All good field trips make you contemplate life and death…


I am so excited, I finally talked my husband Reuben into writing a blog. He is an amazing writer, puts me to shame, and  I am thrilled to have this post written by him!

Written by Reuben

This morning I got to take Teo on a field trip the the American River Fish Hatchery. This is one of my favorite field trips since taking my daughter there when she was in preschool. I think it might be Teo’s too, since once I mentioned what we were about to do he quickly jumped up, went to the bathroom relieved himself and got ready without incident. Teo then did something unexpected, he ran to his room grabbed his swimming inner tube, snorkel and mask. I asked him what his master plan was and he just smiled at me and excitedly jumped up and down in front of the door. I explained that the snorkel, inner tube and mask would not be needed as we were not actually going to be in the water with the fish. He said, “O.k.”, and jiggled the handle of the door. I said o.k. and asked for the items, “Nope.”, said Teo and held on to the items a bit more tightly. He jiggled the handle again and let out a little frustrated yell. I realized that this could easily escalate if I didn’t figure out a quick compromise. Teo found a beanie of mine that I hadn’t worn in years a few days before; he took a liking to it and had been wearing it the night before. I went and retrieved it and decided that the inner tube would be the most inconvenient thing to lug around the hatchery. So, I made a trade for the inner tube and let him hold onto the mask and the snorkel. Problem solved and we were off. Although, I still didn’t know if he planned on hoping in the water with the fish.

At the river we parked in the additional parking and had a little walk to the hatchery. Teo ran most of the way. Outside the gate we met up with Teo’s tutor and friend Jono. In we went. I don’t know the correct terms for where they keep the fish, but when you first walk in there are a series of trough’s holding juvenile fish. Standing on one of the troughs edges was a fisher bird. I pointed it out and said, “That can’t be good, might eat the fish.” Teo took this to mean all the birds were dangerous to the fish and took too chasing off all the birds in close proximity. Laughing he waved his snorkel and mask menacingly at the birds as the birds flew off only to land some yards away. We bought some fish food and fed the fish. Teo really enjoyed this. When we ran out of food Teo found out the fish will go after anything you throw in the water so he started tossing in some dried grass he found in the cracks in the asphalt.

Jono and I managed to pull Teo away from the fish “feeding” and headed into the main building. Inside Teo ran from exhibit to exhibit, pushing buttons and twisting knobs to see what would happen. When something did happen he’d excitedly drum his sides and gallop in a circle. He got a couple wary looks when the park rangers saw his snorkel gear, but no questions were asked. When you see a kid having that much fun, you just have to smile. A couple of his classmates were there but he was too excited to say hi. Then they announced it was time to harvest the salmon eggs.

I’ve heard about the harvesting process, but I had never seen it. Now it was Jono and my turn to be excited. We rounded up Teo and headed to the observation window. Inside were some men in camo rain gear. I had to wonder about the camo, it was not like they needed to hide from the fish. My guess is that they got a good deal on the gear. Anyways, Teo stood looking at the men, but really didn’t seem to be excited. I tried to explain that the fish would somehow come in and the men would be removing the eggs and fertilizing the eggs. How this was exactly going to happen was a mystery to me too. I figured they somehow humanely dispense with the fish and remove the eggs. I mean there were a good number of small children with their noses to the glass waiting to see what would happen.  It couldn’t be that bad. But, I was wrong. It starts out with the fish elevator. Oh fun, the fish get to ride an elevator…an elevator of death! Once they get to the top a worker flips a switch and en electric current is sent through the water. Not just a quick blast but a steady current for a good 30 seconds. The fish twitch in the water. When it’s over a chute opens and the fish are pushed out.  The workers pull large orange mallets out of there camo rain pants and with all too much gusto smack the salmon over the head, some still very alert and seemingly aware. Um, yea…should kids be watching this? Teo and I look at eachother and he says, “Let’s go.” I agree and out we go. On the way I hear a kid asking “What are the men doing to those fish.”  We missed the actual harvest, which I think is for the best.

Outside again, Teo holds a somber look on his face.  It quickly fades as we see more fish swimming up the water steps. He laughs and tries to feed them dried grass, but at this stage they don’t eat.  We are in awe of how easily the salmon swim up the steps. We hear a mechanical noise and all look up the canal. The gates come down and fish are pushed into a cage. “Oh no.” says Jono, “They are going into the elevator. “ We all go silent.

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4 Responses to All good field trips make you contemplate life and death…

  1. Karin says:

    Thanks for sharing Reuben! Awesome story (and seriously, why show kids the harvest?)

  2. Lara Kiniris says:

    Precisely why we missed it today. I’ve heard about the awful harvesting!!! A toddler field trip? Maybe not…

    Glad Teo wasn’t scarred…;)

    • melmama says:

      It’s actually a really cool place to go, and you don’t have to watch the harvesting part. The kids love to feed the fish and watch them climb up the steps. You should check it out sometime Lara.

  3. melissa says:

    It sounds like Teo had a great time…. what an amazing little boy, that I still need to meet!! But I’m not too sure on the harvesting, they should have some sort of disclaimer or warning!!

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