Just check out University of Illinois-Urbana journalism professor Walt Harrington’s 2002 book The Everlasting Stream. I recently read it and enjoyed Harrington’s meditation on hunting and masculinity. Having grown up in a rural area, I found that Harrington understood well the dynamics of groups of hunting men. As one who gravitates more to reading than killing, fiction than fishing, I came away from the book with a better understanding of why men get together and kill animals. Sure, it’s about the sport itself, the desire to take physical dominion over animals. But hunting is also about getting together with one’s friends and enjoying life together. The Everlasting Stream communicates this reality even as it allows the reader to peek into Harrington’s life. Harrington was once a prominent Washington Post writer, a post he gave up to step into a quieter, simpler life, the professorial life in Illinois.
Growing up, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would live in a small town. Boredom dominates, and nothing significant seems to happen. But as Harrington reveals, there is great meaning in the living of everyday life in a friendly, familiar environment, surrounded by one’s family and friends. My generation seems naturally to detest any connection to its old haunts, its childhood stomping grounds, so restless are we to shuttle off to big cities filled with excitement and discovery. When you’ve had a taste of such traveling, though, when you’ve inhaled the fumes of a transient existence long enough, you start to understand why people move to small communities, why they reject the hustle and bustle of cities for the calm and peace of small towns. The Everlasting Stream doesn’t seek to make any major points, but it does allow one to reflect on the tension between urban and rural life that exists in so many of us, and to wonder whether bigger, better, faster, and more truly delivers what it promises.