Friday, October 29, 2004

What, no gooey?

Okay, I've been here too long.

I was standing on the river bank the other day, drooling at the 3-foot-long Winter Chinooks, and just itching for November 1, when the season opens. And reminding the neighborhood boys that if they get caught with a fish before season, or over limit, they can have their licenses revoked -- for their lifetime. And letting them know that my Indian Name is "Brings The Warden."

And one of the kids, over in the bankside grasses, yells, "Hey! There's a dead silver here!"

So we go over, and yup, there's a big fish, half-eaten. Guess the bear that hoots around up on Bear Kill Ridge came down and had a midnight snack.

One of the kids says, "Look, it's full of eggs."

And I'm over there in a split second, and going "WHERE?" And the next thing ya know, I've got my hand inside that fish, ripping out those cold sticky egg masses. And when I'm done, I sling the rest of the fish into the river, and explain to the kids that the river needs the rotten fish to make food for the young salmon.

These kids are typical up here -- they all know how to kill these fish, but they don't know what helps 'em. Americans. Ya gotta -- well, not love 'em, because that would mean you had really low standards.

Anyway, the kids ask if they can have a few eggs, and I hand 'em half the mass. Before the day's done, they've just left most of the mass on the stream bank.

So I wander home with two big cold egg masses, for the bait jar (I pickle 'em in salt, sugar and Anise oil -- hardens up up and makes 'em like candy for the salmonoid fish).

And I've figured out why I'm no longer squeamish up here. In a city, you have to be careful of germs, cuz there's so many others of your own species. In the wild, we're few and far between.

Heck, the other day, I found out I wasn't squeamish about oysters either. I learned to shuck 'em -- and that's not hard, if you know the trick -- and didn't say "EEEWWWW" once. We deep-fried 'em. And deep-fried a mess of soaked Bone Polypore while we were at it.

Dan said he liked the mushrooms better. They were both pretty delectable, served up with the cold sour apple-cider we'd picked up at the cider-squeezing at the Preschool the other day. It's an annual thing, everybody showing up with plastic milk bottles and messes of culled apples from their trees. And paying $3.00 a big jug -- it all goes to the Preschool.

I tell ya, for poor folks living out here in the woods -- we're eating like we're living at the Savoy grill.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Dead Things

17 October, 2004 Payback today.

Those long sunny walks on a sparkling beach, those views of rainbowed cloud and autumn orange on Bear Kill ridge, are getting paid for today. Went up the Hoko Ozette road the other day, just to check out all the little streams that run into the Hoko. Mainly because the fishing rules on them aren't so stringent as on the Hoko or Lake Ozette, and we might have been able to pick up a nice trout or two.

We'd already been up there the last few weeks, to pick mushrooms. You don't want to go picking mushrooms with Dan – it's like a military campaign. On the best day, we lunged and ducked around through the underbrush for two and a half hours, until we had thirty pounds of Chanterelles and White Sheep Polypore, mostly, with a handful of Puffballs, Honeys and Angel Wings. We've got bottle after bottle of pickled Chanterelles and salted Polypores in the refrigerator. We won't need meat for the rest of the year – or fish. I've been cooking the mushrooms in a little water, and the juice ends up in a steadily concentrating broth that we use to make sauce or cook pasta in. Forget beef stock – you've never had rich fulfilling broth until you've cooked about four changes of mushrooms in the same water, and strained it for pine and fir needles. Needles are to mushrooms as bones are to fish – you just have to pick one out now and then. It's worth it.

Speaking of meat, the stream reconnaissance turned out to be an adventure, and not a very pleasant one. We stopped at our favorite little stream-side beach on the Hoko, and got proof, once again, as though anybody needed it, that human beings are filthy monkeys. The place reeked of rotten flesh, and as we walked down the stream, it began to smell like an old outhouse. We soon found the sources – somebody had just taken a big old toilet-papered dump, right there on the bank, where the water could get at it. Don't be telling me that humans are any different from any other monkey. We shit in clear water, or near it. And don't tell me you don't – checked out your toilet tank lately? If you're not using your gray-water to flush with, you're shitting in the drinking water, you monkey you.

