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The Earth Is Enough: Growing Up in a World of Flyfishing, Trout & Old Men

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In this touching memoir of his boyhood on a farm in the Ozark foothills, Harry Middleton joins the front rank of nature writers alongside Edward Hoagland and Annie Dillard. It is the year1965, a year rife with change in the world---and in the life of a boy whose tragic loss of innocence leads him to the healing landscape of the Ozarks. Haunted by indescribable longing, twe In this touching memoir of his boyhood on a farm in the Ozark foothills, Harry Middleton joins the front rank of nature writers alongside Edward Hoagland and Annie Dillard. It is the year1965, a year rife with change in the world---and in the life of a boy whose tragic loss of innocence leads him to the healing landscape of the Ozarks. Haunted by indescribable longing, twelve-year-old Harry is turned over to two enigmatic guardians, men as old as the hills they farm and as elusive and beautiful as the trout they fish for---with religious devotion. Seeking strength and purpose from life, Harry learns from his uncle, grandfather, and their crazy Sioux neighbor, Elias Wonder, that the pulse of life beats from within the deep constancy of the earth, and from one’s devotion to it. Amidst the rhythm of an ancient cadence, Harry discovers his home: a farm, a mountain stream, and the eye of a trout rising.


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In this touching memoir of his boyhood on a farm in the Ozark foothills, Harry Middleton joins the front rank of nature writers alongside Edward Hoagland and Annie Dillard. It is the year1965, a year rife with change in the world---and in the life of a boy whose tragic loss of innocence leads him to the healing landscape of the Ozarks. Haunted by indescribable longing, twe In this touching memoir of his boyhood on a farm in the Ozark foothills, Harry Middleton joins the front rank of nature writers alongside Edward Hoagland and Annie Dillard. It is the year1965, a year rife with change in the world---and in the life of a boy whose tragic loss of innocence leads him to the healing landscape of the Ozarks. Haunted by indescribable longing, twelve-year-old Harry is turned over to two enigmatic guardians, men as old as the hills they farm and as elusive and beautiful as the trout they fish for---with religious devotion. Seeking strength and purpose from life, Harry learns from his uncle, grandfather, and their crazy Sioux neighbor, Elias Wonder, that the pulse of life beats from within the deep constancy of the earth, and from one’s devotion to it. Amidst the rhythm of an ancient cadence, Harry discovers his home: a farm, a mountain stream, and the eye of a trout rising.

30 review for The Earth Is Enough: Growing Up in a World of Flyfishing, Trout & Old Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melki

