The Ballad of One-Eyed Red

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Old Red was a sockeye of modest means,
Plodding his way toward his home,
Struggling with siblings much larger than he, A runt, he was, and alone,

Across the ocean, they swam for weeks,
It was all Red could do to maintain,
For his size was much smaller, his energy slight, And the hazards were an endless chain,

They arrived at Cook Inlet,
To a battery of nets,
All targeted to thin out their ranks,
Old Red lost an eye in a fishermen’s net, But lucky was he and gave thanks,

Then, further upstream, sport fishermen stood by, Casting their flies for the kill, And Red came upon my daughters’ small line, And her limit was yet to be filled,

But he was foul-hooked, we saw, and tangled the net, And it took too long to release, And he floated, lifeless, still in the net, Poor Cheryl was in need of some peace,

So we turned him up, with back to the sky, And gently moved with his gills, And as moments passed by (it seemed like all day), Old One-Eye recovered his will,

We returned old One-Eye back to the wild, To continue his journey upstream, And happy was he, with one eye to see, This Sockeye would accomplish his dream.

By Don McKay

My daughter Cheryl McKay Ramon ventured to Alaska for her annual quest for the abundant Sockeye Salmon that we catch in our front yard on the Kenai River. Cheryl is a legal-minded soul and when she foul-hooked a fish, she tried valiantly to release him but he appeared to have expired by the time she got him untangled from the net.  We worked to get him breathing again by the process of holding the fish upright by the tail, and gently moving him back and forth in the water to get his gills working again.  It worked and Cheryl’s tears turned to grins as the fish took off upstream like a bottle-rocket.

Kenai Senior Center writers present their stories as memoir, entertainment and catharsis

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