regardless, the books are great, and I really want to believe it happened just the way he wrote it in that book. I never really believed all the characters in On the Spine of Time were even close to real. Although, while at my cabin once, I did hear bagpipes being played. It made me think of Harry. All I know for sure is that the gnomes were real and bad potato salad would make one extremely ill.
07-28-2010, 01:03 PM
Thanks Jim I have bought or read every book I know of regarding fishing in the Smoky Mtns.The thing about the book you wrote that I liked the best is the anecdotes about the people who lived,worked,and fished in the park in days gone by.I wish it had more info on my side(Tennessee)but then if you had grown up over here I probably would have been saying I wish he had of talked more about the NC side. LOL
I ordered ON THE SPINE OF TIME while I was an Infantry soldier in Korea and it arrived while my unit (1/503INF) was on the DMZ in Jan of 91.It averaged about 10 degrees and the ground was covered in snow and ice the whole 3 mos. the mission lasted.I read parts of that book at night under a poncho using a red lensed mini maglight while inside the wire in no mans land instead of sleeping when we were not patrolling or I was not on guard.When we got back in from our Imjin patrol to base camp I had 2 days off after equipment was cleaned and mission debrief was over and I read the book cover to cover and it transported me from a frozen treeless outpost near a communist country to a wonderous place of cold sparkling water and tall trees that was inhabited by trouts and anomolous(my favorite kind)people.
I had only taken up fly fishin a couple of years before but had fished all over the Little River and Abrams creek with a spinning rod since about 1970.I fished Slickrock Creek via Big Fat Gap the first week I got out of the Army that July and the very first cast I made on that creek at the big pool where the trail meets the creek(I was standing on a big rock looking down at the pool and was really just casting out line to pull it through my fingers to make it
as Harry would say "supple like good tooth twine")when the largest brown trout I have ever seen in the Southern Appalachians rose up and looked at my size 14 Daves Hopper saw me standing there like a fool and sunk back out of sight.I think the fact that the Brown trout have vanished from the creek would have broken Harry's heart.
07-28-2010, 02:52 PM
Just wanted to say thank you for what you did to protect my family and country! The same goes for all the vets out there.
07-28-2010, 05:17 PM
Having driven through many night just to get to his mountains and fought the evils of roadside food from places I would not even imagine slowing down for now I immediately related to the start of his tale in the Spine....many years later while camping with my son one evening at Smokemont someone from the group site had walked down into the evening mist of Bradley's Fork and began blowing on some bagpipes...couldn't help but get jerked back into the pages and his story.
07-28-2010, 07:15 PM
donwinn--You are right in your findings on The Earth Is Enough. It is possible there were "old men," but there weren't trout in the way Harry describes them. I have two good friends (fellow writers in Arkansas) who worked for that state's wildlife magazine for better than twenty years. Both assure me there are no wild trout in small streams the way Harry describes them. Just monstrous tailwater trout.
It is interesting that he chose the Ozarks as the setting for his first book and the Smokies for the second, because in terms of his first love there is no question it was the Smokies. He told me as much on more than one occasion.
That consideration does give at least a bit of credence for there being figures representing his grandfather, his uncle, and Elias Wonder, although the overriding thrust of the book has to be fictional. I'm pretty sure Harry was more or less estranged from his father (who was a military man), and that may explain coming up with substitute father figures in the book.
It's difficult to get inside Harry's mind now, and let me assure you the same was true when he was alive. We had wonderfully long talks about the Smokies, specific creeks, Horace Kephart, literature of angling, and many other topics. But when things moved in the direction of anything hinting at the personal, Harry immediately got uncomfortable.
07-29-2010, 09:02 AM
Based on my limited research, his grandfather, whose name I will omit out of respect for Harry, did live in Arkansas and survived Harry. So, even his last book contained fictional information about his grandfather as he wrote that he visited the graves of the three men. I just wonder if he did that to protect his identity and privacy. Remember that he suggested being cryptic about things such as locations in that book; hence, the name of the creek that all of us are still trying to find. We would all like to fish Karen's Pool. I have no doubt that Harry fished it many times, at least in his mind. I myself have fished similar pools, perfect pools that the mind has the capacity to invent. I think I will let my mind continue to accept the delusion that the Ole Indian really was and that the earth really is enough.
07-29-2010, 09:48 AM
Perhaps the thing that should have tipped us off about the Spine of Time being purely fictional was his claim that each time he visited Hazel Creek he was the only fisherman on the river. Now that's something to dream about....
07-29-2010, 12:55 PM
Slipstream--Amen to that. I've have sharply curtailed my trips to Hazel Creek in recent years for precisely one reason--too many people. Even when I was visiting it back in the late 1950s and 1960s you always saw fishermen.
Of course the stream is amazing in that it takes a beating and seems to continue to produce. A lot of the outfitters take clients there for overnight stays because it is so easy and the use of Hazel Creek buggies allows luxuries you can't have backpacking. Having said that, I guess I'm part of the problem--this very day I'm working on an article on the stream for a major regional magazine.
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