    "Be good to the earth and the earth will be good to you." Harry Middleton grew up an Army brat, living all over the globe. When his father was stationed in Okinawa during the mid-sixties, twelve-year-old Harry was traumatized after witnessing a friend's horrific death. It was decided that perhaps Harry should go live for a while with his grandfather and great-uncle, two elderly men living a simple, quiet life in the Ozark mountains. There he received the education of a lifetime at the hands of E "Be good to the earth and the earth will be good to you." Harry Middleton grew up an Army brat, living all over the globe. When his father was stationed in Okinawa during the mid-sixties, twelve-year-old Harry was traumatized after witnessing a friend's horrific death. It was decided that perhaps Harry should go live for a while with his grandfather and great-uncle, two elderly men living a simple, quiet life in the Ozark mountains. There he received the education of a lifetime at the hands of Emerson and Albert, and their neighbor, Elias Wonder: men who somehow managed to work the farm just enough to allow them to spend the bulk of their days as they wished - that is afield, along the creek, in the cool shadowy hollows, up in the hills. Harry learned to fish, and hunt, yes, but he was also taught a deep respect for the earth and all the creatures that dwell and depend on it. Like anxious, spiritually ravenous pilgrims, they traveled to the creek each day, in every season, as much in pursuit of solace as trout. It was their presbytery, their mosque, their basilica, their bethel, their sacrarium. They were firmly harnessed to the earth as it was and they took the land, its beauty and its blind treachery, a day at a time. Inconvenience and poverty were as much a part of their lives as hailstorms, tornadoes, bountiful harvests, drought, good trout, plump quail, plagues of insects, and deer moving up in the high country. They never prayed for help, for a change in their luck, for anything, although I did once hear Emerson ask the Great Mystery to bless a No. 18 dry fly he had just tied on in the hopes of tempting a huge rainbow trout that stalked the deep water of Karen's Pond. I think it's fair to say that in the company of these ancient men, Harry learned all that is important in life. A couple of decades ago, I briefly worked for a mom & pop fly fishing book company called The Angler's Art. (Honest to god - they sold NOTHING but books about fly fishing. Oh, those glorious days before Amazon . . . ) The owner, Barry Serviente, loved this book, and upon learning of Middleton's death, he ordered several cases of this title. He graciously gave copies to his employees . . . all two of us. My husband read it immediately, but I put it on the shelf where it remained for so long. I'm not sure why I decided to take it down and read it now, but I am SO GLAD I finally did. This is undoubtedly one of the best books I've read this year, and it may someday make the leap onto my favorites list. Though I don't fish myself, I have indeed beheld the Power of Fly Fishing, as I've seen an hour in the creek turn my husband from this to this Do you need to be a fisherman to enjoy this one? No, not at all. The beauty of the writing, and the imagery that Middleton conjures has a universal appeal to anyone who appreciates nature and solitude. Most highly recommended. "I just raise a good drink down by the creek, offer a toast to Albert and Emerson, even that old bastard dog of theirs. And now to you as well. There are so few of us left. That's all, just a toast to trout men, one and all. There are so few left, so few who believe the earth is enough."

  2. 5 out of 5

    HBalikov

    A boy in a U.S. military family stationed in S.E. Asia goes out to play one day with his friends. They find a grenade and his whole world changes. He is sent to his grandfather's place in rural Arkansas where he grows up. This is all the plot I will reveal and it doesn't convey how extraordinary this book is. Through his grandfather and two other elderly males, he discovers the magic of Starlight Creek and the small world around it. THE BEST BOOK I READ ALL YEAR And I am putting on the list to re A boy in a U.S. military family stationed in S.E. Asia goes out to play one day with his friends. They find a grenade and his whole world changes. He is sent to his grandfather's place in rural Arkansas where he grows up. This is all the plot I will reveal and it doesn't convey how extraordinary this book is. Through his grandfather and two other elderly males, he discovers the magic of Starlight Creek and the small world around it. THE BEST BOOK I READ ALL YEAR And I am putting on the list to re-read in 2018!

  3. 5 out of 5

    KatieSuzanne

    I loved everything about this book. It came highly recommended from the local fly shop. I bought one as a gift for an old fisherman who had everything and one for me. The old guy said he read it twice. I probably will too

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I came upon this book quite by accident. After I finished it I was simply stunned by the story, the poetic writing of the author, and the impact it had on me. I have read this book numerous times and am getting ready to read it again. I consider it one of the best books I have ever read. The book deals with the brief time the author spent with his grandfather, great uncle, and a half-breed American Indian friend on a small farm in the Ozark mountains when he was 14. The men taught the author how I came upon this book quite by accident. After I finished it I was simply stunned by the story, the poetic writing of the author, and the impact it had on me. I have read this book numerous times and am getting ready to read it again. I consider it one of the best books I have ever read. The book deals with the brief time the author spent with his grandfather, great uncle, and a half-breed American Indian friend on a small farm in the Ozark mountains when he was 14. The men taught the author how they lived a simple life and tried to work their farm by 19th century guidelines which were often at odds with local (county agricultural) practices and their so-called "God faring" neighbors. The author literally grew up in a "world of trout and old men". Many say this is one of the best works of literature on fly fishing ever written (see also Nick Lyons, Norman Maclean, Isaac Walton). It is. But it is much more than that. The author led a troubled life and died at a very young age in 1993.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    This is a wonderful book by an author who deserved better than he got. It is a shame that a writer with such skill spent the later part of his life working on a garbage truck - honorable work but I selfishly wish we had more of his words to read. A beautiful heartfelt work that is about so much more than fly fishing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    A favorite of mine and my father's; a beautiful, thoughtful autobiography by one of America's least appreciated home-growns. I love the Uncles, I love boy Harry, I love the sadness and the humor threaded through each page. It's funny,elusive,and stunningly written, very much like the trout that the characters love so much. A favorite of mine and my father's; a beautiful, thoughtful autobiography by one of America's least appreciated home-growns. I love the Uncles, I love boy Harry, I love the sadness and the humor threaded through each page. It's funny,elusive,and stunningly written, very much like the trout that the characters love so much.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cameron Scott

