Whataya Spose He Weighed
By Gus n' Lew

 

A couple of male Chickadees outside Gus's window woke him with their love song, which they sang over and over and over, for the heart of the little female Chick perched on the branch of the nearby wire-birch tree.

Gusbur Glaspie stretched long and laid there for several minutes listening to the bird's untiring flirting. "Their love for that little girl bird is mighty strong", thought Gus. "Wonder if people act like that?"

Gus's thought of the birds in love was interrupted by a knock on the door and sound of Lew's voice. "Mornin Loretta. Beautiful morning ain't it," he said. Loretta immediately welcomed Lew inside and stated, "Sure is Lew. What's on your mind ta come callin this early." Lew gave a half laugh at Loretta's remark. Loretta cut a silly grin and chuckled enough to allow him to feel a little more relaxed. "Is Gus up," asked Lew. "Not yet, but he should be getting outa bed 'fore to long. Why ya askin bout Gus? He ain't in no trouble is he," she inquired. "No, no, no," said Lew. "No need ta worry 'bout Gus getting in trouble. He's a fine boy." "I'm hopin Gus might be interested in makin a few dollars, that is if it's okay with you," Lew stated. "Can't see why he wouldn't. We can always use an extra dollar 'round here. Times are pretty tight for everyone these days. Whataya want 'em ta do," she asked. "Well, ya see I fell a bit behind with gettin me wood split and in the shed, so figgered if Gus could gimme a hand getting it inside I'd make up on some lost time. The snow'l be dropping 'fore ya know it," said Lew.

"Ya'd save more time if another big salmon don't stop at Doctor's Island Pool," said Loretta. Lew didn't have to answer; he knew the cat was out of the bag.

Gus, who had been eaves dropping on the conversation knew it was time to intervene and get Lew off the hook. He pulled aside the grey wool blanket hanging over the opening where a door should have been hinged and said, "Course I'll give ya a hand with your wood, and it won't cost ya a thing either." "Whataya mean," asked Lew. "Don't be silly Lew. You know what I mean. If anyone owes someone it's us who owes you," said Gus. Lew and Loretta looked at each other and blushed.

"Lew, have ya time for a cup a tea?" asked Loretta. "Thanks, but I already had a cup 'fore I came here, besides I got that winter's wood on me mind," answered Lew.

Loretta suddenly, and without warning, reached out and gently took hold of Lew's hand and drew it close. Just as sudden she wrapped her other hand around his and held it just tight enough to prevent him from pulling away. She then looked in his eyes and said, "Just half a cup. It's already steeped and only needs pourin. Please?"

Loretta's touch and look took Lew totally by surprise. It made him feel a bit uneasy. He wasn't sure how to interpret his feeling. "I think I otta go," he said. "Ya sure Lew? Why not take a minute and have a spot a tea with me. Make me happy if ya did," she told him. "Some other time when things get a little more settled," he promised.

As Lew left Gus assured him he would be along within the hour, and true to his word in less than the hour Gus arrived at the woodpile where Lew had already split a large pile of fist sized sticks. Together they loaded the wheelbarrow, but it was Gus who grabbed the handles of the one-wheeled rig and pushed it toward the shed. "Wheel 'er right inside and back to the back wall. I got a tear of wood already started. We'll just keep pilin 'er till she reaches the rafters and then we can start another tear. We should be able ta get 'er all in by two o'clock. Whataya think," asked Lew. "Why would ya ask me. I'm workin for you," answered Gus.

It was a hotter than usual day for October and the heat was taking its toll on the two woodworkers. By eleven o'clock the sun had set high and it was beginning to drain their energy. Lew was having a hard time hanging onto the axe handle with his sweaty hands and Gus was getting weak kneed. As Gus turned the loaded wheelbarrow toward the shed again Lew laid the axe on top of the woodpile and walked toward the house. When he reached the steps at the back of the house he stopped, hauling his red handkerchief from his hind pocket, lifted his hat and wiped his forehead. After a quick catch of his breath he climbed the short set of steps and quickly disappeared inside the house. Just as quickly he reappeared and walked over and sat on the old car seat he had on the back step. "Gus", he shouted. "set 'er down and come rest a spell."

