The last of August set the Red Flower of the Jungle books blooming along the British Columbia coast. The seeds of it were scattered on hot, dry, still days by pipe and cigarette, by sparks from donkey engines, by untended camp fires, wherever the careless white man went in the great coastwise forests. The woods were like a tinder box. One unguarded moment, and the ancient firs were wrapped in sheets of flame. Smoke lay on the Gulf like a pall of pungent fog, through which vessels ran by chart and compass, blind between ports, at imminent risk of collision.
Through this, well on into September, MacRae and Vincent Ferrara gathered cargoes of salmon and ran them down the Gulf to Bellingham, making their trips with the regularity of the tides, despite the murk that hid landmarks by day and obscured the guiding lighthouse flashes when dark closed in. They took their chances in the path of coastwise traffic, straining their eyes for vessels to leap suddenly out of the thickness that shut them in, their ears for fog signals that blared warning. There were close shaves, but they escaped disaster. They got the salmon and they delivered them, and Folly Bay still ran a bad second wherever the Bird boats served the trolling fleet. Even when Gower at last met MacRae’s price, his collectors got few fish. The fishermen took no chances. They were convinced that if MacRae abandoned buying for lack of salmon Folly Bay would cut the price in two. It had been done before. So they held their fish for the Bird boats. MacRae got them all. Even when American buyers trailed MacRae to the source of his supply their competition hurt Gower instead of MacRae. The trollers supplied MacRae with all the salmon he could carry. It was still fresh in their minds that he had come into the field that season as their special Providence.
But the blueback run tapered off at Squitty. September ushered in the annual coho run on its way to the spawning grounds. And the coho did not school along island shores, feeding upon tiny herring. Stray squadrons of coho might pass Squitty, but they did not linger in thousands as the blueback did. The coho swept into the Gulf from mysterious haunts in blue water far offshore, myriads of silver fish seeking the streams where they were spawned, and to which as mature fish they now returned to reproduce themselves. They came in great schools. They would loaf awhile in some bay at a stream mouth, until some irresistible urge drove them into fresh water, up rivers and creeks, over shoal and rapid, through pool and canyon, until the stream ran out to a whimpering trickle and the backs of the salmon stuck out of the water. Up there, in the shadow of great mountains, in the hidden places of the Coast range, those that escaped their natural enemies would spawn and die.