The Story of Gordie and Skipsy

Randy Fred

In 1962 my family moved from Port Alberni to Ucluelet for the summer so that my dad could be closer to the fishing grounds. We rented Doug Mack’s house at Stewart Bay, in the Ucluelet Harbour.

There were only two families living on the Toquaht Reserve in Ucluelet that summer. There were several other houses there but they were falling apart. My dad bought a cedar dugout canoe from Jimmy McKay, our neighbour. He also built a small skiff out of thin plywood. It leaked like a sieve and we constantly had to bail out water with a bucket. We used the skiff to travel around the harbour. The dugout canoe enabled us to row outside the harbour to collect seafoods and to fish.

Shortly after we moved in, Jimmy McKay brought our mom seven seagull eggs. Not surprisingly, he had collected them from Seagull Island where he was fishing. He said, “These will hatch any minute.” To this day I wonder how he could have known they were about to hatch.

Our mom had been baking bread that day in the wood cook stove so it was still warm. She put the eggs in the oven and all the eggs hatched within a couple hours.

The seagulls gave us reason to go fishing every day, as they were voracious eaters. We would fish for salmon or cod or snapper for food for the family; we caught black bass, which was abundant at the time, for the seagulls. We did not eat bass ourselves. We would cut it into strips and throw it at the birds. They grew to be large and gray and ugly.

A cougar ate five of the birds. The two birds that survived we named Gordie and Skipsy. It was amazing how much fish those birds could eat.

We left Stewart Bay at the end of August so my siblings and I could return to school. We sailed through Barclay Sound and then up to the Somass River in Port Alberni. The ride lasted four and a half hours. Gordie and Skipsy followed us all the way to our house in Port Alberni.

At home, the birds became somewhat of a nuisance, as they would fly into shelves and walls. Their wingspan was nearly the width of our living room. We would shoo them out of the house but there were always dogs in our yard so the birds would fly up to the roof and roost there.

After a time they would not come lower than the roof. They would squawk at us and leave huge messes up there.

Gradually they stayed farther and farther away. By Christmas of that year we could hear them squawking way up high as they circled around. Then we hardly ever heard them again.

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Randy Fred

Randy Fred is a Nuu-Chah-Nulth Elder. He is the founder of Theytus Books, the first aboriginal-owned and operated book publishing house in Canada. He has worked in publishing and communications for forty years. He lives in Nanaimo.



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