Sunday, October 22, 2006

A long time ago

A long time ago when we were young and it was just the two of us, Docko and I were traveling through Oregon. We found a beautiful spot along the Deschutes river where we spent a few days camping and swimming and just enjoying being young and carefree . Then one day a few miles down the way we came upon a place called The Dalles, on the Columbia river.

The salmon were running, that is, they were jumpimg over the falls and swimming upstream to their home waters to spawn. On the banks of the Columbia, many Indian men had built wooden scaffolds out over the water and were standing on those rickety looking scaffolds with a rope tied around their waists and anchored to something sturdy on the bank and they were fishing with dip nets. A most unusual sight to my young eyes!

The dip nets were large,the hoops something like 12 feet or more in diameter and fastened to 20 foot long poles. The salmon would leap over the huge boulders in the river on their way upstream and the fishermen would scoop them up in their nets. Big fish, some weighing 40 lbs.or more.

We wandered about fascinated with all the activity. we came across a man Docko had gone to college with. The two got to talking and his friend told us that during the spawning season salmon fishing is closed to everyone except American Indian people. The Indian people used the fish for food for the winter. They smoked some of the salmon and dried some of it.

They built small fires and cooked chunks of fish and eel over the open flame and sold it to the tourists who were always present to watch the activities. The tourists expected the Indian people to be like those in the cowboy and Indian movies, you know, not able to speak English and so on. I remember one elderly Indian man who spoke English very well...he taught me how to make the knots for the netting. But when the tourists asked him questions he pretended not to know the language.

As Docko was of Shoshone Indian descent he was eligible to fish with the others, so he decided to do just that. He had and old Indian man make him a net then he bought a big hoop and a long pole and made himself a dip net. Another trip to town and we came back with lumber to build a scaffold out over the rushing water. More lumber was purchased to make side walls and a floor for the tent we put up for the two of us to live in. For a tent, it was luxurious! wood floor and screen on the walls to keep the bugs out. Real uptown!

That man of mine was in puppy heaven fishing all day , lifting those heavy fish out of the water while I watched from the solid ground and hoped he wouldn't get pulled into the water and be dashed against those huge boulders .

Docko learned of another spot where the fishing was said to be good. The only thing was, it was about half way across the wide Columbia river and to get there you had to walk about a half mile or more across a railroad trestle that was 75 feet above the raging waters of the river.

I went where my guy went although I didn't really enjoy the trip across the trestle. You had to watch where you placed your feet so you could step on the railroad ties and that meant that you had to see the water crashing against the huge boulders way down below. Not a pretty sight to me! It seemed to take ages to get to the place where there was a rope ladder that led down to the boulders below.

The rope ladder was attached at the top and the rest of the ladder swung freely. It had metal rungs that were wet and slippery. Getting up and down that ladder wasn't easy. Making it across the trestle and down the ladder was challenge enough for me. After fishing there for a while Docko decided that fishing was just as good and much safer where he had first started so we gave up the trips across the railroad trestle and went back to the scaffold out over the river where he had first fished. I was happy about that. I was always worried that a train would come along while we were on the trestle. Happily, none did. We spent the entire summer there, fishing as our grandfathers had done for ages. That summer that gave us wonderful lifelong memories.

Looking at those trips across the river high up on the train trestle from this point in time I wonder if I would have the intestinal fortitude to do it today. Probably not. But the young think they're bulletproof .

I spent a little time visiting with gyro buddy Teddy this weekend and tomorrow Linda and John Delaney are coming to visit. Life is good.

Till next time.
Marion Springer