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Reflections on Naturalist Jim Anderson

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As we publish Jim Anderson's farewell column this week, Publisher Aaron Switzer offers this look back at the long relationship between our beloved Natural World contributor and the paper.

I find it hard to believe that there will be a Source Weekly without a Jim Anderson column. Jim began writing for the paper after our first couple issues had come out. We became acquainted through his prodigiously talented son Reuben, who was one of our first art directors while still in high school. It was hard to place the tall, blue-haired boy next to the short and stocky white-haired naturalist father. But the easy-going manner and perpetually happy demeanor was a dead giveaway that the two were genetically linked.

SUE ANDERSON
  • Sue Anderson

Over the course of the next several years, Jim and I became friends. Jim taught me the requisite talents of being a Central Oregon resident. How to sharpen a chainsaw, how to drop a tree, how to high center a truck, how to get it unstuck and how wood can heat twice.

During our wood-cutting trips, Jim would regale me with stories of Central Oregon in the '50s and '60s. His innate ability as a storyteller meant that I would be treated to tales of a post-war Oregon where wildlife was still to be seen in an undisturbed form if you had the adventuring spirit. And boy, Jim had that in spades, with a seemingly infinite collection of stories to prove it.

When we first began publishing Jim's columns in the Source, I was extremely skeptical that there was an audience for a naturalist column in our fledgling alternative weekly. Only a couple of months old, we were supposed to be shaking the branches of the tree politic and telling edgy stories of Bend's wild nightlife scene, not its wildlife. Since those first issues 22 years ago, Jim's column, Natural World, has appeared in most of our issues.

His column has been an important reminder in this booming, changing Central Oregon that we share with an amazing array of creatures great and small. People are coming here in ever increasing numbers to enjoy the natural wonders. And I worry about this new local, without access to Jim's column, who is only fed information about the rad new trail to drop in on, or the high lake waiting to be paddle boarded.

Here at the Source, now that Jim is moving, we will miss Jim's words, his stories and the special visits when he would come into the office with an owl on his arm or just a bag of popcorn to share. As a community we will miss one of its greatest storytellers and a subtle champion of the Natural World.

WATCH: Our recent video of Jim Anderson teaching about making an owl nesting box:

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