And right next to the pile of shit (man-sized, of course, because they're just closer to monkeys, and anybody who knows about those broken chromosomes they have can tell you that) – was, in a kind of altar, a stack of rotting long elk-bones, with a decomposing arrangement of bits of hides and the heads of the young bulls with the tops of their heads whacked off, to take the antlers. I mean, Jesus, there aren't enough clear-cuts up here to dump rotten elk bits in the middle of? If nothing else, for Raven to find. I mean, don't these hot-shot hunters know that Raven is the Wolf Bird, and without wolf, the Man Bird, and once he figures out that humans rip open carcasses, he'll tell you where the elk and deer are? Rather than warning anybody else about you, he'll cooperate.

But noooooo, we've got to follow our monkey instincts, and dump the rotten carcasses next to the river. Some hunters. Some monkeys.

And when that's been considered, and the memory set in our minds, our trip up to see streams got screwed up when the bug's brakes decided to go completely soft on that twisty, humpy road. Oh, was that ever entertaining. When we got back, the local guy had no idea how to fix a bug, without taking three days to do it. And he sure as heck didn't have a replacement master cylinder for the leaking one we got now. So I blew half my AAA towage mileage sending the car into Port Angeles. A

And now the phone's gone out, because the wire outside has been dinged. But now the gods will leave me alone – because they finally drove me to jumping up and down and cursing them really loudly. They never lay off until I blow up, and then they quit. And I can't fish now, because last week I caught a 15-inch greenling, and her belly was full of eggs. So I let her go, and I can't fish until January, when the spawning season is over. So all I can do is sit home and write and draw and try to figure out how to color pages on the computer. Oh fricking boy.

(The neighbor, Joel, came over, and we sat in the rain and hooked the phone up again. And then his wife, Chris, came over and we sat around drinking wine in front of the fire and having long discussions, and boy did I need those).

Cross your fingers on the car.
Part of the Past.

The following article should have been posted in May.

So here it is!

Doin' The Wave
May 23, 2004

No fishing yesterday evening.

The sun was going down golden, and the water was powder-blue, and clear azure where the sunlight glowed through, and the foam was white as snow.

The tide was in, about as far as it was going to come. The waves had built the pea-gravel beach into a head-high cliff. To get to the water, a person took a jump and ran down, to keep the gravel out of her shoes.

There wasn't going to be any fishing, because the tide was in and the waves were crashing against the little cliff. But I had my fishing pole along anyway, because if I couldn't catch, I could practice casting. I'm getting pretty good at casting. I was showing my new neighbor Tracy how to caste with a bail reel, and she said that her husband had taught her to do it just that way. Which was cool, because I'd had to develop the method on my own. I've no fear that any part of civilization will ever disappear. Somebody will figure it all out of then. We'll not get into whether that's a good thing or not. I did get to tell Tracy she casts like a girl.

"I like being a girl!" she said.

"I was more of a tomboy," she said.

"That's my daughter," she said.

I'd just got done terrorizing her daughter and her friend. They wanted to pierce their noses, so I told them all about my own nose ring, and that yes, indeed, it DID hurt, and it DID take a long time to heal, and yes, it did smell pretty rank while it was doing it.

But back to the beach. The kids were all down there fishing, or sort of. Again, they were just casting. The red-headed kid who is the boss colt decided that, like me, he wasn't even going to try putting on any bait. He'd just enjoy flipping the line out as far as it would go. I was doing the best job, of course – I was using my home-made rock-and-wire weights, and those things just take a line out in a high distant arc. Lovely to see. And I'm getting better at thunking that line into just the hole I'm intending. Some of my best casts, my most heart-satisfying flight of line and weight, have happened when the weight snapped the end off the line off, and went flying as though propelled by an atlatl into deep water. No matter.

I usually carry extra weights, or a little extra wire to make a new one. My fishing kit has become my pole and reel, Dan's buck-knife (just in case I ever do get to fillet another fish on the beach), a little camera case somebody left on the beach and that Dan rescued from the tide – and it was full of big hooks and plastic worms, so I'm putting them to good use – a couple plastic bags, a small rag for wiping bait guts off my hands, instead of using my blue jeans, and a little bag of bait.

Tracy had accidentally left a bowl of big prawns uncooked the night before.

"Don't tell my husband," she'd said. "He'll kill me."

"No, that's not wasted food," I said. "That's bait!" So we'd used it that morning to get a lot of nibbles and no fish. I don't know what Jim would have said to our using big prawns to feed fish with no fillets in return. But Tracy said we'll all go fishing in Jim's big fishing boat next weekend, and since fish caught that was cost about $75.00 a pound if not more, I don't think a few little prawns come into the computation.