    The best fly-fishing book I've ever read. Middleton's best. The way he writes about rivers and life, has only been equaled in novel form, by A River Runs Through It, and Snowfly: A Novel. I have never wanted to fish a river I was reading about more.... The best fly-fishing book I've ever read. Middleton's best. The way he writes about rivers and life, has only been equaled in novel form, by A River Runs Through It, and Snowfly: A Novel. I have never wanted to fish a river I was reading about more....

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laurel

    Excellent memoir about rediscovering purpose in one's life through a new found interest. Lovely prose, engaging dialogue, and an array of fantastic characters that make me smile just thinking about them. 4.5/5 stars Excellent memoir about rediscovering purpose in one's life through a new found interest. Lovely prose, engaging dialogue, and an array of fantastic characters that make me smile just thinking about them. 4.5/5 stars

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matt Sans

    In a feat that I would have previously thought impossible, this book managed to be something that seemed to be the creation of two of my all-time favorite authors; David James Duncan and Gerald Durrell. It has the endlessly clever tangential stories, musings, and dialogue of Duncan’s The Brother’s K; it had a large part of the story’s focus being on exactly the type of eccentric characters you’d find in Durrell’s The Corfu Trilogy. All of this wrapped into beautiful descriptions of nature and th In a feat that I would have previously thought impossible, this book managed to be something that seemed to be the creation of two of my all-time favorite authors; David James Duncan and Gerald Durrell. It has the endlessly clever tangential stories, musings, and dialogue of Duncan’s The Brother’s K; it had a large part of the story’s focus being on exactly the type of eccentric characters you’d find in Durrell’s The Corfu Trilogy. All of this wrapped into beautiful descriptions of nature and the wonders found in the simpler joys in life like you find in Duncan’s The River Why. This was not my expectation when I began to read, but it was a wonderful surprise. If this book doesn’t make you want to spend the rest of your life on a river by the mountains fly-fishing, than you must not have been reading carefully enough. Here are some of my favorite passages from the book... “Books provided further evidence of their intimate connection to the Earth, to the natural world, to every living thing. In that room overflowing with books, they read and in so doing traveled to exotic lands, listened to symphonies, attended operas, lost themselves in the melodies of time. Nightly, they were pilgrims and the good news was that all their roads eventually joined, brought them back home, back to the banks of Starlight Creek.” “Between them, the old men must have created hundreds of trout flies, insect mutants as bizarre and seductive as any ever to drop from a fly tier’s vise. With perhaps two exceptions, none of their titillating offerings ever stirred a trout’s interest, a fact that didn’t bother them at all. As long as there were fur and feathers and colored thread, there was hope and possibility and excitement-the chance of success. And they were two old men who thrived on chance.” “Solitude was their profit, more valuable to them than a fat bank account, and they determined to spend it wisely and well.” “Just as I knew that my life was changing, so too did I know at that moment that no matter what became of me, whether or not I caught a thousand trout or never another, nothing would ever quite compare to this trout, the way it hauled me so easily and humbly into its world, into the chaos that is the natural world, at once terrifying and thrilling.”

  10. 4 out of 5

    Claxton

    only for those willing to slog through rivers of exposition in leaky waders to get to the headwaters of why men fish. worth every page, but most would disagree, i am afraid.

