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Salmon and Salt: Fishing With My Grandfather

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
March 16, 2023 3:00 am

Salmon and Salt: Fishing With My Grandfather

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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March 16, 2023 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Karl Marlantes, veteran and author of What It Is Like to Go to War and Matterhorn, tells the story of partaking in the dangerous profession of salmon fishing with his grandfather during his formative years in the town of Seaside, Oregon.

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Exclusions apply. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. And you can listen to the show on the iHeart Radio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Up next, a story from Carl Merlantis. Carl is a Marine who received the Navy Cross for his service in Vietnam and the author of Matterhorn and What It Is Like to Go to War. Today he shares with us the story of his time growing up in the Pacific Northwest and working with his grandfather in one of America's most dangerous professions.

Take it away, Carl. I was born in Astoria, Oregon. My dad was actually in the Battle of the Bulge at the time I was born and grew up in the town about 15 miles away. My mother went up there to have me at the hospital there, Seaside, Oregon, which was a logging town, a little town about 2,500 people. The two major professions where I grew up were fishing and logging and I actually looked it up.

They are the two most dangerous occupations that we have. About every year somebody's father would die in the woods or somebody would drown. And I remember five of my friends lost their fathers during the time I was going to school with them. So dying, death, it wasn't morbid.

We just didn't think much about it. It was like, oh yeah, Alan's dad just got rolled over a while long and he died and you're eight or nine, you just plug along. And most of the kids in the summer tried to get jobs in the woods because they paid really well. That was back in the day when labor was making good money.

I mean, Detroit was booming and you could work on the assembly lines and be able to take vacations in Florida. And my grandfather was a commercial fisherman. A Scandinavian, he was a Swedish fin and he was a salmon fisherman, gillnetter. And I love to tell this story about him because, to give you an idea of his character, he was working a log boom by himself and the two booms came together and crushed both of his legs. And he crawled about a mile to get to his car and drove himself to the hospital. And one of the legs had to be amputated.

And he couldn't do log booms anymore. And of course, fishing, he needed help. So my older brother and I were then brought into the family business. So I fished with my grandfather when I was from about age 13, I guess, into seventh grade.

It was a wonderful experience because how many kids actually get to work with their grandfather and, you know, spend time with him. Lots of time, because in fishing, it's like it's massive activity when the salmon are hitting and the nets out. And you have to try and pull those nets in as fast as you can. And then you set up another, what they call drifts, and you put the net back out and then you're there. You just sit and wait for the fish to hit again.

And that's a lot of downtime. And one of the things I laugh about at my younger self being with my grandfather is I did nothing but to moan the entire time I worked for him because it was like, how come I have to come up at two o'clock in the morning? Because it's all about tides. You have to go out on the tide. You have to hit the fish when the tide is slack or running your way.

So, you know, if it's two in the morning, you get up and go to work. And I learned how to do that. And I actually slept with my grandmother and my grandfather.

It was really old country. I mean, you know, and I can remember the smell. I mean, it was just like, they didn't use deodorant, you know, but so I slept in the same bed with my grandpa and grandma. And then they'd rouse me out of bed at midnight or whatever and off we'd go to work. And I can remember complaining.

All my friends work in restaurants and all the girls come and talk to them and they get to eat all the ice cream they want. And I have to be up at two in the morning and go out in this rain and this cold. And it's not, you know, I could just think about my poor grandfather, you know, I emigrated from Finland to raise this, you know. I mean, it was one of those tragedies when you're young, you have no idea how privileged you are to be able to have the experiences you do.

And I learned a lot from my grandfather. I mean, one of the things was coolness, under fire. I mean, we'd get in trouble every so often. I mean, tides would go wrong. The wind would push us in the wrong direction.

We'd come up against rocks, waves coming in over the gunnels. And grandpa was just cool. I mean, if I was doing something wrong or if we were slow getting the net out, he'd be jumping up and down on his wooden leg and screaming at me. But when real trouble hit, it was just incredible to watch him just go into sort of cool mode and solve the problem.

And he never panicked. And I was frightened lots of times because it's dangerous work. I mean, that's all I can say. And I kind of grew up, you know, learning a lot of lessons that way. The other one is, you know, like the first beer that I ever had was on the 4th of July and I was 13. And I was on the docks with all the other fishermen. They were celebrating the 4th of July and grandpa handed me a beer, you know, and it was like, by God, I'm a grown up, you know, it was a wonderful feeling. I always remember to this day, just my grandfather handing me a beer and just saying, you know, it didn't say a word.

It didn't say a word. But I was there with all the all the other fishermen, you know. So he was an important part of my life.

He really was. And a great job on the production by Monty Montgomery and a special thanks to Karl Merlantis for sharing the story of his grandfather. To hear the story of those two booms and how they came together and crushed his grandfather's legs.

And he crawls back to the car, gets himself to the hospital and gets a leg amputated only to go to another dangerous profession, salmon fishing. And the stories and the lessons that Karl learned from his grandfather, including that first beer on July 4th. Karl Merlantis, the story of his grandfather here on Our American Story. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country. Stories from our big cities and small towns.

But we truly can't do the show without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to our American stories dot com and click the donate button. Give a little, give a lot.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-16 04:10:07 / 2023-03-16 04:14:36 / 4

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