Kettle River Q&A: The small place by the river

Graham Watt
By Graham Watt
February 11th, 2014

Editor’s note: Graham chose to submit this creative work instead of his usual Kettle River Q&A after sharing it at a conference and receiving positive support. Enjoy. 


[For Ben – may you grow up tall]


There once was a small place, a wet place nearby

A river ran by it, and through it sometimes

The cottonwoods swayed in the summertime breeze

Neighbours, near and far, their eyes did it please.


A village of creatures with tails and webbed feet,

Feathers and claws and fur-covered seats

Knew of each other in their many calls

By friends and neighbours alike as the “smalls”


But nearby the small place there others did dwell

In the tall’s place, with hard things and buildings like shells

A flat place with black things and shiny sharp clatters

So by smalls the talls were known as the “atters”


The atters took pride in their toil and their strife

In seizing the most out of day and of life,

Leaving no stone unearthed they look and they look,

In every last corner for some wealth they mis-took.


In the tall place an atter, a tall one, so smart,

Looked over the small place and said, “there I’ll start –

My fields are not endless they come to a stop –

Where I should be farming I simply cannot!”


“From wetland to dryland, this bothersome muck,

I’ll just take some fill with my monster dump-truck.

Away with this wet loathsome nuisance says me,

And soon with my tractor I’ll plant it with seed.”


So by spring all around talls noticed and fretted

But no one, not one, did anything about it

Till one tall one shouted and asked far and near

Did anyone notice, does anyone care?


Smalls cried out too but the atter couldn’t hear

Too busy dumping and sandbagging I fear

For under his sandbank the river was coursing

New courses and channels and rapids were forcing


Because that was the time of the oft-troubled flow

When the river it wriggled, and squiggled, and growed,

Over the banks it did charge with a frightening might

Carrying boulders, and tree trunks, as if they were slight!


The smalls in the river had but one place to go

To weather the storms till floodwaters slow

To swim in the settling silt clay and sand

Hunting for creatures from both water and land


But now with no place they crawled on the bank

Called up at the atter, said “are you to thank,

For this mess, for this loss of our village so dear

How will we live now in your field so clear?”


The atter stood tall and looked all about

To see what was there with such a small shout

So he stooped, lowered, kneeled, and noticed at last

The village of smalls he’d knocked over so fast


A look of dismay crossed his eyes, it was plain

With wonder, and sorrow, and pain, he exclaimed,

“But I did not know, I was blind, did not see

I thought it was my land to do as I pleased!”


“I thought of the profits rich bottomland yields

In fresh ploughed and seeded flat floodplainy fields

But floodwaters fell leaving more stucky muck

And sinkholes gave way taking my whole dump truck!”


“And who are you, little ones, now I see you so small?”

“We’re smalls” said the creatures, “and once and for all,

Stop being an atter and we’ll call you a tall

If you give us our homes back, and places to crawl!”


“Put it back!” they cried, “though you can’t overnight”

“We’ll put it back!” cried the tall, “with all of our might.”

“I won’t let my land and your land slip away,

So help me, please – what do you say?”


The floodwaters slowed, and they all got to work.

The tall returned boulders to each bend and each quirk

The smalls gathered brush, planting poles in a pile,

And by the end of the summer, the tall stood with a smile,


Surveying the wetland, no wasteland, he saw,

A flourishing village, stable banks without flaw,

A meadow of flowers, his bees would enjoy,

Giving honey and herbs for the talls he employed,


Now his tractors are quiet, most days and nights,

The tall works with nature, instead of a fight.

His fields, with nut shrubs and fruit trees, so lush

Catch soil every springtime when the river does rush.


So harken this story of woe, and restoring

The place of the smalls alongside talls, with adoring

To your grandchildren, and theirs, it truly will matter,

That you grew up so tall, and left behind being an atter.


Graham Watt is the coordinator of the Kettle River Watershed Management Plan for the RDKB, and is working with a Stakeholder Advisory Group from across the region to develop the plan. Email plan@kettleriver.ca

This post was syndicated from https://boundarysentinel.com
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