On the way back to Santa Rosa by car [in 1967], we visited the Prairie Creek Salmon Hatchery in Humboldt County, situated on a surviving clear-water creek. It had been built to mitigate the massive loss of salmon habitat caused by mechanized logging.
A huge wooden carving at the hatchery immortalized a coho salmon named Indomitable. The tale was that one morning the hatchery workers had found a single adult salmon swimming with the newborn fish in one of the hatching pools. They discovered a screen-cap knocked off an overflow pipe into the pool; this was the point of ingress for the salmon.
Tracing downstream along the pipes and flumes below the building, they found scores of salmon ready to spawn, packed into ever-smaller flumes. All these fish had returned upstream to their point of origin—the hatchery—to spawn. “Indomitable” had been just determined enough, just strong enough, and possibly just small enough, to get up the overflow pipe and manage to knock away the cap and enter the pool.
The workers happily harvested eggs and sperm from all the adult fish, and released them back into the stream.
When I read the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge this morning, I knew it was time to bring the ghost-writing and the flash fiction together:
May 13, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows a hard place and a connection. It could be a prisoner who discovers friendship; a cedar that grows from a crack in a cliff; an abandoned dog rescued by a homeless teen. Maybe it is a reconciliation or connecting with students during a turbulent time. Is the hard place part of something larger in the scope of a character’s development? Or is it a plot twist?
What is more about difficulty of connection than the determination of a salmon spawning?
IndomitableThe crowded racetrack surges with imperative: we must return. Each mile upstream also means climbing a body-length vertically, darting past the rocks, and the other racers. Our run has the ultimate prize, but there is no call to win. There is only the urgent invitation of the water upstream.
Closer and closer we come to the finish. Suddenly the water almost disappears. The final lap is a tight tunnel, full of racers. Has someone already won?
No, there is one more obstacle, a leap to a tighter passage. I alone make it home, one salmon of thousands hatched here.