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Section 5.1 Small Number and the Salmon Harvest

Written by: Veselin Jungic and Mark MacLean

Illustrated by: Simon Roy and Jess Pollard

Small Number is a young boy who gets into a lot of mischief. He lives in a small village by the water with his mother and father. It is a crisp autumn day and Small Number is helping his father to prepare the nets for tomorrow’s salmon harvest.

There is a school of salmon by Straight Line Beach. We need to set our net in the morning while the tide is still high,” says Small Number’s father. It is the first time that Small Number will go with his father to catch salmon and he has many questions.

Why are these round pebbles on one side and those pieces of cedar on the other side of the net? Why do we need those two big rocks? What is the weight of those pebbles? How far apart are they? Why are the pieces of cedar cut in this shape? How long is the net? How deep is the net?

Be patient, Small Number, you will learn all tomorrow,” smiles his father. “Now run and tell your grandfather and your uncle that the net is ready and that they should be at our beach before dawn!

Small Number is very excited about his new adventure and when he finally gets to sleep, he dreams about a big salmon jumping out of the water and falling back with a splash.

Wake up, Small Number. Your dad is already down at our beach,” Small Number hears his mom’s gentle voice.

When he steps outside, Small Number stops and looks around. He sees dark sharp peaks of mountains to the north and hears the sound of waves and the squawks of seagulls.

Down on the beach, Small Number sees a group of men and starts running towards them as fast as he can. “Just on time, Small Number,” says his grandfather hugging him. “Our canoes are loaded with nets and baskets and we are ready to go.

When they arrive at Straight Line Beach, Small Number’s grandpa and uncle pull their canoe out of the water. Small Number and his father stay in their canoe and pass the ends of the net lines to Grandfather. Small Number paddles away from the beach while his dad continues to pay out the net lines.

When they reach the beginning of the net, they turn the canoe parallel to the beach and dad throws a big rock that is attached to the net into the water. “This anchor will hold the net in place,” he says to Small Number. “Oh, I see,” yells Small Number, “the pebbles will keep one edge of the net on the bottom and the pieces of cedar will float and keep the other edge of the net on the surface!

Small Number sees how a large group of salmon have drifted inshore with the incoming tide. He looks at their large smooth bodies and feels his heartbeat fasten. “How strong and beautiful these fish are!

The anchor secures the other end of the net and Small Number turns the canoe towards the beach where his dad passes the net lines to Small Number’s uncle.

While his dad pulls the canoe out of water, Small Number asks, “How many salmon will we catch today? How are we going to divide the salmon among our families? Will there be enough for everybody? How do we know that the salmon will come back?

We have our ways,” answers his father. “Now, you stay here to help your uncle pull on the net lines. I’m going to help grandpa.

They start hauling in the net. Small Number sees that all fish within the area between the beach and the net are captured and says to his uncle, “Good that we came during the high tide. If the tide were low we wouldn’t catch this many fish. Our ways are good!

Question: Why did Small Number think that during a low tide the catch would be much smaller?