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Indian Summer

“What are cutthroat?” Cappy Berard asked.  They called him Cappy because he was so big at birth, that the nurses called him Captain.  Cappy was a cousin from West Seattle and didn’t know that peaches grew on trees.  He only knew they came from the store.  “You can’t go cut throating if you don’t know what a cutthroat is,” Cousin Jim told him.

We had to wait for the tide to come in, because a high tide brought the cutthroat close to shore to feed off the bugs and debris that fell from trees hanging out over the water.  The best cut throating was down by Indian Tom’s shack which sat on a wooden bulkhead near the Lagoon.  His wife was called Clam Lucy.  There was a huge boulder right in front of their place.  We didn’t know why the fishing was so good there.  It was mystical.

Grandma Ada could remember when Tom was younger and he always stood up when he rowed by with a boat full of clams bound for the steamer dock at Portage; to sell at the Pike Place market. We never learned his last name.

We had two ways to catch cutthroat.  One was using gang spoons with a fat worm on the hook.  The other was using a lure called a flatfish which gave the trout a fighting chance.  Grandma Ada’s practical way was to fish from the back of the rowboat while Papa Jim rowed.  She preferred a hand line to a pole; because she could feel the fish nibbling on her worm and jerk the line to set the hook.  Catching a fighting cutthroat was very exciting and watching it sizzle in butter in the frying pan was even better.

We were on the beach one day, pushing the rowboat out to go fishing, when brother Mike saw an old yellow station wagon weaving from side to side as it rounded the curves on Quartermaster Drive, headed for Portage.  It left the road and there was a loud crunching noise as it careened over the logs and into the bay.  People piled out of both sides, yelling at each other as they climbed back up to the road, soaking wet.

Lots of Indians came down from B.C. to pick berries in the summer.  It was the first year that the law allowed Indians to drink in Cunningham’s tavern, near where Sporty’s is.  In fact, two of them got into a fight with broken beer bottles in the alley behind the tavern.  Only one lived.

The next day, Bill Garvin asked me if I wanted to see the dead Indian.  Bill’s father owned the funeral home and we snuck in a side window of the building, which is still there; across the street from Subway  The dead Indian was on a slab with a sheet pulled over him and a tag tied to his toe for I.D.

We had an idea, so Bill went to find Craig Roen, whom we knew was in town.  I crawled up on the other slab, tied a tag to my toe, pulled a sheet up over my head and waited for Bill.

Bill was whispering to Craig when they came through the open window.  As soon as they got near the slab, I rose up with the sheet over my head and went “Woo, Woo, Woo.”  Craig fainted and fell to the floor like a sack of potatoes.  Bill and I tore out through the window, holding our sides, we were laughing so hard.

I talked with Bill this morning.  He couldn’t remember the story.