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Browne Road Massacre

After school in late September,
the neighbourhood boys flock
like crows spying carrion,
and gleefully harass the spawning salmon
assembled under the Browne Road
bridge that crosses Street Creek
just below the old Cariboo Trail ford.

Perhaps in the long ago, Indians
set their willow-branch traps here,
and hung the day's catch on drying racks
on the banks of the shallow gully,
joyfully harvesting nature's plenty
while preparing for the winter.

So it wasn't their parents' fault
that the boys threw stones and
jabbed the writhing, trapped salmon
with sticks from both sides of the bridge.
Fish escaping the gauntlet, fleeing
to the muddy shallows upstream,
are intercepted by the bully boy,
who inflicts more punishment
with hard kicks and boulders,
and tosses the subdued salmon
onto the stream's grassy south shore.

So it wasn't my Dad's fault
that Ray and I drifted downstream
from our barn at milking time,
attracted by the bad boys' clamour,
to watch the slaughter of our salmon
from the vantage of a knoll
on the north side of the stream
that we share with old-man Rowtasch,
whose dairy farm across Browne Road
stretches almost to the Vedder River.

So it must have been Rowtasch,
with the only telephone around,
who called the police to complain.
Who arrived surreptitiously
as the boys mutilated the beached salmon.

After school in late September,
the Mennonite boys that flock
gleefully harassing spawning salmon
under the Browne Road bridge get arrested.

And late in the night's quiet
and the morning's gathering light
schools of salmon assemble
under the Browne Road bridge —
feeling the future of their demise,
drawn by their longing and ardent desire —
before swimming upstream to find
a mate and release in slippery, smooth gravel.

Podcast: Browne Road Massacre

© Elmer Wiens




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