Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Halt and the Blind Saw Salmon

The Halt and the Blind Saw Salmon
Copyright 2007 Kenneth Harris

Our daughter Patricia phoned us one day from the Chapa-de Health Clinic in Auburn to tell us that in was Salmon Day. Periodically the Great White Father gives his Indian Children free salmon. These are dead females who have been “harvested” for eggs at the fish hatchery. In the normal course of events, the females lay their eggs and then die. The hatchery accelerates the process a little bit. It’s not very nice, but then it’s probably not a good idea to think about where any of your food comes from.

The hatchery uses the offices of Chapa-De Health Clinic to distribute the fish. It’s convenient since the clinic is tasked with seeing to the health needs of the Indian population in several Northern California counties. Truth to be told, the salmon are not as tasty as wild salmon caught off the Alaskan. Nor is the texture up to par. Nevertheless, it’s free fish and there’s nothing wrong with it. I’m Depression Baby enough to leap all over the offer.

We got our salmon in the form of two females frozen together in a solid block. They didn’t want to come apart with screw drivers or pry bars. We didn’t want to thaw them to get them apart and cut into steaks because we weren’t ready to eat both of the animals at one sitting. We offered to share our loot with Joanne’s brother Fritz and use his table saw to cut the fish into steaks. He agreed and we drove over. Meanwhile, he trundled the saw out onto his garage apron so that we could see what we were doing.

Good light was important because Fritz had wet macular degeneration of both eyes and wasn’t seeing anything very well. The nature of the disease is that you can see anything that is not directly in front of you. It’s like one of those television shows where they blot out the miscreant’s face.

I, on the other hand, had my right arm in a sling because I had just had a torn rotator cuff repaired and a stone removed from the elbow bursa, an aftermath of falling off a ladder and landing on a pile of gravel.

We plugged the saw in and turned it on. It was an old Craftsman saw, but the blade was new and unless we exercised some caution we could easily sacrifice fingers or a hand to this enterprise. The two fish were still frozen together, one solid mass. Joanne stood in front of the saw and pushed the fish through, first removing the tails and then the heads. Then she began to cut the fish into steaks. Fritz stood behind the saw to steady it and remove the pieces of fish as they came toward him. I stood to one side to help both steady the saw and handle fish pieces.

The process worked well except we were all soon covered with “fish dust.” Finely formed fish flesh, scales, and such other parts as had not yet been previously removed covered our hands and faces. And our shirts. And decorated our hair. We were earnest and energetic, but we looked like extras in a horror movie.

Fritz was essentially blind. I had one functioning arm. It’s too bad Joanne wasn’t lame. We could have been a threesome.

The fish, by the way, was…well, it was…free.

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