This lesson is on how to build your instincts by working with salmon. The importance of the effect of salmon on Western culture cannot be over emphasized. Well, yes, okay it can be overemphasized, but stop being such a cheese-butt and bringing up the point.

So, like I said, salmon have been very important to western culture. It was salmon who during the Dark Ages kept alive the practice of Gregorian chant. For years the practice of Gregorian chant had been forgotten by humans, until a bunch of Scots wandering through the dank highlands late at night walking 20 miles to get a bottle of scotch one of them thought might be hidden near a cabin, under a bagpipe and between two cows, heard salmon worshipping the Moon using chant.   The salmon swam in a circle using codified liturgy. And, no, despite what you think, you really don’t want to hear the rest of that story, so I’ll tell you this one instead:

 

Dear Survivor Disciple,

It happened to me! All the planning, the experience, and the hard work met up with the right place and right time.

Several months earlier I had been driving around in that neck of the woods just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, over in Washington, where the Columbia Gorge starts. I had in mind a pleasure cruise, running the jeep through the fir trees via miles of black top purposely hammered through the forest for God knows what reason.

I had the window down, letting that smell of clean air and fir wash the city out of the jeep. The day was sunny, warm when you weren’t in the shadows. I had no idea where I was going–I just drove to be driving.

The further I drove that itch started coming. It’s that feeling of knowing something in my line of work is brewing in the area. What was it, and where? For the next few months a couple of times a week I drove through the area, trying to figure out what kind of con was being run, and where. Then I found my prey.

I’d been driving around since early morning, letting my car and the roads decide where to go. I came to a 3-way Y junction. The trees where thick, but I could see a little store buried back deep in the fork of the Y. It looked more like an old house. I had my van with me that day. I pulled in to the loose gravel parking lot.

I pushed the screen door open. This was no city convenience store. The place was small, but it was where the locals came to shop. Coolers were crammed against one wall. Tall racks with tight aisles turned the rest of the shop into a maze. I found the potato chips, grabbed an orange juice, and headed further back into the shop, assuming the pay counter lay in that direction. At the end of the baked beans aisle I turned and there he was–the clerk. He was really old, old enough to have seen the store being built.

The old man started drumming his fingers.

“Well, stranger, when I ordered those snacks I didn’t have you in mind to be buying them. But, they’re yours if you want them.”

“Thanks, old man.”

Behind the old guy about 5 feet from his stool was a door in to a back room. A light was on behind the door. I could see the glow coming under the door. My instincts perked up. I had found what I was looking for. Now—what kind of action was it? I had a guess.

“ I’m not that hungry right now. But I will be in a couple of hours.

Card playing always gets me hungry.”

The old guy perked up.

“So, you’re on your way to a game out in this neck of the woods?”

“I just found my game.” I pointed a thumb toward the door.

The old guy took a firm grip on his stool, stared me over a few times, and then smiled.

“We set our own laws back in the woods here, mister. Those jerks up in Olympia pass some artificial laws against gambling and those neutered city folk just cave in and say “Yes, sir, whatever you say, sir.” We aren’t in Olympia, mister. You step in that room, and the only law is the natural law. You got the guts to live by the natural law?”

I ripped open the bag of chips, and gave a small friendly grin.

“Might as well find out.”

The old man knocked first, and then opened the door for me. The introductions were cordial enough. Stepping into a gambling den is like stepping into a wild animal’s lair just to tease the animal for sport. The thrill you get from the risk taking is addictive, you want one more rush, and don’t know when to get out. Then the next thing you know, you’re broke. Or rich.

That day, though, I wasn’t gambling for its own sake. It was part of work. I wasn’t conning—I was surviving, putting food on the table. I didn’t cheat, although I know how to do that with cards. I’d take their money honestly. When the sun goes down it isn’t robbing us of daylight. It’s just the natural order of things

So, the natural order of things that day led to me and one other man, Scott, facing off over a pile of money. I won it, fair and square. As I reached for the loot the loser spoke up in a friendly, local sort of way.

“You know friend, you won that money fair and square. I got no complaints. But, I got an offer for you that might be worth more than all that money.”

I took my hand off the pile.

“What you got in mind, Scott?”

“I work at the fish hatchery. The salmon have been coming back this week. After we take out the eggs we sell the fish for dog food. I could bend the rules a bet and let you have all of the salmon we’ve got in the cooler.”

This offer had potential.

“How many salmon you talking about?”

“You bring a flatbed with the walls up, and I’ll fill it.”

