When I go home to visit my mother, I stay in her house, which was passed down to her from her parents who purchased it in 1926. We consider this old farm house our homestead.
I’m starting to pay closer attention to details when my parents reminisce about the old days and recall personal experiences. Digging through boxes of old black and white photos produces evidence to substantiate the stories, so my love of old photos keeps me busy for hours.
During this last visit, my mother recalled memories from her childhood, specifically from when she was 8 or 9 and spent one week with her father, my grandfather, at his job as a fish receiver.
My grandfather, Oney Oja, was born in 1902. He was a logger and a fisherman. When my mother stayed with him as a fish receiver, he worked for a company called Kaboth Sands Seining Ground, one of many horse seining fishing companies.
Large nets were played out in the river, creating a giant circle. Teams of draft horses, standing chest deep in the river, pulled in the purse seine nets full of salmon, either to the shore or to the sandbar. My mother only recalls the horses in the water and the sandbar. She rode with my grandfather in a boat, nicknamed a “slimey”, out to the sandbar where they used a gaff to pull the salmon onto the boat. Back on shore at the fish receivers scow, they used another gaff and threw the salmon (commonly as much as 40 pounds) onto the dock.
My grandfather had a private room above the scow, so my mother was permitted to stay with him and slept on a cot in his room. She remembers eating with the fishermen in the cook house, and being watched over by the cooks.
It must have been quite a sight for an 8 year old to see the huge draft horses standing in the river, sometimes with only their backs above the water line. It was hard work for the horses and my mother remembers that they would get pneumonia. The horses stayed in a barn out in the middle of the river when they weren’t working. One of my mother’s friends father was the head man attending the horses and keeper of the horse barn.
Here is an excerpt from Astoria 1811 – 2011 An Adventure In History:
Most of the sites were a mile or more from either shore and wholly submerged by the flood tide, so as the water advanced, both humans and horses would retreat to their camp built high atop piling. On these stilted little islands the horse seining crews, usually consisting of about 30 hands, and the five to seven teams of horses spent the season.
My mother was 8 or 9 when she stayed a week with her father so it would have been 1942 or 1943.