The headwaters of the Salmon River empty into this fertile basin, bordered on one side by the Sawtooth range and the other by the White Clouds. The Salmon begins life as a trickle, cutting through sprawling ranches and abandoned mining claims, but within a handful of miles she becomes a raging river, fed by small tributaries.

I was driving over one of those small tributaries last 4th of July, when a bald eagle dropped into the airspace above my truck’s hood. My gaze shifted from the eagle to the road, where I saw the wooden sign naming the tributary.

Fourth of July Creek.

Fourth of July Creek. Fourth of July. Bald eagle.

I could be making that up.

But I’m not.

‘Merica, right?

By then, the river running alongside the road had gained enough strength to challenge the occasional fly fisherman’s commitment to remaining upright. I passed a little boy standing on the riverbank, throwing stones at the water… literally pelting the river with rocks, as hard as he could.

The river didn’t seem to care.

She ran her course, as she had long before that little boy was there.

That night I stayed with friends at a house overlooking the basin. We circled the fire pit and talked about horses and dogs and land and sky, before drifting into mountain sleep.

We hiked the canyon behind the house sometime after dawn, and one of us noticed a small pine tree growing through the tiniest of holes in a boulder beside the trail. Life finds a way, we told ourselves.

Life finds a way.

Rivers run to the sea.

The Salmon glistened in the mid-morning sun as I followed her home. Just before 4th of July Creek, I looked to the riverbank.

The little boy was gone.