I stood up, put a hand on my winnings, and shoved the money to Scott.

“Keep the money. You got yourself a deal.”

“Come by in the morning.”

What was I going to do with that much salmon? I had no idea, but I liked the sound of the arrangement. I left and drove home to get the flatbed.

The next day I pulled into the hatchery parking lot, still with no idea what I’d do with that much fish.

Scott saw me walking toward the front door, came out to greet me.

“Morning, David. Nice truck you got there. Yours?”

“Yep, it’s mine.”

“Say, you thought yet what to do with all that salmon.”

“No, I’m still running that one through my head.”

“Well, I got a friend, lives not far from here. He has a drying house set up. A retired Army guy. He likes to keep busy. If I give him a call he won’t charge you.”

“That sounds like a plan to me.”

The Army guys name turned out to be Peter, and he was just about 20 minutes away. He had a garage air conditioned down close to freezing. I pulled the truck inside so the fish would keep. Next to the garage was the drying shed. He and I set about boning the fish and putting them on the drying racks.

Once we had the first rack filled and in the drying shed Peter slid a huge shallow tray under the rack.

He opened a cabinet, reached in and came out with a bottle of cheap scotch.

“No such thing as bad salmon, especially when it’s free, but I’ve found a trick that helps with this spawned out stuff.” He gave the scotch a friendly pat.

“What–get good and drunk before you eat it?”

“No, splash it on the fish. Scotch and salmon are two tastes that love each other.”

I felt an idea growing: scotch and salmon.

“You’ve tried this recipe before?”

Peter reached back in the cabinet, and brought out a small jar of salmon jerky. He took off the lid.

“Try some.”

I took a bite. The drying intensified the scotch and salmon flavors. You’d have thought Peter had used an expensive brand of booze. People would pay big bucks for this stuff.

About a week went by as I finalized my plan. For Peter it was like he was back in the Army, planning an assault, so he enjoyed helping me. He had a computer with a great graphics package. We made some killer labels. The label stated that these salmon had been raised in environmentally sound conditions. Well, they had been, so I wasn’t lying. We also added a bit about the scotch, that the fish were dried using an ancient Scottish recipe. Peter was Scottish, so I guess that wasn’t a lie. I had a killer recipe, all right. It was a perfect recipe for making lots of money.

Peter and I heat sealed the salmon one-pound at a time in our labeled plastic bags. He wanted to see the endgame for this plan, so Peter helped load the salmon into boxes, then into a big truck he had. Then we headed for Seattle, very early on a Saturday morning. Where in Seattle? I hadn’t a clue.

Driving in to the big city I saw a sign for Pike Street Market, and ,bam, I knew that’s where I needed to go. The market is a sprawling affair with small shops, carts, tables, lots of very small businesses. My kind of place.

After parking I walked through the market with Peter. I needed a spot to set up shop. Some vacate or unused place. Then I saw a woman, a New Ager peacenik type, selling sweaters from Tibet. We had passed a table near the street where signatures were being gathered for a political bill. This could work for me.

“Nice sweaters here, ma’m. Say, is that petition gatherer here every weekend?”

“Which one?”

“The one near the Vietnamese noodle cart. He’s gathering signatures for a petition to allow political pollsters to legally phone residences until 2 AM.”

The New Ager went red in the face.

“What!!” she yelled.

“The pollsters say it’s a free speech issue. If the cable TV networks are able to broadcast all day, then the pollsters say they should at least be able to call until 2 AM.”

“Those punks!!” The woman got up and ran toward the noodle cart.

My plan was working. Get a New Age whale-and-tree loving type furious about a political issue and there’s no stopping them. My sweater seller confronted the pollster, threw his table in his face. I saw 2 security guards walking by.

“Officers, there’s a fight over there.” I pointed.

The security guards ran over, and soon had the New Ager in handcuffs. They hauled her off. I knew she wasn’t going to be coming back to her table soon.   I sent Peter off to bring some salmon, while I made room on her table for my salmon.

The Seattle yuppies couldn’t get enough of my “Scottish salmon”. I made way, way more money than I’d won playing poker the other day.

So, was this a ‘survivors’ tactic, or a con. I sold the woman’s sweaters for her that day, along with peddling the salmon. When she came back I gave her the sweater money. And she told me she felt very good about going after that petition signature gatherer. I had thought she would. So, she got to be politically active, and make some money. No, I wouldn’t call what I did conning. I say it was surviving.

 

Yours in the faith,

David

 

 

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