  11. 5 out of 5

    R.P. Antweiler

    GENRE: Memoir SYNOPSIS: Harry as a troubled 15 year old is sent to live with two aging Ozark philosopher hillbillies and learns the value of living with the earth. COMMENTS: Pro—excellent writing, lots of images. The book introduced me to two of the most appealing literary characters since Thoreau. The two men in Earth Is Enough lived their whole lives with the appreciation and thoughtful inclination that Thoreau lived for his two years at Walden. Con—the chapters before Harry gets to the Ozark GENRE: Memoir SYNOPSIS: Harry as a troubled 15 year old is sent to live with two aging Ozark philosopher hillbillies and learns the value of living with the earth. COMMENTS: Pro—excellent writing, lots of images. The book introduced me to two of the most appealing literary characters since Thoreau. The two men in Earth Is Enough lived their whole lives with the appreciation and thoughtful inclination that Thoreau lived for his two years at Walden. Con—the chapters before Harry gets to the Ozarks are a little slow. General—if you read only one chapter read “Karen’s pool,” Chapter 4. It works to describe what the word enough means in the title. Chapter 6, at the beginning, does a good job of describing the appeal and value of reading. The book is a lot about fly fishing. I’m not a fly fisherman, but the book gives the experience fly fishers get when they fly fish. It’s that experience that is important. I got it from motorcycling at one time. The point isn’t to fly fish or ride motorcycles but to find whatever in your life gives you that experience. Earth is Enough goes a long way to point out or demonstrate an experience you may be looking for. Once you know what it looks or feels like, it’s easier to find this experience in your own life. OVERALL—did I find the book worthwhile? Would I read it again? O O O O X O WAS THE BOOK Entertaining—humorous, exciting, suspenseful O X O O O O Informative—do I understand specifics of times, places, or things more? O X O O O O Insightful—do I understand the general flow of the whole world differently? O O O O X O Inspirational—am I motivated to live differently? O O O O X O ELEMENTS OF THE BOOK Setting—did I feel like I was in a specific place? O O O O O X Plot—did I feel pulled along by what happens next? O X O O O O Character Development—did the people feel like real people? Are they memorable? O O O O O X LANGUAGE Complex / simple — Long versus short, abstraction versus specific O O O O X O matter-of-fact/ literary — Image and word play O O O O X O

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris Sherman

    This is an unfortunate book. Based on reviews and the very interesting/ moving author bio I had big hopes for this one and it fell short. Middleton is clearly a gifted word-master; however, he fails to present a cohesive novel. The book is billed as both quality nature writing and literature, but in reality it exists in the undefined and, thus, unfortunate space between the two. That is, it falls short of, say, Rachel Carson's social portent, but also of the graceful emotive power of Maclean or This is an unfortunate book. Based on reviews and the very interesting/ moving author bio I had big hopes for this one and it fell short. Middleton is clearly a gifted word-master; however, he fails to present a cohesive novel. The book is billed as both quality nature writing and literature, but in reality it exists in the undefined and, thus, unfortunate space between the two. That is, it falls short of, say, Rachel Carson's social portent, but also of the graceful emotive power of Maclean or Hemingway (both of whom also base novels around fly fishing, for whatever that is worth). Let it be said also that this book succumbs to the most consistent flaw of nature writing--it is often effusive.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This book ranks among my most favorite books in my library. This is one that I will reread at least a couple more times. Harry has such a wonderful way of taking you right at the place and moment in time and introduces such wonderful people in his works. This is the book that has a little bit of everything I enjoy in my reading, flyfishing, the outdoors, history, exciting characters, and enchanted places. In many ways it takes me back to my years growing up on our farm. I want to find more books of This book ranks among my most favorite books in my library. This is one that I will reread at least a couple more times. Harry has such a wonderful way of taking you right at the place and moment in time and introduces such wonderful people in his works. This is the book that has a little bit of everything I enjoy in my reading, flyfishing, the outdoors, history, exciting characters, and enchanted places. In many ways it takes me back to my years growing up on our farm. I want to find more books of this genre and caliber to read!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kate Davis

