Thursday, September 23, 2010

James Tayor Walks Down a Stream With His Dog

This song, Copperline, is about a stream in James Taylor's home town of Carrboro, North Carolina where he spent his youth and which will, forever, be Carolina in My Mind.

In this song, Taylor sings about walking down Morgan Creek, with his beloved childhood dog, Hercules.

The creek, which ran just below Taylor's house, was locally nick-named "The Copperline."

Even the old folks never knew
Why they call it like they do
I was wondering since the age of two
Down on Copperline

Copper head, copper beech
Copper kettles sitting side by each
Copper coil, cup o' Georgia peach
Down on Copperline

Half a mile down to Morgan Creek
Leaning heavy on the end of the week
Hercules and a hog-nosed snake
Down on Copperline
We were down on Copperline

Walking streams with your dog is a universal human experience -- at least it is for young men who later go on to hunt and fish as adults.

There is something about dogs and man in nature that is absolutely primeval. As I write in the introduction to American Working Terriers:

What’s is it about dogs?

There is no simple answer to such a simple question. Instead there are as many answers as there are people.

For most, a dog is simply a happy greeter at the door that never asks too many questions. For this alone people spend enormous sums on food and veterinary care, forgiving stains on rugs and holes in gardens, hair on the couch and strange smells in the den.

For other people dogs are other things.

Some show ring enthusiasts love the competition, while others value the friendships that develop at ringside.

Agility and fly ball competitors love the speed of their sport, the cleverness of their dogs, and the challenge of cross-species communication and instruction.

For those of us with hunting dogs, the joy is going into field and forest with a companion that offers an entirely new way of looking at the world. For many it is a return to childhood, when we saw nature at a smaller level as we turned over rocks looking for fishing worms, or caught frogs and turtles by the pond, or climbed trees to steal a peak at a nest of doves.

Dogs give us an excuse to venture back into thickets again, to jump from rock to rock down a stream, and to poke about in fields.

The process of hunting forces those of us that rush too fast through life to slow down and pay attention to detail. If we are going to get any good, we have to learn about wildlife and the land. We have to give the dog experience and gain some ourselves.

As dog and owner progress, they begin to work as a team and a kind of trust develops. The dog is seeing the world through the human’s eyes, and the human is seeing the world through the dog’s eyes. Both are looking at the world through a new set of glasses.

There is an epilogue here.

James Taylor revisited his childhood home just before writing this song, and so the song sadly ends with this refrain:

I tried to go back, as if I could
All spec houses and plywood
Tore up and tore up good
Down on Copperline

Isn't it that way all over?

I remember the first time I went hunting with Larry Morrison, he pointed to subdivisions, houses and strip stores where he used to hunt.

"Bolted a fox off that hill before the houses" he would say, pointing to a big set of boxes with plastic siding.

"Used to take a lot of 'chucks in that pasture before it became a parking lot," he would say as we pulled past a mini-mall.

I have asked the question before, and I will ask it again now: When will we draw a line?

We can't continue to grow on like this. Too many people is a threat to what we love. It's about numbers .

Will America fall apart at 400 million, or 500 million or even one billion people?

No, it will survive. It just will not be the America I love today.

If you hunt, you will have to drive farther, and perhaps pay to hunt in a for-profit shooting preserve (some do that now).

As we pave over paradise and put up parking lots, surface water will flow fast and dirty into our rivers and creeks. Cars will become more efficient, but population growth will consume the oil savings, and we will be more dependent on foreign oil than ever before.

More and more creeks will run in culverts, and fewer and fewer children will play in them. Silt from construction sites will clog rivers and streams, and no one you know will have ever caught a five-pound bass or a three-pound trout. You will no longer be allowed to walk down White Oak Canyon in the Shenandoah National Park unless you first bought a ticket at Ticketron.

And, of course, fewer and fewer kids will be walking down "the Copperline".

Kids remove old tires from Morgan Creek, "the Copperline.".


Jessica, Rainy, Sunshine, Murdoc, & Frizzle said...

I've always loved this song :)

seeker said...

Yep, its happened here. I drive pass subdivisions on land I used to gallop my Mustang pony through. The Cibolo Creek is just a culvert now. I live in my home town and I just want to move on to somewhere else. I wish I could purchase enough land to help save it for the next generation, but its out of my league. I'm glad I don't have kids, because they would never have the childhood I did. That paradise is long gone.

Debi and the TX JRTs.

Marie said...

seeker, the Nature Conservancy buys up land with the donations they get. So even though you personally can't afford to, the group effort can.

PBurns said...

Marie, that's a very good point worth making!

The U.S. Government is buying land (or renting it long term) all the time to in the form of Pittman-Robertson land and the Conservation Reserve program.

In addition, there are MANY natural lands trusts and conservancies beyond TNC.

On Pittman-Robertson land :: >>

On CRP Land :: >>

On local and national conservancies (for both small and big donors)
:: >>
:: >>
:: >>


Seahorse said...

James Taylor is a national treasure. The texture of his voice improves each year, as if it needed improving. I cannot sing along to "Carolina In My Mind" without tearing up. Can't explain why and don't care. There's an interesting explanation in the You Tube comments below that video of how that song was written.

Development, loss of open space, sheeet, I want to be positive, but I've been in the fight and it's a monster. Ugly greed. 10 years into my own struggle, having won every battle and the war to save my farm, having rewritten and gotten our county zoning ordinance changed to save other farms without the pain we endured, I'm moving out of state. To another Carolina and hopefully to a larger farm with fewer struggles. We won and I'm beat. So *%$&* tired...