Watershed

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By Percival Everett (1996)

This is the fourth book I have read from Percival Everett. I guess perhaps the author is an African American, thats why his books seem to have a tendency towards African American characters.

Robert Hawks, a black hydrologist, finds himself caught between the FBI and a Native American group in a mystery that deals with treaty rights, civil rights and water rights.  After reading the story, I am not sure how much I really understand what the author wants to convey. The topic should be a heavy one, however I find that the story is very loosely tied up.

The army was storing anthrax bombs and other kinds of biochemical agents on the north end of the reservation (top of the mountains). The leaks of the chemicals would be carried by the groundwater to Silly Man Creek right into the Plata or lake where the indians are  using.  The army had diverted the non polluted water to another area for the non-indians. What begins for Robert as a peaceful fishing interlude ends in murder and the disclosure of government secrets.

At the end of the story, Robert was driving to Naturalists’ Conservancy office in Denver with the evidence of photographs taken to show that the water and area was contaminated to exposure the misdeed. In some sense, it seem that Robert was following the footsteps of his grandfather.

The fallout that occured after my grandfather’s return from Atlanta was difficult for me to understand. The constant telephone threats become routine, although my father didn’t allow me to answer the phone for several weeks. The word in the neighbourhood was that my grandfather was a hero, a black man who had stood up for what he believed was right, who had stood up for a poor black man in trouble, who had risked everything, his life, his career, and his family to keep “blacker than black” Bunchy Cooke from frying in the chair in the Peach State.

Grandfather didn’t wear the event as a triumph, however. He fell silent upon his return, spending more time in his room, and then the news came. The State of Virginaia was revoking my grandfather’s license to practise medicine; he had commited a crime by failing to notify the proper authorities of a gunshot wound. In the book the grandfather felt that he cant just let a patient bleed to death, he should save him whatever he has done.

The grandfather did have some words for Robert that he remembered to heart.
“Just do something you love. That’s really the only thing that matters. Do something you have to do. Find it and do it. Life is too short.”

There is one time Robert went hunting with his grandfather.

My grandfather insisted that we split up. He told me that he would swing wide and come back over the dike and so flush any hiding animals out toward me. We’d never hunted that way before and I had a bad feeling about it.

“I think we should stay togther.”I said. “We’ve never split up before.”

Grandfather was rubbing the barrel of his shotgun and then smelling the gun oil on his fingers. “We can’t always be together, Grandson. This world is made to be felt alone. Everything important you do alone. Do you know what I mean Even falling in love. And some things especially. So I’ll come up through the big laurels and you be ready, okay?”

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One response »

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