“Don’t go Jake. I’ll miss you.”
“I have to go, Sammy. It’s all part of the plan.”
“But … why? How do you know?” Sammy, the younger sockeye salmon, didn’t understand why his friend Jake would leave their home in the Pacific Ocean and head up the ferocious river.
“And just how do you think you’re going to get up that river, anyway?” Determined to keep Jake home, Sammy tried using logic to show Jake the error of his ways.
“I can’t explain why, or how. I just know I have to go.” Truthfully, Jake wasn’t sure why he’d leave his home either. For three years he had lived here -- off the coast of Oregon. And last year, when Sammy arrived in the mighty Pacific scared and bruised, Jake had taken him under his fin, and become a big brother to the young silvery smolt. Jake had shown Sammy the best places to find zooplankton, and taught him how to catch succulent squid.
But, as the frigid waters of the Northwest started to warm, Jake had grown restless. His soul was yearning for a change. And he knew there was someplace else he had to be.
“Then … I’m going with you. It’ll be an adventure. If you can do it, I can do it, too.” Sammy sounded braver than he felt. He still remembered his wild ride down the Columbia River last year. He wasn’t at all comfortable with the thought of trying to swim back up the river. But, if Jake was going, Sammy would go with him.
“Sammy, it’s not your time. You have to stay here a few more years … grow stronger for the trip. You’ll know when the time is right. You’ll just feel it. And you’ll start to look different … like I do.” In recent months, Jake’s sleek metallic green-blue back had begun to develop a hump. Sammy thought he looked funny, but he didn’t tell his best friend that.
“Okay, Jake. But when I get bigger, I’m going to come up that river and find you.” Sammy blinked back the tears he felt forming in his watery eyes.
“You do that, Sammy. ‘Bye.” Jake turned east toward the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. He was confident that this was the way to go. And he knew that he would never see his little friend again.
For three months, the mature sockeye salmon swam vigorously up the river. Something, or Someone, was pushing him forward. As the journey progressed, his iridescent body turned a deep red, and his head and upper jaw, now full of sharp teeth, developed a green hue.
Jake was getting weary, and he knew the end of his journey was near. He didn’t know what would happen when he reached his destination, wherever that was, but he was ready to be home. One final obstacle lay between Jake and his ultimate goal. The Rocky Reach Dam.
Jake began his ascent up the fish ladders at Rocky Reach. He knew the routine. He had already negotiated ladders at four previous dams.
After successfully jumping over sixteen ladders, Jake’s fatigue threatened to end his quest early. The final ladder seemed impossible. Jake doubted his ability to finish the trip. He knew he was supposed to go home, but he was no longer sure he could get there.
Jake rested in the pool of the fish ladder for two days. Should he give in to the rushing waters and be carried back to the ocean? Returning to his old, comfortable life?
“You’ll know when the time is right.” Jake heard the words he had spoken to Sammy, and he knew. His time was now. He had to press on.
With renewed confidence, Jake hurled his fourteen inch fish body over the final ladder. Task accomplished.
“I did it. I knew I could do it.”
Well done … I knew you could do it, too.
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