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felt something tickling like a cobweb about their noses and under their chins. They changed their
a little to brush it off, and it touched their fins as well. Then they tried to slip down with the current, and thus leave it behind. But, no! the thing, whatever it was, although its touch was soft, refused to let go, and held them like a fetter. The more they struggled, the tighter became its grasp, and the whole foremost rank of the salmon felt it together; for it was a great gill-net, a quarter of a mile long, stretched squarely across the mouth of the river.
By-and-by men came in boats, and hauled up the gill-net and the helpless salmon that had become entangled in it. They threw the fishes into a pile in the bottom of the boat, and the others saw them
We that live outside the water know better what befalls them, and we can tell the story which the salmon could not.
All along the banks of the Columbia River, from its mouth to nearly thirty miles away, there is a succession of large buildings, looking like great barns or warehouses, built on piles in the river, high enough to be out of the reach of floods. There are thirty of these buildings, and they are called canneries. Each cannery has about forty boats, and with each boat are two men and a long gill-net. These nets fill the whole river as with a nest of cobwebs from April to July, and to each cannery nearly a thousand great salmon are brought every day. These salmon are thrown in a pile on the floor; and Wing Hop, the big Chinaman, takes them one after another on the table, and with
a great knife dexterously cuts off the head, the tail, and the fins; then with a sudden thrust he removes the intestines and the eggs. The body goes into a tank of water; and the head is dropped into a box on a flat-boat, and goes down the river to be made into salmon oil. Next, the body is brought to another table; and Quong Sang, with a machine like a feed-cutter, cuts it into pieces each just as long as a one-pound can. Then Ah Sam, with a butcher-knife, cuts these pieces into strips just as wide as the can. Next Wan Lee, the “China boy," brings down a hundred cans from the loft where the tinners are making them, and into each can puts a spoonful of salt. It takes just six salmon to fill a hundred cans. Then twenty Chinamen put the pieces of meat into the cans, fitting in little strips to make them exactly full. Ten more solder up the cans, and ten more put the cans into boiling water till the meat is thoroughly cooked, and five more punch a little hole in the head of each can to let out the air. Then they solder them up again, and little girls paste on them bright-colored labels showing merry little cupids riding the happy salmon up to the cannery door, with Mount Tacoma and Cape Disappointment in the background; and a legend underneath says that this is “Booth's," or “Badollet's Best,” or “Hume's,” or “Clark's," or "Kinney's Superfine Salt Water Salmon.” Then the cans are placed in cases, forty-eight in a case, and five hundred thousand cases are put up every year. Great ships come to Astoria, and are loaded with them; and they carry them away to London and San Francisco and Liverpool and New York and Sidney and Valparaiso; and the man at the corner grocery sells them at twenty cents a can.
All this time our salmon is going up the river, eluding one net as by a miracle, and soon having need of more miracles to escape the rest; passing by Astoria on a fortunate day,- which was Sunday, the day on which no man may fish if he expects to sell what he catches, — till finally he came to where nets were few, and, at last, to where they ceased altogether. But there he found that scarcely any of his many companions were with him; for the nets cease when there are no more salmon to be caught in them. So he went on, day and night, where the water was deepest, stopping not to feed or loiter on the way, till at last he came to a wild gorge, where the great river became an angry torrent, rushing wildly over a huge staircase of rocks. But our hero did not falter; and summoning all his forces, he plunged into the Cascades. The current caught him and dashed him against the rocks. A whole row of silvery scales came off and glistened in the water like sparks of fire, and a place on his side became black-and-red, which, for a salmon, is the same as being black-and-blue for other people. His comrades tried to go up with him; and one lost his eye, one his tail, and one had his lower jaw pushed back into his head like the joint of a telescope. Again he tried to surmount the Cascades; and at last he succeeded, and an Indian on the rocks above was waiting to receive him. But the Indian with his spear was less skilful than he was wont to be, and our hero escaped, losing only a part of one of his fins; and with him came one
other, and henceforth these two pursued their journey together.
Now a gradual change took place in the looks of our salmon. In the sea he was plump and round and silvery, with delicate teeth in a symmetrical mouth. Now his silvery color disappeared, his skin grew slimy, and the scales sank into it; his back grew black, and his sides turned red, — not a healthy red, but a sort of hectic flush. He grew poor; and his back, formerly as straight as need be, now developed an unpleasant hump at the shoulders. His eyes — like those of all enthusiasts who forsake eating and sleeping for some loftier aim — became dark and sunken. His symmetrical jaws grew longer and longer, and meeting each other, as the nose of an old man meets his chin, each had to turn aside to let the other pass. His beautiful teeth grew longer and longer, and projected from his mouth, giving him a savage and wolfish appearance, quite at variance with his real disposition. For all the desires and ambitions of his nature had become centred into one. We may not know what this one was, but we know that it was a strong one; for it had led him on and on,
– past the nets and horrors of Astoria; past the dangerous Cascades; past the spears of Indians; through the terrible flume of the Dalles, where the mighty river is compressed between huge rocks into a channel narrower than a village street; on past the meadows of Umatilla and the wheat-fields of Walla Walla; on to where the great Snake River and the Columbia join; on up the Snake River and its eastern branch, till at last he reached the foot of the Bitter Root Mountains in the Territory of Idaho, nearly a thousand miles from the ocean which he had left in April. With him still was the other salmon which had come with him through the Cascades, handsomer and smaller than he, and, like him, growing poor and ragged and tired.
At last, one October afternoon, our finny travellers came together to a little clear brook, with a bottom of fine gravel, over which the water was but a few inches deep. Our fish painfully worked his way to it; for his tail was all frayed out, his muscles were sore, and his skin covered with unsightly blotches. But his sunken eyes saw a ripple in the stream, and under it a bed of little pebbles and sand. So there in the sand he scooped out with his tail a smooth round place, and his companion came and filled it with orange-colored eggs. Then our salmon came back again; and softly covering the eggs, the work of their lives was done, and, in the old salmon fashion, they drifted tail foremost down the stream.
Next morning, a settler in the Bitter Root region, passing by the brook near his house, noticed that a "dog-salmon " had run in there, and seemed "mighty nigh tuckered out.” So he took a hoe, and wading into the brook rapped the fish on the head with it, and carrying it ashore threw it to the hogs. But the hogs had a surfeit of salmon-meat; so they ate only the soft parts, leaving the head untouched. And a wandering naturalist found it there, and sent it to the United States Fish Commission to be identified. Thus it came to me.