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Angling and Some Acts of God
Thomas McGuane
August 09, 1971
Delayed by a poisonous prawn and torrential rains suggesting disinterest—if not anger—from above, the fishermen finally found their British Columbia rainbows
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August 09, 1971

Angling And Some Acts Of God

Delayed by a poisonous prawn and torrential rains suggesting disinterest—if not anger—from above, the fishermen finally found their British Columbia rainbows

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"Oh come on."

We continued hunting, as it were. And we didn't find anything; not one thing. When more of the unseasonable rain blew in from the exaggerated sky, we sat, fly rods in hand, like drowned rats. I began to take an interest in the details of the bilge.

Some time later, when it had cleared a little, we headed down the lake to an Indian village that is inhabited by a branch of the Carrier tribe—so named because the widows of the tribe once carried the charred bones of their husbands around on their backs. The village is prettily sited on a high series of hills and looks out on the lake and river where the two are joined. There are a couple of dozen buildings along a wooden walk and a small Hudson's Bay store.

When we passed the upper part of the town, an Indian girl in an aniline-blue miniskirt was pulling sockeye salmon from a net. Nearby, a man worked on his outboard; ravens and gulls screamed and circled overhead, waiting for a chance at the offal from the gutted salmon. There were 100,000 or more sockeyes in the river now. Many of them came up out of the wilderness with bear claw marks on them.

We docked at the lower end of the village, hurried up the hill and got under the eaves of the wooden school-house as the rain started in hard. There was a notice in the school window.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

During the absence of the schoolteacher, this school building must be closed. It therefore cannot be used for dances, bingo games or any other social gatherings. Anyone asking permission to use the school will be refused.
R. M. McIntyre
Superintendent
Burns Lake Indian Agency

In two or three places on the walls of this wilderness school were dabbed the letters LSD, which did not stand for League of Spiritual Discovery. The letters were doubtlessly put there by someone who spoke English as a second language. The times they are a-changing.

When the weather relented a little, we hiked up the hill to the old cemetery, mostly overgrown. The epitaphs intrigued us: "To the sacred memory of our brother killed by a gunshot wound." I found two old headmen's graves. "Chief William" and "Chief Agusa." The titles were purely titular; the Carriers gave their chiefs little power. The cultural overlay seemed rather bald on the last stone I looked at. Beneath a conventional crucifix it read, "In memory of Ah Whagus. Died 1906. Age 86."

We walked around the village. The shy people smiled at the ground or stayed inside when we passed. On the boardwalk someone had written, "Big Fat Sally Do Your Stuff." Beyond the LSD graffiti and the noise of a transistor radio playing Dolly Parton as she sang "I'm a lady mule skinner from down ol' Tennessee way," black-shawled Indian women were taking the salmon down the river to a lower island and smoking them against a winter that was probably more imminent to them than to us. The older people were locked in some intense dejection, but the children played with familiar, maniacal energy in the deep wet grass with their salmon-fattened dogs.

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