While the kids and I were pretending to fish, Dan was down the beach hunting agates. Meanwhile, the kids were playing I Dare You with the waves. On the way back with Dan, I started playing it myself.

By the time I got to the kids, I was ready to tell them that the way to get the big waves to come in was to stand with their backs to the water. Water and fire are carnivorous, and they'll go for you if you turn your back on them or aren't especially careful around you. Fire will literally snatch you bald-headed. That crackle and stink as your hair goes up in smoke is not soon forgotten.

We were discussing the eating habits of the elements when the red-headed kid yelled, "Oh, big one!" and we all took a quick glance and jeezus crimeny, yes, that was indeed a big one, and it was going to have our asses if we didn't jump, and jump fast. But the only place we had to go was straight up that shifting loose pea-gravel cliff.

I haven't screamed and scrambled and laughed so hard in years. We all got soaked. Then we just stood dancing around in the foam out of the pure exhilaration of having lost to the elements, becoming soggy one with them, and survived. Well, not that we were really in danger, but we could have been.

And that evening Dan and I watched "What Lies Below," with the lights out, and scared the bejesus out of ourselves. No fakey psychological thriller, that. Zemeckis promised ghosts, and he delivered. Even though we knew that ghost was going to be in the bathtub, we practically jumped off the couch when we saw her. Ya gotta love it when they're not afraid of the ghosts.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Fungus Fever

Don't ever go mushrooming with Dan and me.

We could, of course, wander dreamily through the woodland glades, stopping now and again to worship in sacred vaults of hemlock branches with soft spaghnum moss underfoot. We could point out fens and stand listening to the cry of the raven and the un-identified ululating owl. We could observe light poking through the canopy to gild softly rotting red trunks upon the needle-soft ground.

Yeah, we did some of that.

But mostly we hunted shrooms like we were after terrorists, and I don't mean the roundabout head-up-their-ass way our government goes about it.

We hunted shrooms like we meant to not only FIND those people, but sit down and discuss social needs with them, and really DO something about the situation, like building roads and cleaning up drinking water and cutting all our lines with the local dictator we'd been paling up with.

We were out there for about hours, and we did spend about an hour of it driving up the Hoko Ozette road, and an hour, on and off, of it resting and talking and having a snack, and at least an hour going around "just one more bend" in the logging road, and listening to a red-tailed hawk tell raven that we were Over Here.

So we figure we were actually picking mushrooms only about two and a half hours. But we got thirty pounds of 'em.

That's more than ten pounds an hour. Mostly Chanterelles, with a handful of Angel Wings, and about two pounds of White Sheep Polypore.

And this is plunging around through dead branches and crawling up and down rotting hummocks of old clear-cut debris, most of which had hemlocks growing up out of them, and occasionally breaking through those rotten hummocks, and ducking more branches, and generally not taking the stroll in the park you hear about.

We'd heard about that moment in mushrooming when you were walking back along the logging road, weighed down by the haul, and refusing to look back into the woods because you were afraid you'd see another drift of orange or white to come back and pick. Actually you cut 'em -- you don't pick mushrooms, you cut 'em off at the base, to protect the mycelium, which is delicate. You won't find any more unless you close your clasp knife, because then they know you're coming, and they'll run. No, they do.

We drove home really slow, partly because my right foot was totally dead from wearing THE wrong hiking boots in that soft debris, and partly because I wanted to see the bigleaf maples going gold and the vine maples turning scarlet against the dark green firs.

We stopped off at a friend's house on the Hoko Ozette (we have Friends On The Hoko now!) and left him about a pound of chanterelles, in exchange for the good beer we'd been sampling there.

When we got back, we gave a pound to the neighbor, who always gives us veggies from her garden, and sometimes canned salmon (the good stuff -- smoked and home canned). We left another pound with another artist friend, who asks us over for wine and conversation.

Then we went home and processed mushrooms for HOURS. They gotta be brushed and cleaned, and cooked over the wood stove, and then packed in vinegar or salt. The chanterelles don't change much, other than to release a rich brown juice, but the polypores turn dark yellow and have the best mushroom smell.

We didn't have enough contains for all the polypores, so I guess we'll just HAVE to have mushroom spaghetti tonight.

Oh, darn.