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Swimming with Salmon

September 19, 2013

Heading home following my 3-day trip working with coastal kiddos, I stopped one last time for a dip in the South Umpqua, just upriver from Roseburg Lumber.  During summer visits I had seen bass, mostly small, rolling for flies.

After pushing off the huge rock, to my amazement, I saw a huge fish roll.  Wow, that’s not a bass.  It’s a Chinook salmon.  Lots of salmon rolling 8 to 10 feet from me as I paddled around.     Salmon were rolling upstream and downstream.

I swam with salmon.

Up on the huge rock as I left, I could see 10 or 12 pods of fish, 6 or 10 per pod. I counted 9 in one pod that passed by 10 feet away.  Circling, rolling, and dancing, waiting for the rain.

I swam with salmon.  ~Jim Hutchins


In Memory of Jim Hutchins By Rich Rosenthal, Director of Medford Parks and Recreation

Hutch was a man of many rituals, and one of them was his insistence on meeting with the Parks and Recreation Director – me and only me – on a monthly basis, and specifically on a Wednesday morning, sometimes 9, sometimes 9:30. Because, after all, Jim was a monumentally busy octogenarian on a tight schedule! And he’d dutifully type a meeting agenda, although it was pretty much the same stuff each month.

I’ll miss these meetings not only because of the importance of Jim’s work in the overall framework to what the City of Medford wants to accomplish in our park system and in riparian areas, but because meeting with Jim was a kaleidoscope of an experience. Except for him showing up, generally seven minutes early, you never knew what direction the discussion would go.

There was always the no-nonsense Man-on-a-Mission flavor of Hutch’s personality. Interrupt or disrupt his section of the agenda at your own peril!

And there was the Bob Hope Hutch – when the conversation would veer into comedy hour, verbally jousting and teasing, and joke telling. And the referencing and repetition of good-natured teasing from previous meetings, some from the distant past. Lots of laughs!

There was the Guru Hutch – the portion of the meeting where he’d drop some pretty deep philosophical stuff on you. Upon conclusion of the very serious point, he’d give you the paternal serious look to make sure 1. You were listening closely, and 2. Understood his point, whatever it was. Sometimes I’d push back on his pearl of wisdom with a witty comment, and sometimes he would be amused by that comment. I enjoyed trying to throw him off his game!

There was Panther Hutch – the avid South Medford High sports fan, who would recap the Panther football, basketball and baseball team accomplishments, and retell stories about his interactions with the various head coaches. “Cut-the-Red-Tape” Hutch would frequently show up to the meeting, bemoaning government bureaucracy and more specifically conflicting processes and procedures of regulatory agencies. And at the top of the list were the Medford parking lot rules enforcement officers, who had the audacity of ticketing Jim’s illegally parked white pickup truck while he was working along the creek. He never, ever forgot the audacity of being fined for doing a good deed.

I saw the “Don’t Mess With Me” Hutch a lot in which he’d talk about unnerving encounters with challenged people he encountered along the Greenway who threw rocks, shoes, and branches at him. Jim had a lot of compassion for them but definitely not for the speeding cyclists along the Greenway. What angered Jim the most was when he was startled and/or sideswiped by thoughtless bike riders along the Greenway. “Can’t you ticket these people?,” he’d fume. And he didn’t like my response, “Sorry but PD isn’t going to set up a speed trap for bikes on the
Greenway, Hutch.”

Along these lines was the “Stop Ruining My Life” Hutch. This was when local government staff made mistakes like accidentally mowing his young plantings, not acknowledging him when passing by, or by taking too long to respond to a particular service request, which he took as being “blown off”. He would sometimes bluster for a few minutes, get it out of his system, accept the apology or explanation, then his mood would become sunny again. After all, he was a City Councilor in Lynwood, Wash. He understood how city government worked.

And finally, what most people knew and heard from Hutch was the ultimate Environmental Steward, the kind-hearted tireless advocate for riparian restoration and management under his watch, especially how it related to teaching and helping the high-school and SOU students he mentored. And the pride he took in the accomplishments and efforts of these students, current and past. There’s no question this is Jim’s greatest legacy, among many.

Jim is gone but I refuse to let the monthly meetings go. I kept the recurring meeting notices on my electronic calendar as a way to honor him and to remember one of the greatest people I’ve met. It’ll just be a shorter meeting until the next time we meet.

Another time, Hutch!

From your City pal, Rich Rosenthal

Jim’s nephew Tedd give us a description of Jim as a young man.

I have sent two photos of my Uncle Jimmy along with Grandpa Hutchins and my Mom. These were taken at the Angle Lake home in what’s now called SeaTac, Washington and was formerly a Seattle address in unincorporated King County during that time period. The house is behind them in these pictures, as they all face the lake, and in fact are standing on Angle Lake as once upon a time the lake would freeze with ice at least 1-foot thick and as much as 2-feet thick in the winter. Ice skating was a popular activity and Jimmy, Wesley, Arthur, and my mom were all accomplished ice skaters. I inherited Jimmy’s ice hockey skates that were stored away at the Angle Lake house, and I eventually used them on the Lake and also at the Lake we lived on at Twin Lakes Golf & Country Club in Federal Way, WA. Those were fun times filled with very fond memories as Uncle Jimmy and the family would visit a few weekends each month and/or we would visit at his home in Lynnwood, WA.

