Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Getting Here

Celilo Fall flooded by the Dalles Dam -- March 10, 1957

I can mark my first visit to Decatur Island by the completion of the Dalles Dam. My dad took me to Wyam (Celilo Falls) at least a year before the dam was completed and we went back the summer after they'd flooded the falls. Later the same summer I traveled with dad by boat, looking at shell middens in the San Juan islands. I remember the first part of the trip very well: a trip from home (Aberdeen) up Highway 101 to Port Angeles and then a trip on the Black Ball ferry to Victoria. There was a de rigeur trip  to Butchart Gardens, and thence to Vancouver and Chinatown.

I think we went to Bellingham and got on the boat there. My godmother and mother dropped us off and I realize now, drove to Seattle and waited for us, we ultimately ended the trip in Ballard, at Fisherman's Terminal. I remember the boat was a bit of a sensation wherever we went, a big fishing boat, freshly painted -- it seemed to me we dwarfed most other boats around the islands except ferries and other commercial vessels. I'd guess the "Baby"* was about the size of the Alaska fishing boats that still visit Mori Jones.

Crew: several Lummi men, I only remember one called "Lunchbox" who was dad's friend, a professor (and maybe a couple of students) from the UW or WWU, my dad, me. I think we were looking a shell middens and perhaps mapping the traditional fishing and clamming beaches for the Lummi and (maybe) the Coast Salish. Two of the older Lummi men spoke Lummi and joked that only Lummi could talk to Lummi -- and insisted on teaching me Chinook words, mostly place names.

As we chugged along, dad told me a story about how "elder uncle" had traveled around the islands doing odd jobs, he'd dug a ditch on Brown's Island, and did yard work on Henry's Island. A tidbit here -- apparently my elder uncles were inclined to call the islands by the names of the people they knew there, not the actual name of the island. (More on this in Part 2.)

In my memory are long sunny days, calm water -- must have been August! The captain let me "drive" the boat. I played jacks on the aft deck. A salmon was caught slightly bigger than me and thrown back because it was too small. I had some trouble learning how to use the head.

Places and people are mashed together in my memories: Roche Harbor, Deer Harbor (Orcas) and Fisherman's Bay (Lopez) became one place. The other confabulation was McKaye Harbor (Lopez), Reeds Bay (Decatur), and Blakely Island. I didn't sort out those last two until we moved here. In fact, I didn't figure out I'd been on Decatur Island at all until I stood on Karen Lamb's rickety old dock (were were anchored out front) and looked at where there used to be a road along the shore of Reed's Bay. I clearly remember bouncing along that road in a truck driven by a very nice man who gave me a caramel. He apologized that there were no kids around for me to play with, they were in town getting school shoes. (I'm sure he said "school shoes" because I remember telling him I had to wear special shoes.) Who was the man? I couldn't say -- someone who had kids around my age.

We walked where we live now and looked at shell middens, and here my dad said another interesting thing -- "elder uncle" had worked here, as here was the only shipyard in the San Juans. (More in Part 2.)

*I'm sure this was not her registered name; it's what the crew called her, but that wasn't the name on her bow.