    A book I was dreading reading - fishing is certainly not my thing, and neither is men's worlds. But the author's style is so beautiful, his command of language so thorough, that I was pulled in. I cared for the author, I cared for the old men; I cried when they died. A moving work of how real life can be more about God than church life; about God being in the world he created more than he is in the world man's created. A book I was dreading reading - fishing is certainly not my thing, and neither is men's worlds. But the author's style is so beautiful, his command of language so thorough, that I was pulled in. I cared for the author, I cared for the old men; I cried when they died. A moving work of how real life can be more about God than church life; about God being in the world he created more than he is in the world man's created.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Burt

    My son gave me this book several Christmases ago and it's a real lump-in-the-throat kind of book. There is much wisdom, fishing, hunting, living, and learning in this book and I recommend it highly. There are lots of sensei/kempai books and films around and this is one of the best. I never read one that I do not think of my father and I and my son and I and how everything comes around. My son gave me this book several Christmases ago and it's a real lump-in-the-throat kind of book. There is much wisdom, fishing, hunting, living, and learning in this book and I recommend it highly. There are lots of sensei/kempai books and films around and this is one of the best. I never read one that I do not think of my father and I and my son and I and how everything comes around.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bethel

    Great book!I finished this book and am now reading it again. One of the most beautifully written books ever. I have never been to the Ozark Mts but I walk Starlight Creek every night with Harry Middleton and fish to my hearts content. i sit by Karens Pool and drift off to sleep with beautiful images in my mind. Thanks Harry

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    Some writers have a gift for crafting prose that is simply a pleasure to stroll through. This one made me feel like was back in the Ozarks tromping around the hills; often after closing the book the soft smell of dry leafs and cool late winter rain lingered for a while.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    I think the root of the story and the message of the novel are great. Middleton does however, repeat himself constantly. The old men in the story clearly of the salt of the earth. That dead horse is thourougly beaten by the 3rd chapter. I actually couldn't finish the book. I think the root of the story and the message of the novel are great. Middleton does however, repeat himself constantly. The old men in the story clearly of the salt of the earth. That dead horse is thourougly beaten by the 3rd chapter. I actually couldn't finish the book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sally Wilson traub

    One of my favorite books of all time. One of the few that I've taken time to read more than once and now that I'm thinking about it, I think I'll read it again. It's been about 10 years so it's time. One of my favorite books of all time. One of the few that I've taken time to read more than once and now that I'm thinking about it, I think I'll read it again. It's been about 10 years so it's time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris Warren

    Extraordinary book. It's not really a flyfishing book though it contains the best explanation of why I fish that I have read. It's about nature and man's relation to it, about age and wisdom. It's compelling. The book of my year. Extraordinary book. It's not really a flyfishing book though it contains the best explanation of why I fish that I have read. It's about nature and man's relation to it, about age and wisdom. It's compelling. The book of my year.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Linda Leitz

    Beautifully written If you're looking for a fast moving plot, don't read this book. But if you want beautiful writing and compelling, unique characters contemplating nature and what matters, this is the right book. Beautifully written If you're looking for a fast moving plot, don't read this book. But if you want beautiful writing and compelling, unique characters contemplating nature and what matters, this is the right book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    i loved this book, probably b/e i had to invest so much into it. i just loved harry's voice...i think he "converted" me to faith, hope, and love...yeah, let's just say i didn't get an a. i loved this book, probably b/e i had to invest so much into it. i just loved harry's voice...i think he "converted" me to faith, hope, and love...yeah, let's just say i didn't get an a.