Please find below my fondest remembrances of Uncle Jimmy:

My fondest remembrances of my late Uncle Jim all took place from when I was just a child up thru the age of 14 years in 1971. Our family was still relatively close before the time when relationships changed and families were broken apart by dissolution of marriage and people moving and just plain life.

I remember while living at Angle Lake and also at the old Anderson house when Jimmy would take me for walks and we would go fishing or check the traps he set for muskrats and other animals. I remember when we were visiting his Lynnwood home and he took me downstairs and showed me his traps and how they worked and his large collection of pelts from that seasons trappings. He told me how he tanned the hides so that the fur remained intact on the tanned hide. Jimmy was the person who taught me how to tie a fishhook and a fishing lure and how to catch a fish and clean the fish and how to cook the fish. Jimmy was an avid outdoorsman and loved all creatures, including those he trapped and caught or harvested for food. I learned a lot about the outdoors from my Uncle Jim during those days.

When I was 12 years old in 1969, I was already a big fan of rock-n-roll music and the blues, as opposed to the modern pop music. Album Rock was just coming into its own and getting a lot of airplay on AM Station KOL, and FM Radio was in its infancy with KISW and KZOK playing album rock exclusively. My favorite Band during this time and one of my favorites still to this day as I write these words, is Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) and that was also Uncle Jims favorite Band at the time. Uncle Jimmy had to beg my Mom to allow me to attend the CCR concert at the Seattle Center Arena. On Saturday, July 12, 1969 Jimmy took my cousins and me to see the concert and this one act of kindness by my Uncle Jimmy is the standout memory of him for me, especially since my own mother and his own sister was suffocatingly strict and overly protective, but Jimmy was able to get her to agree. Mike said “I bet your mom’s got an Excedrin Headache right about now” as we entered the arena. It was funny because there was a funny Excedrin TV commercial that was popular, and Mike was good at making sarcastic jokes back then about everything. The concert opened with Tony Joe White who had a hit song on the Charts called “Polk Salad Annie” and another song I liked even more called “Hoochie Woman” that was lessor known. Tony Joe really set the mood for what followed with CCR taking the stage and playing their music practically album perfect. That was an accomplishment that most bands can’t even duplicate to this day except a few select bands, and no pop bands whatsoever. I remember Mike, Mark, and I think John was there and Julie too, and we were all laughing and giggling about all the marijuana smoke and other intoxicants that were clearly visible to our young impressionable eyes and senses. Mike was cracking me up with his usual humor and Uncle Jimmy had his hands full keeping us in check as we were all supposed to be on our best behavior. That was my first of many Concerts I’ve attended over the decades and I will always cherish the fond memories I have of 1969, because of my Uncle Jimmy taking me to my very first Rock Concert. It was so awesome thanks to Uncle Jim!

About 2 years later in 1971, after I turned 14, we had moved from the Country Club lifestyle at Twin Lakes in Federal Way to the tiny little cow-pie town of Colfax, WA that was the County seat for Whitman County with a whopping population of 1650 in 1971, mostly cattle and rednecks. I hated it! As a result I ran away from Colfax and my overbearing ultra strict parents, twice within the first 90-days. I know my Mom asked Jimmy if he would come to Colfax and try and “get through to me” and so we spent an entire day and evening together. Jimmy took me pheasant hunting alongside the Palouse River just outside of town. This was my first experience hunting anything beyond frogs. Jimmy taught me how to hunt pheasant that day and how to operate and handle and shoot a 12 gauge shotgun. That was also my first experience with a firearm. Jimmy taught me firearms safety and talked with me about firearms responsibility, it’s stuck with me all these years later. I’m grateful for the time he took to spend with me, even though I had this funny feeling I might get accidentally shot by a 12 gauge that day…lol.

As the years passed and our lives grew apart and life got in the way of family and friendships and relationships, I’ve never forgotten the kindness that Uncle Jim gave to me nor the lessons in life that he taught me. He has given me much to remember during a brief time during the formative years early in my life that’ll remain with me along with his memory till my end of days, may Uncle Jim rest in peace.

Regarding the Creedence Clearwater Revival concert, I’ve sent a photo of an actual promotional poster for that concert we attended back in 1969. There’s a very good concert from their European tour during the same time, and it’s more of a documentary but with lots of actual footage and the sounds decent and it’s obvious just how talented the guys were as they sounded almost album perfect and stayed true to their sound and music, unlike these no talent so-called artist today that rely on lip sync and overdubbed instruments while they pretend to sing and play whatever.

One last story:
As a kid I used to have a nickname for my Uncle Arthur and Uncle Jimmy whenever I’d see them together at family get togethers,, and I always had a laugh inside about it because they really did remind me of Laurel and Hardy, especially because Arthur was a big strong ox of a man and because Jimmy was a tall lanky man, just like them two comedians. I always kept that to myself until now.
They were both funny when they were together and when they teased my mom. Both of them were very good to my younger brother and I, and that’s what’s important to a kid because we remember those who are kind and good.


Tedd Branstetter, Nephew of Jim Hutchins