Lew wasn't going to have to tell Gus a second time to leave the wheelbarrow. Instantly, but unevenly the legs of the wheeled cart landed and tipped over spilling its load onto the dusty ground. Without giving it a second thought Gus hurried away from the over tipped load of wood and hurried to where Lew was. When he arrived Lew handed him a cold bottle of Orange Crush pop. The chilled bottle felt refreshing to the touch. The contents refreshed his gut as he gulped the first half of the Orange Crush down. "Drink 'er slow or your gut will cramp," warned Lew.

Lew and Gus sat quietly and rested in the shade of the back porch. Work was the farthest thing from Lew's mind. It was even further from Gus's.

"Whataya spose he weighed?" asked Gus. "Whataya talking 'bout," answered Lew. "That big Hook Bill we had on the other mornin," said Gus. "I don't know," said Lew. "I ain't give it much thought." "So, you'd been thinkin 'bout him too," replied Gus.

"Lew, ya know I ain't gonna be able ta keep me mouth shut. Ya know I'm gonna tell people 'bout that fish. I ain't sayin I have ta let anyone know when, or zactly where I hooked 'em. It's only me and you who needs ta know that, and you're the only guy I got ta back me story. She'd be nice ta have some kind a idea how much he weighed, that way we'd both be on the same page if anyone asks. You know what I'm gettin at. Ain't many who's gonna believe me, but if I tell them they can ask you, cause you was there, well, you understand what I mean." "Oh! I know what ya mean alright. Ya wanna drag me inta this lie with ya," answered Lew. "I ain't askin ya ta lie for me. We're both in this tagether, remember? The story ain't worth telling if ya can't answer the first question they're gonna ask. Whataya spose he weighed?"

"Whataya spose he weighed?" said Lew to himself, but also just loud enough for Gus to hear. "I ain't got a clue what that salmon would go, but if you had a good look at 'em I think there's a way we can figger it out. I read somethin 'bout how ta guess the weight of a fish in a old newspaper I have here somewhere. It has somethin ta do with measurin how long he is and how wide he is and multiplyin it by somethin else."

"How ya gonna guess what the weight of a fish is by measurin the distance 'tween his eyes," asked Gus. "Whataya talkin bout," asked Lew. "Same thing you're talkin bout Lew. I betcha that fish was six inches 'tween the eyes, and I know he was a good four and a half foot long," stated Gus. "Hold 'er now Gus. Ya gotta be a little more conservative with yer estimates than that," says Lew.

"I know we'd be cheatin ourselves Lew if we said he was under 16 inches down through the middle," pleaded Gus. "Hold on now Gus. I told ya, ya have ta be conservative," answered Lew. "I am, I am, I got a good look at 'em when he swum by me," said Gus. "You're conservative all right. A lyin Conservative just like yer dad. Ha! Ha! Ha!" laughed Lew.

Lew turned to look at Gus and what he saw was a cold, fiery eyed young boy staring him down. Before the sound of Lew's laughter faded he realized he'd done the wrong thing in bringing up Gus's father. In order to recover from the mistake he instantly withdrew his glance at Gus and said, "Now, let me see. If I can just find that write-up in the paper we can figger it out. You can do the cipherin." "Whadya mean by that," asked Gus.

Lew couldn't tell from Gus's response whether he meant the remark about his father or what he meant by cipherin, but he knew he had to avoid answering the wrong question, so the quickest response he could come up with was, "You know, cipherin, ta add, subtract, multiply, divide numbers." There was a short silence before Gus responded. "Oh! You mean Rithmatic," "Yeah, that's right, that's what ya call it," said Lew.

As Lew rummages through a bundle of newspapers and magazines stacked in the corner of the shed he was also half listening to Gusbur telling him about hearing a teacher, the other day, refer to Rithmatic as Mathmatics. "Don't surprise me none," said Lew. "Next week they'll be callin it somethin else, and tellin ya that one and one is three. I don't understand why they just can't leave well enough alone. "Ah! Here it is, right here in the North Shore Leader. Now listen close while I read what it says we gotta do." "How far'd ya go ta in school Lew," asked Gus. "Far enough, now grab a pencil and jot this down," instructed Lew.

"Ya take the length a the fish in inches, and ya take the girth of 'em, which is the length round his gut. Ya times them tagether and divide that by 800. That's sposed ta give ya the weight," said Lew. "So, that bein the case, I figger Hook Bill ta be at least as long as the door on the back a me shed where I pile up the wood. That would make him 'bout 5 feet high. How many inches s'that Gus?" asked Lew.

