Salmon Gill Net Boat

by Bob Nelson
Introduction by Bob Nelson

I’ve been haunted by the story of Pappa Kari, and his
eventual death, since I was sixteen. I recently spent
time in Westport searching for friends that knew
the Kari family. I was successful in locating the grand
son-in-law of Pappa Kari who filled me in on some
missing details. The story of “Pappa Kari” needs to be told.

Sung by Bob Nelson

Some men must follow the sea,
Some men can stay on the land,
Their choices were made, before they were born,
They all do the best that they can,
 You work on the land, you know where you stand,
You work, you earn, and you slave,
But those brave men who work on the sea,
They work with one foot in the grave.
I watched the old man stumble along,
His two canes led the way,
He walked the dock and he came to the rail,
Saying: “how are you today.”  
He spoke in Finn and I understood,
I was standing on his boat,
And here was the man that knew the sea,
Like no-one else afloat.
So here’s to those that are dead and gone,
Those men that follow the sea,
Their ranks are thin, but they’d do it again,
Those Finns that follow the sea, my boys,
Those Finns that follow the sea.
He said “my father died at sea,
My father’s father did too,
I’ve fished these waters, my time is short,
And I know what I must do.” 
He asked me to help him climb the rail,
So on his deck he could stand
“I need to feel the sea again,
I must not die on the land.”
He’d survived the storm of '36,
Where 16 others had died
He’d led his friends through the pounding surf,
Those few that did survive, 
But now his years had crippled him,
He knew his time was near,
He begged me to take him cross the bar,
I could see that he had no fear.
Pappa Kari saw his end,
Just as his fathers had done,
Those left behind couldn’t understand,
That with his death he’d won,
He needed to see his fathers again,
They had showed him the way, 
His freedom came in his own way,
As he went to the water to stay.

Pacific Nothwest Folklore Society