So Squitty had the three prime requisites for a harbor,—secure anchorage, fresh water, and firewood. There was good fertile land, too, behind the Cove,—low valleys that ran the length of the island. There were settlers here and there, but these settlers were not the folk who intermittently frequented Squitty Cove. The settlers stayed on their land, battling with stumps, clearing away the ancient forest, tilling the soil. Those to whom Squitty Cove gave soundest sleep and keenest joy were tillers of the sea. Off Point Old a rock brown with seaweed, ringed with a bed of kelp, lifted its ugly head now to the one good, blue-gray eye of Jack MacRae, the same rock upon which Donald MacRae’s sloop broke her back before Jack MacRae was born. It was a sunken menace at any stage of water, heartily cursed by the fishermen. In the years between, the rock had acquired a name not written on the Admiralty charts. The hydrographers would look puzzled and shake their heads if one asked where in the Gulf waters lay Poor Man’s Rock.
But Poor Man’s Rock it is. Greek and Japanese, Spaniard and Italian, American and Canadian—and there are many of each—who follow the silver-sided salmon when they run in the Gulf of Georgia, these know that Poor Man’s Rock lies half a cable south southwest of Point Old on Squitty Island. Most of them know, too, why it is called Poor Man’s Rock.
Under certain conditions of sea and sky the Rock is as lonely and forbidding a spot as ever a ship’s timbers were broken upon. Point Old thrusts out like the stubby thumb on a clenched first. The Rock and the outer nib of the Point are haunted by quarreling flocks of gulls and coots and the black Siwash duck with his stumpy wings and brilliant yellow bill. The southeaster sends endless battalions of waves rolling up there when it blows. These rear white heads over the Rock and burst on the Point with shuddering impact and showers of spray. When the sky is dull and gray, and the wind whips the stunted trees on the Point—trees that lean inland with branches all twisted to the landward side from pressure of many gales in their growing years—and the surf is booming out its basso harmonies, the Rock is no place for a fisherman. Even the gulls desert it then.
But in good weather, in the season, the blueback and spring salmon swim in vast schools across the end of Squitty. They feed upon small fish, baby herring, tiny darting atoms of finny life that swarm in countless numbers. What these inch-long fishes feed upon no man knows, but they begin to show in the Gulf early in spring. The water is alive with them,—minute, darting streaks of silver. The salmon follow these schools, pursuing, swallowing, eating to live. Seal and dogfish follow the salmon. Shark and the giant blackfish follow dogfish and seal. And man follows them all, pursuing and killing that he himself may live.
Around Poor Man’s Rock the tide sets strongly at certain stages of ebb and flood. The cliffs north of Point Old and the area immediately surrounding the Rock are thick strewn with kelp. In these brown patches of seaweed the tiny fish, the schools of baby herring, take refuge from their restless enemy, the swift and voracious salmon.