Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembering Ross on Veterans Day

A half-blind Korean War vet, Ross, took me trolling on the Willamette Channel to catch my first salmon there.  He was a platoon leader, and I later found out one of two men in his platoon to survive combat.  Ross never mentioned war, that he had been in combat most of the time, fighting at Heartbreak Ridge, or that he carried a wounded friend named Tex many miles to safety.  Instead, we spent days in comfortable silence, eyes on rod tips, anticipating strikes of early spring chinook.

It didn't matter if we fished in rain, mist, or sun, Ross always had an internal smile that made people want to be around him.  The day I caught the above fish, I knew something extremely important had happened in my life.  I didn't know that among Columbia River tribes, catching one's first salmon was a rite of passage.  I nailed the salmon’s head to a Douglas fir in my backyard.

Ross taught me to kill fish quickly and cleanly without anger, in a way I would desire to be killed if I were the fish.