Of Fish and Firearms

Monday evening. Another far-off-Reecer Creek meeting of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association. This one with a group of Columbia River homeys gathered along the Deep River not far from Cathlamet, Washington. The gathering was in celebration of one of the limited number of nights during which said homeys might take set their nets for a commercial harvest of coho and Chinook salmon.

The nets could go out only after 7 p.m. and had to be reeled back into the boat by 7 a.m. I was onsite for my annual overnight helping buddy Steve Souvenir set and retrieve his 90 fathom (about 540 foot) gill net. This time around, we were joined by Steve’s stepson, Jarrett, who fairly regularly helps Steve handle the net.

Immediately after 7, we set the net. Six-inch wooden floats, every few feet, kept the top line of the net at the surface, while the lead line – and a few anchors – held the net more or less taut in the slow-moving stream. Once the flashing beacons were activated at both ends of the net, we returned to the dock and watched the floats. The whole thing reminded me of bobber fishing – each time a salmon hit the net, a float would splash and dive momentarily.

At dark, we reassembled on the dock for a confab. Bill, Cody, Jeff, Gordie, Steve and Jarrett and I shared a community take-out dinner, compliments of Steve, and conversation about fishing, small-scale gill netting, and hunting. Scattered through the next hour or so was a question or two about firearms and the furor around proposed new rules.

I asked a couple of the Oregon guys about firearms initiatives on their ballot for this fall. “Nah,” one said, “our legislature squashed a bunch of that over the last couple years, so we won’t be voting on any gun stuff, like you Washington guys… At least for now.” The other just looked at me and said, “It doesn’t matter what they do, anyway. The will never get my guns.”

There seems to be no shortage of folks who feel that way across the country. I don’t really want to think about what would happen if there was a real effort to confiscate firearms in the US. Be that as it may, however, we keep dealing with one initiative after another to somehow control access to, and ownership of, firearms. For me, it keeps coming back to The Old Man’s questions – the ones we looked at three weeks ago – “So, what is the problem to be solved by this brilliant solution?” and “How in hell does this solve that ‘problem?’”

As I have mentioned, my father (he called himself The Old Man from about age 26) had a finely tuned BS sensor. I can just hear him now expounding on one of his pet peeves. It irked him that people often didn’t consider whether their solutions would actually solve some perceived problem, they just had to “do something.” The most dangerous ones, he figured, were the ones with enough money to “stir up enough muck that nobody else could see the issue clearly enough to deal with it in a way that mattered.”

Our two initiatives are competing: Initiative 591 would prevent the state from adding requirements without a uniform national standard and Initiative 594 will require background checks for a wide array of firearm transfers and loans.

I will spend next week – and more – on these initiatives. Do your homework and see through the muck; read the complete text of each. The text for 591 is on one page, and that for 594 covers 18 pages. Google “Washington initiative 594” and “Washington initiative 591,” and click on the Ballotpedia site (easiest for finding the text and discussion, I think). After that, consider the titles, below, on which you will vote in November.


Certified ballot title for Initiative 591:

“This measure would prohibit government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms from citizens without due process, or from requiring background checks on firearm recipients unless a uniform national standard is required.

“Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]”


Certified ballot title for Initiative 594:

“This measure would apply currently used criminal and public safety background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.

“Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]”


Somewhere in there, you might consider the question “What is the real problem to be solved?”

Oh, yeah. We pulled nets about 3 a.m. Tuesday. The fish were abundant and all netters had a good harvest. We packed them on ice, sent them off to the cannery with Bill, and were having breakfast just after dawn.

On my way out of Clatskanie, I picked a couple gallons of marble sized fruit at the Blueberry Farm. On the drive home, I kept thinking about society’s problems and voting and mass wisdom.

It seemed like a more or less typical late summer two-day adventure.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized