“And now,” Stubby rose and stretched his one good arm and the other that was visibly twisted and scarred between wrist and elbow, above his head, “let’s go downstairs and prattle. I see a car in front, and I hear twittering voices.”
Halfway down the stairs Stubby halted and laid a hand on MacRae’s arm.
“Old Horace is a two-fisted old buccaneer,” he said. “And I don’t go much on Norman. But I’ll say Betty Gower is some girl. What do you think, Silent John?”
And Jack MacRae had to admit that Betty was. Oddly enough, Stubby Abbott had merely put into words an impression to which MacRae himself was slowly and reluctantly subscribing.
Sea Boots and Salmon
From November to April the British Columbian coast is a region of weeping skies, of intermittent frosts and fog, and bursts of sleety snow. The frosts, fogs, and snow squalls are the punctuation points, so to speak, of the eternal rain. Murky vapors eddy and swirl along the coast. The sun hides behind gray banks of cloud, the shining face of him a rare miracle bestowed upon the sight of men as a promise that bright days and blossoming flowers will come again. When they do come the coast is a pleasant country. The mountains reveal themselves, duskily green upon the lower slopes, their sky-piercing summits crowned with snow caps which endure until the sun comes to his full strength in July. The Gulf is a vista of purple-distant shore and island, of shimmering sea. And the fishermen come out of winter quarters to overhaul boats and gear against the first salmon run.
The blueback, a lively and toothsome fish, about which rages an ichthyological argument as to whether he is a distant species of the salmon tribe or merely a half-grown coho, is the first to show in great schools. The spring salmon is always in the Gulf, but the spring is a finny mystery with no known rule for his comings and goings, nor his numbers. All the others, the blueback, the sockeye, the hump, the coho, and the dog salmon, run in the order named. They can be reckoned on as a man reckons on changes of the moon. These are the mainstay of the salmon canners. Upon their taking fortunes have been built—and squandered—men have lived and died, loved and hated, gone hungry and dressed their women in silks and furs. The can of pink meat some inland chef dresses meticulously with parsley and sauces may have cost some fisherman his life; a multiplicity of cases of salmon may have produced a divorce in the packer’s household. We eat this fine red fish and heave its container into the garbage tin, with no care for the tragedy or humors that have attended its getting for us.
In the spring, when life takes on a new prompting, the blueback salmon shows first in the Gulf. He cannot be taken by net or bait,—unless the bait be a small live herring. He may only be taken in commercial quantities by a spinner or a wobbling spoon hook of silver or brass or copper drawn through the water at slow speed. The dainty gear of the trout spinner gave birth to the trolling fleets of the Pacific Coast.