Anne McCrady is a writer and inspirational speaker who lives in East Texas. Her award-winning poetry collections are Along Greathouse Road and Under a Blameless Moon. Anne's poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in literary journals, magazines, anthologies and online. She is a frequent speaker at conferences, civic groups, festivals, churches and schools, as well as the founder and principal of InSpiritry, an endeavor to Put Words to Work for the Greater Good. She welcomes readers to her blog and website at www.InSpiritry.com.
Red Tag Comes Back
When I think about my childhood, it seems I was always a reader, always a writer and always a scientist. In my bedroom, paper, pencils and books shared space with stuffed animals and other toys. Often home sick with asthma, I let my mind live in a wider world and it took my heart with it!
While I had many favorite books, one that remains on my shelf between newer authors, is a simple story that captured my imagination in ways I only realized recently. The book was Red Tag Comes Back. It was written by Fred Phleger with line drawings by Arnold Lobel, and was a Science – I Can Read book published by Harper & Row in 1960.
The story is a factually based account of a salmon from its young life in a Northwest American river to its trip out to sea and its eventual return years later to lay its eggs and die. The salmon’s endeavors are witnessed by two Native American children, Aku and his sister, who understand and honor the cycle of its life.
From the first page, I wanted to join those two children, whose days included exploration in the woods beside a quiet river. I wondered about the difference in their lives and mine. I wanted to be the scientist who tagged the baby salmon. I wanted to follow it on its adventure down the river and beyond. I feared for its life among the bigger fish, ached for it in the struggle to return home, dreaded its death and rejoiced in the triumph of knowing it had spawned a new generation.
When my childhood books were packed away, Red Tag wasn’t forgotten. I survived my asthma, grew up enjoying walks in the woods alone, went on to college where I studied Chemistry and Biology and became a storyteller and writer. I developed a deep reverence for Nature and kept my curiosity about the diversity of people and places and things. I now live on five tree shaded acres that I share with fish and woodpeckers and raccoons and squirrels. As a mother, I read Red Tag with my children and have my original copy to show my grandchildren.
Recently while reading online, I discovered that Fred Phleger was a scientist of great renown as well as a writer. Knowing that, I realize he gave me more than just a favorite book. He helped lead me to pursue a life centered on the great mystery of “how things are.” Each day as I write a poem about the play of shadow or tell a story about children who are inquisitive or publish an essay about the Greater Good, I am paying homage to Fred Phleger for his inspiration.
More about Phleger and his wife can be found at this Vintage Kids’ Books post:
About Along Greathouse Road - This reading offers new work as well as selections from Anne’s first poetry collection, Along Greathouse Road, which won the 2003 Edwin M. Eakin Book Publication Award offered by the Poetry Society of Texas. With unforgettable characters, picturesque settings and Anne’s distinctive reading voice, this program takes audiences "back home" for a while.
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