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The Lost Salmon Run
by [?]

Great had been the “run,” and the sockeye season was almost over. For that reason I wondered many times why my old friend, the klootchman, had failed to make one of the fishing fleet. She was an indefatigable workwoman, rivalling her husband as an expert catcher, and all the year through she talked of little else but the coming run. But this especial season she had not appeared amongst her fellow-kind. The fleet and the canneries knew nothing of her, and when I enquired of her tribes-people they would reply without explanation, “She not here this year.”

But one russet September afternoon I found her. I had idled down the trail from the swans’ basin in Stanley Park to the rim that skirts the Narrows, and I saw her graceful, high-bowed canoe heading for the beach that is the favorite landing place of the “tillicums” from the Mission. Her canoe looked like a dream-craft, for the water was very still, and everywhere a blue film hung like a fragrant veil, for the peat on Lulu Island had been smoldering for days and its pungent odors and blue-grey haze made a dream-world of sea and shore and sky.

I hurried upshore, hailing her in the Chinook, and as she caught my voice she lifted her paddle directly above her head in the Indian signal of greeting.

As she beached, I greeted her with extended eager hands to assist her ashore, for the klootchman is getting to be an old woman; albeit she paddles against tidewater like a boy in his teens.

“No,” she said, as I begged her to come ashore. “I not wait–me. I just come to fetch Maarda; she been city; she come soon–now.” But she left her “working” attitude and curled like a schoolgirl in the bow of the canoe, her elbows resting on her paddle which she had flung across the gunwales.

“I have missed you, klootchman; you have not been to see me for three moons, and you have not fished or been at the canneries,” I remarked.

“No,” she said. “I stay home this year.” Then leaning towards me with grave import in her manner, her eyes, her voice, she added, “I have a grandchild, born first week July, so–I stay.”

So this explained her absence. I, of course, offered congratulations and enquired all about the great event, for this was her first grandchild, and the little person was of importance.

“And are you going to make a fisherman of him?” I asked.

“No, no, not boy-child, it is girl-child,” she answered with some indescribable trick of expression that led me to know she preferred it so.

“You are pleased it is a girl?” I questioned in surprise.

“Very pleased,” she replied emphatically. “Very good luck to have girl for first grandchild. Our tribe not like yours; we want girl children first; we not always wish boy-child born just for fight. Your people, they care only for war-path; our tribe more peaceful. Very good sign first grandchild to be girl. I tell you why: girl-child maybe some time mother herself; very grand thing to be mother.”

I felt I had caught the secret of her meaning. She was rejoicing that this little one should some time become one of the mothers of her race. We chatted over it a little longer and she gave me several playful “digs” about my own tribe thinking so much less of motherhood than hers, and so much more of battle and bloodshed. Then we drifted into talk of the sockeye run and of the hyiu chickimin the Indians would get.

“Yes, hyiu chickimin,” she repeated with a sigh of satisfaction. “Always; and hyiu muck-a-muck when big salmon run. No more ever come that bad year when not any fish.”

“When was that?” I asked.