Saturday, March 8, 2014

LUNCH AT THE RIVER

When Mekkar was younger he inquired to his mama concerning the noon meal time. Sirga replied sharply, “You know where the river is. If you want your lunch, get yourself down to the river and catch it or you don’t eat. You know that the food made in the restaurant is for the tourists, not for you. Unless, you are working serving the visitors. The main reason is because you boys would eat all the profits!”

So early on, Mekkar and Lasse would walk down to the riverbank, near the old stone bridge. Here the river was not as wide or the water as deep. The boys had to first prepare and setup the spot to be able to catch fish. This is key, if they wanted to incur success. It began with the boys wading out in the water away from the riverbank where the flow was slightly calmer. Rocks and stones that lay along the bottom of the river would be arranged by them to force the fish to travel closer near the edge. That is, if the fish planned on continuing downstream to the sea. The goal was to make it easier for the youngsters to snag a meal to quench their hunger.

Many rivers in the far north area flow northward to the ocean, if there is an outlet in that direction. Those rivers are mainly fed and supplied by water sources that come from runoff of the nearby hills and low lying mountains. Thus, the water quality in these waters’ is normally very good. Mekkar says that is fairly clean water. He is picky about that and expresses this often if his standard is not met. To him it was good enough to cup his hands together and scoop up the water to drink it right there.

On the first trip the boys constructed a permanent riverbank fire pit base with stones, rocks, and other items they had gathered from the surrounding area. Lasse’s papa had forged a metal grill rack that fit perfectly to cook on, so that became part of their pit also. Thus, taking a couple of fishing spears, matches, small branches and twigs plus other easily retrievable supplies with them was all they would need each time they arrived.

Mekkar and Lasse would alternate, at different times, their turn to catch the fish in the shallow part of the river’s edge they previously setup. On some occasions, some of their buddies and young relatives around their same age range would join them for these escapades. The knee high waterproof boots of the fish retriever would make a sloshing sound with each step after journeying into the water. Whoever was doing the fishing would have a spear with a pointed tip at the ready to bring the hammer down and impale the fish.

Mekkar liked to raise the fish out of the water, in triumph, while the impaled prey was still wiggling on the hook. There was no use of fishing poles for this task. If the fish was too small, they would get upset that they had wasted their time. The reaction was a yank of the fish from the hook and a toss back into the flowing water as a sign of disgust. Mekkar responded frequently, “Let’s get a real sized fish!” Mekkar was the worst in his outward dislike in this regard as he expected to get what he wanted on the first attempt, every time.

When the boys would collect one to their satisfaction, the next step was a release from the sharp point and clasp. After that was a smack of the fish’s head against one of the rocks and cutting off the head and tail. They didn’t bother eating the ends. Next, would be to fillet it with a slice down the middle and opening the fish to remove the spine and larger bones. Mekkar, Lasse, and the others that came down to the river didn’t worry about eating the smaller fish bones. The fire cooking process would soften those to keep from becoming an issue. Later on the boys, along with Alf when he grew older, would bring an assortment of condiments and toppings with them. Other selections were also added such as a few side dishes, accessories, and other items to enjoy the crooked fish.

This routine became a regular mid day activity for a long time. Even when Mekkar and his buddies would come back to visit after moving away from the village. There was one instance in particular when Lasse was older that stood out. It was after the boys had started off by drinking some alcohol. As he went to go catch a fish in the water, Lasse stepped forward with the wrong foot in front of him. Mekkar’s best friend then thrust the spear in his hand in a downward motion to get the fish. However, he impaled something else, his own foot, from the top piercing through the middle of his limb. Lasse had to jerk hard to dislodge the spear’s point from the dirt of the riverbank underneath. The problem was the spear went through his foot and the boot straight into the ground when he thrust it.

His brow was furled as Lasse ripped the end of the spear from his foot and limped away from the river. Not to forget, he was a hockey player and as a result he was tough. Mekkar, Alf, and a couple others there were howling with laughter over this situation and even had the nerve to tease Lasse about it. They spewed out comments such as “Look at big, tough, mighty Lasse now. He speared himself to the riverbank!” Mekkar led the gang by giving Lasse the business regarding the incident. Even though Lasse was now bleeding from the hole in his foot, he didn’t seem too hurt about it. Perhaps, he just didn’t want to show his suffering in front of his friends. Lasse was more bothered by the teasing of his peers and increasingly became more ticked off at them. Lasse’s wrath grew at this treatment and subsequently he wanted to rumble. Mekkar would be first up.