Much has been made of Norman Maclean’s “little novel” since its publication in 1976. Even though Maclean insisted to the very end of his life in both written word and speech that his brother’s death remain a tragedy, many literary critics have resolved the tension of Paul’s death by attributing reductionist theology to the novel and Maclean. I want to suggest that this kind of “theological” thinking not only resolves a tension not to be removed by the narrator, but even more so, misreads the overarching trajectory of the novel. Maclean, rather, explores the darkness resident within a beautiful man who had mastered art and grace, not the darkness abiding in a failed and damned brother. A River Runs Through It traces the raw nature of tragedy–never to be resolved and never completely understood.
Now that fall is here again, we begin our Fall retreat for the KU fly fishing class tomorrow. We will fish, eat good food, sit by the fire, tie flies, and think through A River. I wrote this essay for Imaginatio et Ratio a few years ago:
KINGSPORT, Tenn., June 16, 2015 – Many people are hooked on fly fishing. Now, students at Dobyns-Bennett High School (D-B) in Kingsport, Tenn., are among those intrigued with the popular sport.
During the spring 2015 semester, King professors Don Michael Hudson, Dan Kreiss, and Wendy Traynor and her husband, Brian, along with six King students travelled to Dobyns-Bennett to teach fly fishing to the high school’s sophomore class.
Hudson, who has been fly fishing for 25 years, and Kreiss, who has been fly fishing for 20 years, had the great idea last spring to create King’s first fly fishing class. They had minimal expectations when creating the class, but it filled up immediately and has been a major success since day one.
In October, 2014, King University senior and communications intern Cortnee Young penned an article about the new class. The story was picked up across the country, and Hudson began receiving calls about the program from as far away as Grand Junction, Colo. He also received calls from Wounded Warriors out of Nashville, Tenn., expressing interest in collaboration.
Also interested in collaboration with King’s fly fishing program is Project Health Waters, an organization that teaches fly fishing to veterans. As a volunteer with the program, Brian Traynor meets weekly with veterans at the VA Hospital located in Mountain Home, Tenn. He coordinates fly fishing retreats for the veterans, and teaches them fly-tying techniques.
Dobyns-Bennett’s Chair of the Health and Wellness Department and Assistant Coach for the boys basketball program Matt Baker contacted King upon reading a Twitter post about the program. “I immediately went to King’s website and looked up contact information for Don Hudson and sent him an email to start the conversation. I asked if he would be interested in coming out to work with our sophomore class during out outdoor education week.”
Hudson commented, “Matt asked if we would be interested in teaching fly fishing to 250 sophomores. I told him yes. We would make it happen.”
“I knew it was going to be good when Don came out to [D-B] to check out the facilities, take pictures, and plan,” Baker added.
Together, Hudson, Kreiss, the Traynors, and several members of King’s Fly Fishing Club hosted the fly fishing class at D-B. Over the course of four periods in two days the team mentored the sophomores through three workstations consisting of an introduction to fly fishing, tying flies, and casting techniques. In the end, a contest was held to see who could cast the best with the winners receiving King merchandise.
“The group came out and did a top-notch job. Our department was very pleased with the effort, and the attention to detail and the way [the group] worked with our kids. We were extremely impressed.”
The experience went so well Dobyns-Bennet invited King to return every semester to share fly fishing with D-B’s students. “Each semester we have a different group of kids,” said Baker. “God willing, we will have [King] back every semester to work with our kids and continue the program.”
Though people who fly fish are aware of the world-class fly fishing in the Tri-Cities region, many who live here, especially the younger generation, are not aware.
“The thing we enjoyed the most out of the experience was not only how they worked with our kids but also exposing them to something new, something most of them had never done before,” said Baker. “We had kids with different learning abilities, and some who are not athletically inclined. With fly fishing, they could compete with anyone. [All students] were all on an even level. To see the progression and the interest was a very rewarding experience for our department.”
Wendy Traynor added, “We are hoping to take this program into all of our area high schools. One thing I love about sharing this program is fly fishing is the type of outdoor sport that anyone can do, whether you are an athlete or are not athletically inclined. It is something anyone can do, and King has it.”
“We were [at D-B] doing what King does best – we educate,” commented Hudson. We were educating high school students. We were educating coaches. We had our students [from King] out there, and they were educating students. We were all there serving our local community. It was a tremendous experience for all.”
In addition to King’s fly fishing class, a Fly Fishing Club was established during the spring 2015 semester. The club is sponsored by the Cherokee Chapter of Trout Unlimited as part of their Five Rivers Program
For more information about King University’s Fly Fishing class, contact Don Michael Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423.652.4154 or Wendy Traynor at email@example.com or 423.652.4309.