  23. 5 out of 5

    John K. Ross, MD

    Excellent treatment of why boys need old men.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jim Anderson

    One of the sweetest books I have ever read. I miss Harry.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Allen Goetz

    A wonderful read for anyone that loves nature, including fishing and hunting, male relationships and good story.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Don Thomson

    We can learn so much from our elders but never appreciate it until it is too late.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    A twelve year old kid living in Okinawa on the cusp of the Vietnam conflict is sent back to the states by his father, an officer in the military, to live in the Ozarks on a farm with eccentric relatives and a crazy old Sioux who teach him about fly fishing, an appreciation for blues music, and that the Earth is Enough. Captivating story. Great characters abound including the dog Cody; an angling hound with a great philosophy about fishing and life in general. Coming of age and all that. Question A twelve year old kid living in Okinawa on the cusp of the Vietnam conflict is sent back to the states by his father, an officer in the military, to live in the Ozarks on a farm with eccentric relatives and a crazy old Sioux who teach him about fly fishing, an appreciation for blues music, and that the Earth is Enough. Captivating story. Great characters abound including the dog Cody; an angling hound with a great philosophy about fishing and life in general. Coming of age and all that. Questions on spirituality and faith. A fine story that includes so many elements of what I believe a good story should include: a boy, a good dog, fishing, nature, philosophy, faith, loss, longing, and a cadre of wise old dudes living the full life of a time long past. I admit, the ending drew a few tears.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    A beautifully written memoir of the early 1960s in the life of a young teenage boy. Middleton was living in Okinawa with his military family until a horrible accident killed one of his friends, and he was sent back to the Ozarks in Arkansas to live with his grandfather and the old man's best friend. Middleton traces his discovery of the wonders of nature and silence, particularly flyfishing for trout, reading in their massive collection of classics, and the simple, intense, thoughtful lives of t A beautifully written memoir of the early 1960s in the life of a young teenage boy. Middleton was living in Okinawa with his military family until a horrible accident killed one of his friends, and he was sent back to the Ozarks in Arkansas to live with his grandfather and the old man's best friend. Middleton traces his discovery of the wonders of nature and silence, particularly flyfishing for trout, reading in their massive collection of classics, and the simple, intense, thoughtful lives of the old men (including their other rescued friend, a native American suffering the long-lasting effects of mustard gas in WW1). With reflections on life and death and everything in between, Middleton's writing is a pleasure to wade into and through. One of those books I imagine I will read again one day.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey May

    More Than Enough The Earth is Enough begins well and carries through to the inevitable ending with the reader better off for the journey. Excellent writing, except for a few minor stylistic concerns that were, for me, a little bit of a distraction. If I'm thinking about the style and not just feeling the story, then its gotten in the way. For example, sometimes scenes appeared out of nowhere, seemingly at random, and the dialogue almost throughout sounded exactly like the narrative, regardless of More Than Enough The Earth is Enough begins well and carries through to the inevitable ending with the reader better off for the journey. Excellent writing, except for a few minor stylistic concerns that were, for me, a little bit of a distraction. If I'm thinking about the style and not just feeling the story, then its gotten in the way. For example, sometimes scenes appeared out of nowhere, seemingly at random, and the dialogue almost throughout sounded exactly like the narrative, regardless of character. Also, the writing is almost too effusive for long stretches. And that's something coming from me, an avid outdoors person who loves to catch trout and smallmouth with a fly rod. However, overall, highly recommended.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    A beautifully written remembrance of the author's young life. A life that might never have been shared, with such elegance and tact, by a less contemplative mind. There is only enough humor in this book to keep it from being completely heartbreaking, but it is very good humor. The heartbreak, the beauty, and the love, are as sharp and shining as a good hunting knife. If they could read this book, I imagine those Old Men would nod their heads and perhaps make a joke, as content in the author's sp A beautifully written remembrance of the author's young life. A life that might never have been shared, with such elegance and tact, by a less contemplative mind. There is only enough humor in this book to keep it from being completely heartbreaking, but it is very good humor. The heartbreak, the beauty, and the love, are as sharp and shining as a good hunting knife. If they could read this book, I imagine those Old Men would nod their heads and perhaps make a joke, as content in the author's spirit as they were with him before they left this earth.

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