Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Fish


This story I'm about to share with you is about a great-great uncle of mine.  It was published in a book titled "Children's Stories" written by Rick Steber in Volumn 6 of his true stories titled "Tales of the Wild West". I had picked up several of these books and would read one of the short stories to my kids every night when they were younger, along with whatever bedtime story we were reading at the time. Imagine my surprise when I found a relative in one of the true stories, and more intriguing was the fact that I had never heard the story before.  Actually, I was reading along and the last name is mispelled in the book.  Finally, my daughter, Brittany, who was about 12 at the time, stopped me and said, "Mom, isn't Promise where your family is from?  Don't you just think that they spelled the name wrong?" By golly, she was right!

 Lately, I've been sucked in and mezmorized by Ancestory.com.  I've always been intrigued by family tree's and said that someday I was going to get going on one.  Someday has arrived and as I was immersed in my family history the other day, I ran across the name Orval Sannar which reminded me of this story.  I'm printing it here just as it was printed in Rick Steber's book.  I give him all of the credit but feel that
since it is a story from my family history, then it's mine to tell. 
Here it is:

The Fish

The fall of 1913 Orval Sannar (mis-spelled Sannan in the book), his sister and a group of friends from the small town of Promise in northeastern Oregon hiked down to the Grande Ronde River for a day of fishing.


They fished for several hours without success. Finally Orval announced, "I'm going to cross over to the other side. Fishing's got to be better there."


At that place on the river the stream is deep and the current comparatively slow. The others watched as Orval waded in. He called back, "I'm going to leave my line out. Maybe I'll catch a big one on the way across." Those were the lasts words he ever spoke.

Orval waded to a point where the water was waist deep and then, placing his fishing pole in his mouth to free his hands, he started to swim. Part way across his head was suddenly jerked under water. Twice he came up above water, flailing his arms wildly. And then he was gone.

One of the boys hiked out of the canyon with the sad news of the drowning. Soon a large group from Promise started down to the river. They located the body on the bottom, fifty yards downstream from where Orval was last seen. A few feet away, also on the bottom, was the fishing pole. It was recovered and when the line was reeled in, a 17-inch squaw fish dangled from the hook.

The supposition of those present was that the fish took the hook while Orval was swimming. It hit the bait and dashed downstream. Since Orval had the fishing pole in his mouth and could not close his lips, and since he was breathing hard with the exertion of the swim, the fish pulled his head under and his lungs filled with water almost instantly. That was the most logical explanation the group could understand.

Promise, Oregon is just a ghost town now set in the mountains of Wallowa County, but every year there is a reunion held for the families who settled there.  The Promise Grange Hall is still standing, right next to the cemetary where Orval and other members of our family lay at rest.  Almost all of the attendees at the reunion are in some way related anymore and there is always a spread of good food and good fun, along with old pictures and stories from what is quickly becoming the distant past. If you enjoyed this story, be sure and look for Rick Steber's books.  They're a lot of fun to read and only take up minute or two for each story.  Pay close attention though, you might run across someone in one of the stories who you know...

7 comments:

Shelby said...

oh wow.. tragic. very intriguing.

mtnchild said...

There are so many short stories written about Oregon small town history. I need to get a library card so I can get some of these books! I have heard a lot about Rick Steber.

Sad family tale, but like Shelby said, very intriguing.
Yvette

kanishk said...

great post
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Stacey's Treasures said...

That is such a strange story. I remember you telling me about it.
Don't ever swim with your pole in your mouth.

Mary said...

Paula, A very tragic story, but an interesting one. I'm also interested in family ancestry and love the true stories that have been handed down from generation to generation.

So glad to be back in touch. I've missed you.

Blessings,
Mary

Sarah said...

Fascinating (though sad) tale! How exciting to stumble across a relative in a story book. Promise, Oregon just sounds so romantic and straight out of a story anyway!

Twisted Fencepost said...

Oh no! What a sad way to go. Poor kid just wanted to catch a fish for supper.
I'll keep my eye out for Rick Steber's books. Wonder if he has anything in there from our east coast ancestors?