"Gimme a minute Lew, I can't find a pencil," answered Gus. "Never mind the pencil, just grab a nail," orders Lew. "Scratch it on that shingle there." Gus begins to work on the formula. "Ya say he's 5 feet long and there's 12 inches in a foot, so that means 5 times 12 inches is 5 times 2 is 10 and 5 times one is 5 so, ya take the 0 and lay it down and then take the 5 and add it ta the one and that gives ya 6, which means he's 60 inches long," says Gus. "How big around do ya think he was?" asked Lew. "Ya was awful close to 'em when he was swimming down the river past ya."

The excitement of getting close to guesstimating the huge fish could be seen on Gus's face. His eyes were big as saucers as he thought back of the huge Hook Bill, which struggled to throw the fly when he tried to jump, but only clearing the water as far as his pectoral fins.

"Lew, see that old water bucket over there, the one ya use ta draw water from the well. He'd be close ta round as that," Gus told him. "Are ya sure?" asked Lew.

"Sure I'm Sure" Gus responds. "Ok, here's a measurin tape. Go over and measure the outside a the pail," orders Lew. Gus struggles to measure the roundness of the pail, but eventually comes up with a measurement of 31 inches. "She's 31 inches," says Gus.

"Ok," says Lew. "Now were gettin somewhere. You're gonna times 31 with 31. Whataya get when ya do that?" Gus takes the nail and scratches 31 over 31, on the shingle and begins ciphering again. "One times one is one, one times three is three, and if I take the three and times it by one it gives me three, and the three times three gives me nine. That's right. Now, addin the one to nothing still gives me one and the three plus the other three is six. The nine alone is nine, so I got a total of nine hundred and sixty one," announces Gus.

"Make sure ya got the size of 'em right now before ya start dividin it up," says Lew. "How the Hell ya expect me ta be sure when were both guessin," snaps Gus. "Never mind! Never mind! It says here that ya have ta times the length, which is 60 inches and the figger we got for round his gut times itself, which is 961, All ya gotta do now is divide it by 800.

Lew watches as Gus starts cipherin again, this time on a clean shingle. Lew can tell Gus is struggling with the numbers, but after ten minutes and a lot of scratching Gus turns toward Lew and says, "Holy Moses Lew ya ain't gonna believe it. Ya just ain't gonna believe it. Moses! Moses! Moses! Ain't nobody gonna believe it," exclaims Gus. "Will ya quit telling me what I ain't gonna believe and tell me what it is ya have ta tell me so I can tell if I can believe it," protests Lew.

"Listen ta this Lew," says Gus. When I multiply 31 times 31 I get 961. When I multiply 961 by 60 I get 57,660, and when I divide that by 800 it comes out a weight of 72.075 pounds.

"What!" exclaimed Lew. "We better get a pencil and take another conservative look at the measurements. We oughta think about it a bit more while were splittin and pilin wood before we tell anyone. Seventy-two pounds. I'll be damned!"

"Lew, he's awful big. I ain't ever seen a fish as big. Did ja ever see one as big here on the Miramichi?" asked Gusbur.

As lew began picking up kindling from the ground and handing them to Gus he said, "Well, back in the late 40's, in 1947 to be exact, when they was drivin logs outa the Cains and upriver on the Miramichi, there was a lot deeper water in the river than there is now. Durin the spring freshet and durin the log drives there was great big white pine and spruce logs drove down the rivers to the mills. Them big trees would dig out the river bed and those big dugouts were the places the fish would have ta lay when the water got low and warm. That same summer there was a big one that came up inta the pool, right out there, where ya hooked that big lad the other day. Yes sir, I can picture 'em in my mind right now just as clear as a bell. That fish had a dorsal fin the size of a mud flap on a 18-wheeler."

"Whataya sayin Lew, whataya tryin ta tell me," stammers Gus. "I'm telling ya that I still dream about that fish. He was a humdinger Gus, and ya know what? I never told a sole about that fish, cause if I did, I knowed no one would believe me," Lew told him. "That might a been the case with you Lew, but this is all tagether different," said Gus. "Whataya mean," asked Lew. Gus looked over at Lew and said, "The difference 'tween your story and my fish story is that I got a witness." "You're positutely right," replied Lew. "Go tell your story."