Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Fishing for Rohls

I was born in the Pacific Northwest where fishing and logging are more part of your birthright then learned behavior. My parents met in a town between Portland and the coast on Highway 30 called Clatskanie. The town was named after the river that flows through town to the Columbia River and also the name of a Native American people that were wiped out by small pox, fever, and intermarriage. The town started to grow under the financial support of Simon Benson. Mills and the Benson Log Raft lead to growing logging industry in and around Clatskanie and that, combined with the Salmon Fishing on the River, brought the Finnish to the area.

What, do you ask, has this got to do with anything? Nothing really, I just enjoy the beginnings of things and during my recent trip back to see my parents and whoever else we could find I was thinking of those beginnings. I was thinking about how I have had a number of different jobs and never really settled into a specific field of work. Then I thought of my dad and the different jobs he had. There is a thread of construction that he comes back to now and then but really he has spent as much time out of that industry as he has in it. Then I thought of my Grandfather and the stories my dad told of him never having a steady job to speak of. He made due with nine kids and took in whoever needed looking after like they were family, but not on a steady pay check. My uncles seem to have all embraced this sporadic approach to work as well and it makes me wonder if there is something hard wired in our DNA. We are all extremely hard workers and seem to really do well at what ever field we are currently tilling but it is a matter of time before we will be in a different field. That sporadic, nomadic nature makes my family tough to find at times and this recent trip had us on a trolling run for family.

We loaded Finny in his borrowed car seat (thanks Crystal) and my parents and I set out to see as many Rohls as we could. Heading West of 30, just out side of Westport we stopped to see Brett "Maverick" Rohl, the youngest of the 9 kids. He wasn't there of course, recently paid and with his on-again-off-again girlfriend. Seems the "paid" and "on-again" were linked. Undaunted we headed to the coast where my Grandfather "Papa" and uncle live. Papa wasn't home and his phone was off the hook all day. Stan "Skeeter" and Randy "Pablo" weren't around either so we headed to Astoria. Finally in Astoria we found my uncle Steve. Steve is an anomaly in the family in that he doesn't have a nickname that everyone knows him by. He isn't the only one but he is the one that my brother and I are closest with so it seems strange. We sat and talked to Steve and looked through old pictures and letter my dad and Tom sent from Vietnam. It was good to see Uncle Steve and reminisce about childhood fishing trips and killer bees. From Steve's we went and saw uncle Kelley "Beaver". Beaver has become the the uncle that we see the most because he seems to have the most stable life. Where some of my uncles seem more like strangers Beaver is family and I love him deeply. Last year my uncle Tony died and it sadly had no effect on me because I didn't know him. My uncle Tom is the same way, I can't remember the last time I saw him and I'm not sure I would recognize him if he walked by me.

We saw two out of the six remaining uncles before heading back to Clatskanie. We didn't see Papa, I really wanted him to meet Finn. It was a typical fishing trip though: a couple good catches dispersed around lots of disappointment.

3 comments:

jamie said...

Tom was our best man and I'm not sure I would recognize him either. It is sad isn't it?

Meg Schroeder said...

Cute James. Kinda sad about your uncles, but with nine, I guess you can only be close to so many of them. And I kinda love the nicknames, reminds me of a good novel!

beaver and tori said...

Thankyou for coming to see us. Thankyou kate, for sharing your boys with us and we hope to see you too next time.We hope the fishing trip for family goes better next visit. I(tori) agree with meg; this would be a good novel. Family and all the streams traveled!! Love you guys