Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/14

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

certain, after all, what his thoughts really were. What he did we know. He did what every grown salmon in the ocean does when he feels the glacier-water once more upon his gills. He became a changed being. He spurned the blandishments of soft-shelled crabs. The pleasures of the table and of the chase, heretofore his only delights, lost their charms for him. He turned his course straight toward the direction whence the cold fresh water came, and for the rest of his life he never tasted a mouthful of food. He moved on toward the river-mouth, at first playfully, as though he were not really certain whether he meant anything, after all. Afterward, when he struck the full current of the Columbia, he plunged straight forward with an unflinching determination that had in it something of the heroic. When he had passed the rough water at the bar, he found that he was not alone; his old neighbors of the Cowlitz and many more, a great army of salmon, were with him. In front were thousands; pressing on, and behind them, were thousands more, all moved by a common impulse, which urged them up the Columbia.

They were swimming bravely along where the current was deepest, when suddenly the foremost felt something tickling like a cobweb about their noses and under their chins. They changed their course a little to brush it off, and it touched their fins as well. Then they tried to slip down with the current, and thus to leave it behind. But no—the thing, whatever it was, although its touch was soft, refused to let go, and held them like a fetter; and, the more they struggled, the tighter became its grasp. And the whole foremost rank of the salmon felt it together, for it was a great gill-net, a quarter of a mile long, and stretched squarely across the mouth of the river. By-and-by men came in boats and hauled up the gill-net and threw the helpless salmon into a pile on the bottom of the boat, and the others saw them no more. We that live outside the water know better what befalls them, and we can tell the story which the salmon could not.

All along the banks of the Columbia River, from its mouth to nearly thirty miles away, there is a succession of large buildings, looking like great barns or warehouses, built on piles in the river, and high enough to be out of the reach of floods. There are thirty of these buildings, and they are called canneries. Each cannery has about forty boats, and with each boat are two men and a long gill-net, and these nets fill the whole river as with a nest of cobwebs from April to July; and to each cannery nearly a thousand great salmon are brought in every day. These salmon are thrown in a pile on the floor; and Wing Hop, the big Chinaman, takes them one after another on the table, and with a great knife dexterously cuts off the head, the tail, and the fins; then with a sudden thrust removes the intestines and the eggs. The body goes into a tank of water, and the head goes down the river to be made into salmon-oil. Next, the body is brought on another table, and Quong Sang, with a machine like a feed-cutter,