For a few summers after we moved to New Westminster my father would return north to continue his craft as a net man for the salmon fishermen. In the mending of nets there was always the pressure to have all the torn nets mended before the next salmon opening so that the fisherman would not lose any valuable fishing time.
This one particular day a fierce rain storm blew in but the mending had to continue, rainstorm or no rainstorm. Working alongside my dad was a First Nations net woman. My father, a wizard with poles, tarps and twine, fashioned her a storm shelter. When the net boss observed this from the dock he charged down the ramp onto the net float, red-faced and arms flailing. In no uncertain terms he told my dad that the shelter would have to be taken down immediately! My father stood his ground. The structure stayed up.
My father had stood his ground... When he told me that I felt as though either my heart or the world had suddenly stopped. I remember it feeling as though everything had gone quiet and my ears were ringing. Had he been fired it might well have meant a very lean winter for our family.
At great risk to our family’s welfare my father had stood up for what he knew was right, regardless of the consequences. I knew at that moment that his action had become my North Star, providing guidance to me for the rest of my life.
The last ball of net mending twine my father used and his net mending needles. The canned salmon box label is of J.H. Todd & Sons, the owners of Inverness Cannery on the Skeena River where my father and his father before him worked for so many years.
Updated: Mar 18
From time to time I would go gill netting with my dad, usually on night sets.
I enjoyed pumping the boat out. After a couple of strokes the pump, with much sloshing and gurgling, would magically release the bilge water and I had done it all by myself! Later in the evening as the light began to fade my dad would take the wooden triangular float, raise the glass mantle on the red lantern and light the wick.
He would then pay out the net over the stern and another set would begin. I never tired of the sight of the first sockeye landing on the deck, one of God’s/Nature’s most beautiful creations - all silver, firm and with a greenish blue back. One of my fondest memories is of the one cylinder Easthope gasoline engine powering the boat. I recall the green colour,
the huge flywheel and the brass oiling cap. Most captivating to me was the the sound of it’s heartbeat - ‘pa-choo,.....pa-choo.....pa-choo’. That sound became my lullaby song, as I drifted off to sleep aided by the warmth coming from engine. What better time to have been raised on the North Coast!