Thomas Doty – Storyteller


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The Otter in Picture Gorge

The centuries-old symbols on stone at the entrance to Picture Gorge seem unchanged for longer than anyone can imagine. Images of the sun burn vividly red in the spring sunlight.

Below, the John Day River rushes along, swelled dark and gritty with snowmelt, continuing to carve its way through the gorge. As brown as the river, an otter rises to the surface.

Coyote is fond of otters and he likes that I refer to them as his cousins, those carefree coyotes of the sea and of the river. Until we spotted the otter we felt small, out of place, dwarfed by the walls of basalt, and out of time, too young to be here in the presence of the ancient ones ... the pictographs, the gorge, and their long memory of sunlight.

But now, seeing the playfulness of the otter, we jump into my rig -- my faithful mechanical donkey in the form of a Japanese Jeep -- Coyote howls "Giddeyup!" and we trot down the road, following the otter as he rides the waves and dives, rides the waves and dives.... Sleek and sensuous, he rises into the light for an instant -- a picture snapped of the moment -- and he is gone, into the depths and downriver....

We drive deeper into the shadows of the gorge. The sunlight stays behind, in the company of old friends.