The Hoh River, near Forks

“When they came,” Shele Kinkead said, “it was like they took over town.”

But the planes were nowhere to be seen — well, heard — when the map-trotter first arrived in Forks, Washington in the early ’80s. Her husband’s first parish was there. She was still a teacher. Their neighbors were military supporters and folks escaping loud urban life. The one stop light had yet to go up. Elk roamed. Lewis and Clark would have recognized it.

But there was more left to explore. She detoured to the polar bear capital of Alaska with a girlfriend, still in a school but moonlighting as an anti-drilling activist. She learned all about whaling and Indigenous culture. Her husband passed away. But Forks still called.

“It was just time to get further away from people and out to wilderness.”

Finally, retirement. Freedom. Her curly hair grayed.

Then one day she was beating back the salmonberries. Was that a helicopter coming? The birds quieted. The rumble grew. Tree branches shook. It became a roar. Her black lab mix went berserk. A jet whooshed past along the Calawah River. It almost blew her down. She led her dog inside, calmed her down — the jet gone but not yet its rumble.

It was a Growler: a new Navy plane. Forks is in the Olympic Military Operations Area. She hears them most days now. Things rattle. Conversations have to pause.

So, back to the trenches: meetings, protests, meet-and-greets. Anything to get the Navy to hear voices like hers.

Shele Kinkead tries not to live life with anger, but still gets riled up in the loudest moments.

“People would say, ‘That’s the sound of freedom.’ No, that’s the sound of war.”

Writer, journalist, generally creative person, latte aficionado || San Francisco || samuelgoldman.net || T: @Sam__Goldman

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